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Managing Risk While Working with Third-Party Organizations

Third-party organizations that utilize your organization’s facility or provide programming to your consumers can benefit everyone through collaboration and sharing of resources. However, giving unaffiliated individuals access to your facility or consumers also introduces risks.

Third-party organizations are individuals or entities, not a part of, affiliated with, or legally connected to your organization. Entities who rent facilities, contract with your organization to provide services, or share a physical space with your organization are examples of third-party groups. Ensuring the appropriate safeguards are in place when working with outside organizations can set clear expectations and keep consumers safe.

Identifying the Third-Party Organizations You Work with and Appropriate Levels of Access

Organizations are often surprised to learn how many outside individuals and groups access their facility regularly. The first step in managing third parties is identifying the types of groups your organization works with. Refer to our resource, Types and Examples of Third-Party Organizationsto review different types of third-party groups. Your organization can compile all third-party agreements, interview staff, and conduct facility observations to develop an inventory of active third parties. By making the inventory accessible to pertinent staff and updating it regularly, your organization can ensure all entities are accounted for and monitor compliance with organizational policies.

Different types of third-party organizations have varying levels of access to your facility and consumers and, therefore, present unique risks. Third parties who provide regular programming directly to consumers, such as mentors or camp program instructors, have an opportunity to build ongoing relationships with consumers. In contrast, one-time contractors always under direct staff supervision or groups who rent your facility when no consumers are present may present less risk. Third-party groups with greater access to consumers may benefit from heightened screening, training, and monitoring and supervision requirements compared to groups with less access.

Best Practices When Working with Third-Party Organizations

Ensure third-party organizations follow your organization’s behavioral expectations.

An organization’s Code of Conduct is essential to effective abuse risk management, as it defines behavioral expectations. The first step to ensuring third-party organizations follow outlined behavioral expectations is to read your organization’s Code of Conduct and sign a statement indicating they agree to comply with all policies.

Behavioral expectations that express a zero-tolerance policy for the abuse and mistreatment of consumers define appropriate and inappropriate physical and verbal contact with consumers, ensure adults are not alone with consumers, and define acceptable interactions with consumers outside the facility serve as a starting point. Your organization can also require all third parties to follow your organization’s procedures for responding to inappropriate behaviors and abuse.

Ensure third-party organizations conduct a minimal level of screening and training.

Ensuring outside organizations conduct a criminal record search and sex offender registry check is a minimum precaution. Simply letting applicants know that criminal history checks are completed may deter unacceptable applicants from pursuing involvement with your organization. In addition to screening practices, training third-party entities on abuse prevention, and responding showcases your organization’s commitment to abuse prevention and keeps trainees up to date on best practices.

Use a variety of methods to monitor and supervise third-party organizations.

Monitoring and supervising individuals from third-party organizations is critical. Ideally, third-party entities are always accompanied by or under the direct observation of an employee from your organization. Supervisors can also use scheduled and random observations of third parties to ensure best practices are consistently enforced.

Having a standardized check-in and check-out process for all individuals accessing your facility helps staff monitor effectively and be aware of who is utilizing the space. Additionally, requiring third-party entities to wear uniforms, nametags, or otherwise distinguish themselves as unaffiliated individuals helps staff ensure third-parties use authorized spaces and comply with behavioral expectations.

Implementing these recommendations is crucial to maintaining a culture of safety across your organization, especially in programs or spaces where external individuals are utilizing your facility and other resources. Additionally, by ensuring all third-party organizations know your organization’s policies and procedures, your organization will continue publicly communicating your unwavering commitment to abuse prevention.

Learn more about Praesidium’s standards and recommendations around third-party agreements.

Praesidium’s Accreditation Standards for Consumer Serving Organizations© are informed by a series of root cause analyses, scientific research, and over three decades of field experience with more than 4,000 organizations that serve children, youths, and vulnerable persons. Anchored by the Safety Equation, these Standards provide a framework to help organizations focus their efforts where we know it makes the most significant impact.

Within the Safety Equation operation, Administrative Practices, Standard 22 includes five specific components to help organizations manage this risk. Click here to learn more about Praesidium’s Accreditation Standards and to download a copy today.