As one of the country’s most well-known and trusted youth organizations, Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) takes its commitment to child safety in all of its programs extremely seriously. No individual or group is entirely immune from danger. However, BGCA has comprehensive protection measures in place to shield Club youth from anything that puts them at risk.
The organization also maintains a zero-tolerance policy that enforces its safety guidelines. This ensures that all Club staff, volunteers, and members adhere to the highest standards of ethical and safe behavior.
Moreover, BGCA advances programs and initiatives that focus specifically on protecting and supporting marginalized or overlooked kids and teens. Over the years, the group has taken an active role outside of Club doors to combat child abuse and promote safety within all youth organizations.
Its past work includes advocating for the passage of the US Protect Act and partnering with the FBI and other organizations on various youth-protection initiatives. Keep reading to learn more about BGCA’s commitment to child safety.
The BGCA Safety Plan
At the core of BGCA’s work to protect and support Club members is a multi-step plan that adheres to the latest best practices in youth safety. It was developed by BGCA’s Child and Club Safety Department. This provides local Clubs with support for issues ranging from physical and emotional safety to facilities management and emergency and disaster preparedness.
The plan starts by requiring that all staff members at its more than 4,300 Clubs nationwide undergo a comprehensive criminal background check. This includes screening through the National Sex Offender Registry.
The same checks are required of all BGCA board members and any volunteer who has direct contact with Club youth. Any potential employee or volunteer who has ever been convicted of a felony or recently convicted of a misdemeanor involving physical assault or battery, drugs, or animal cruelty is not eligible to work with BGCA on any level.
Another major component of BGCA’s safety plan focuses on providing ongoing child safety training for both staff and volunteers. The training is delivered through seminars, webinars, and conferences.
Each year, the organization takes a lead role in the National Child Safety and Protection Symposium. This event gives groups from across the United States the opportunity to share best practices for protecting the country’s youth.
Along with participating in regular safety training, all BGCA affiliates must maintain comprehensive safety policies and procedures. To ensure that the policies elevate safety to the highest level, each Club conducts annual assessments and oversees a board-led committee focused specifically on youth safety.
In addition to helping local Clubs carry out safety policies, these committees assist with critical incident reporting to local law enforcement and national BGCA authorities. The actions, strategies, goals, and objectives of the local committees are further managed by regional Board of Governors Safety Committees comprising BGCA staff members and other stakeholders.
Additional Safety Resources
On the national level, BGCA provides access to a variety of additional resources to reinforce local policies and promote a culture of safety among all Club affiliates. This includes the National Child Safety Advisory Task Force.
The task force brings BGCA leadership and child safety experts together to advance safety initiatives and provide guidance to local Club leaders. All BGCA affiliates have access to an online tool that enables them to self-assess their own safety plans at any time.
Additional resources include the 200-page Keep Safe: The Club Safety Desk Reference manual. It offers tools and guidance for creating customized safety strategies in local Clubs.
BGCA also publishes a guide of safety awareness activities and maintains a 24-hour safety hotline. This enables Club staff members, volunteers, and youth to report concerns and/or receive confidential safety advice.
Boys and Girls Clubs’ Commitment to Vulnerable Youth
In its efforts to lead the way in child safety advocacy, BGCA places a special emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable youth populations. The organization’s work in this area includes several initiatives designed to give kids and teens in need a safe place to develop meaningful relationships while building the skills required to attain success.
One of these initiatives is Be There. It equips Clubs with the knowledge, skills, and resources to provide safe and supportive environments for grieving youth and their families.
Other BGCA initiatives are focused more specifically on inclusion. Through a combination of on-site and online training as well as ongoing coaching and counseling, the organization guides Club managers and staff members in providing a safe, positive, and inclusive environment for all children. This includes those living with physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities.
Additionally, BGCA works to ensure equity and inclusion for LGBTQ youth, who account for 16 percent of Club teens. The organization’s leadership considers its efforts in this area essential to its broader mission to give every child and teen access to an out-of-school environment where they can feel safe both physically and emotionally.
To learn more about BGCA’s commitment to youth safety, visit www.bgca.org.
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