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Managing High Risk Locations and Activities

What do bathrooms, field trips, aquatic activities, transition periods and free-play have in common?

They are all associated with high-risk. While some high-risk locations and activities can’t be avoided, it is important for your staff to know how to monitor and supervise these settings to make them as safe as possible for your youth.

The first step to preventing abuse in these situations is locating the high-risk locations and recognizing the high-risk activities youth participate in at your organization. Examples:

  • High-Risk Locations: Isolated rooms, shared bathrooms, stairwells, closets, vehicles, secluded areas, showers
  • High-Risk Activities: Overnight stays, undressing and nudity, transportation, field trips, bathroom breaks, mixed age groups

After identifying the high-risk locations and activities within your organization, create procedures and guidelines to maintain a safe environment.

Here are just a few example guidelines that can help keep youth safe:

  1. Structure activities at all times: Certain activities like transitions or free periods can create a higher chance for youth to be abused. At these times, staff may not be assigned to supervise a particular group, and other activities may be happening that distract staff from supervising children. Make sure that all activities are well supervised and structured to prevent abuse from occurring.
  2. Maintain approved ratios: Ensure that all programs have specific staff-to-youth ratios, even if external regulations do not require it. Ratios should be well communicated to staff and consistently maintained.
  3. Create bathroom/locker room procedures for all activities: The privacy provided in locker rooms and bathrooms offers offenders the opportunity to abuse. For this reason, both should be closely monitored; and these practices must be carefully managed.
  4. Separate age groups: Keeping youth in groups of similar age helps to keep them safe and makes it easier to plan activities that all of them will enjoy. If it is not possible to separate age groups, make sure to increase supervision when groups of varying age interact.
  5. Maintain a “zero-tolerance” policy: Having written policies that prohibit abuse makes it clear that your organization is committed to protecting youth, and it sets clear guidelines for staff to follow.

Relay the guidelines you create to staff and set clear expectations that the goal is to keep youth safe. Staff may forget to enforce rules or become complacent on the job, so it is important to assess staff’s skills and monitor their performance as they work. One way to ensure that staff follow guidelines is to create a monitoring plan that requires staff to sign in at their assigned area and to document activities while they are on duty.