As the national organization founded to serve and enable more than 1,100 Boys & Girls Club organizations that run over 4,700 local Boys & Girls Clubs, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s (BGCA’s) absolute top priority is the safety of the 4.73 million children Clubs reach each year. BGCA’s Child & Club Safety Team is composed of safety experts who provide support to local organizations on a variety of issues, including physical and emotional safety, facilities management, emergency management, child sexual abuse prevention, disaster preparedness and other child safety-related trainings. BGCA has taken extensive and continual action to equip local Clubs to provide safe and secure environments for children, as outlined below.
SAFETY POLICIES: All local Boys & Girls Clubs are required to have best-in-class safety policies in place that protect youth, including, but not limited to, supervision, transportation, communication and prohibition of private one-on-one contact. Clubs are required to inform parents and guardians of these safety policies when they receive a youth membership application.
CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS: All local Club employees and board volunteers must undergo a comprehensive criminal background check upon hire and annually, and all volunteers (including minors) who have direct, repetitive contact with children must also receive an annual background check. The requirement also applies to staff and volunteers from other organizations who may work in local Clubs as part of a partnership or collaboration. Boys & Girls Clubs of America has partnered with one of the largest background screening companies, First Advantage, to provide affordable, fast access to the most comprehensive screenings available today.
REQUIRED IMMEDIATE REPORTING: Local organizations are required to immediately report critical safety incidents to law enforcement, regardless of severity to local authorities immediately. Within 24 hours, they are also required to report to BGCA. This enables the national organization to provide timely support and resources to ensure kids are safe.
TOLL-FREE CHILD SAFETY HELPLINE: Through our partnership with Praesidium, one of the nation’s leading safety experts, Boys & Girls Clubs of America provides a confidential, toll-free Child Safety Helpline to all current or previous Club staff, members or families to report any incident or situation in which they feel unsafe. To access the Child Safety Helpline, call 866-607-SAFE (7233) or email SafeClub@Praesidiuminc.com.
MANDATORY ANNUAL SAFETY ASSESSMENTS: Each local Boys & Girls Club is required to complete a safety assessment each year. If any concerns arise, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s staff will take action to make recommendations, require changes or to provide additional support.
TRAINING: It is a membership requirement that all staff and volunteers of local Clubs are trained annually on the local Club’s required comprehensive safety policies. Additionally, all Club employees have access to a variety of innovative safety trainings from BGCA and through partner organizations. Clubs participate in a wide variety of child safety training conducted through seminars, conferences, webinars and a semi-annual safety symposium. We also engage leading third-party safety experts to provide guidance for our policies and approaches, including Praesidium, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and the National Children’s Advocacy Center. Clubs are required to prominently display key safety resources information, including the Crisis Text Line, a confidential text message service for youth, and Child Safety Helpline.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS SAFETY COMMITTEE: Boys & Girls Clubs of America has a dedicated Child Safety Committee on our Board of Governors to guide our national safety efforts and policies. Additionally, each local Boys & Girls Club Organization is required to have a dedicated board-led safety committee to provide input and guidance on local policies and safety strategies.
NATIONAL CHILD SAFETY ADVISORY TASK FORCE: To ensure BGCA has leading expertise when shaping safety policy and practices, we established the National Child Safety Advisory Task Force, a panel of nationally recognized experts, researchers and thought leaders representing different areas of child safety and protection. The task force meets quarterly, including at least once a year in person, to provide advice and expertise to BGCA leadership and Child & Club Safety Team on safety trends, issues, initiatives and best practices, as well as review and give feedback on BGCA safety strategy.
MANDATORY EMPLOYEE REFERENCE: Any current or former employee or volunteer interested in moving to another Boys & Girls Club is required to have a reference from the previous Club, even if the Clubs are within the same community, prior to employment or volunteering.
STATE AND LOCAL LAWS: All local Boys & Girls Clubs are required to comply with federal, state and local safety laws, including those impacting facilities and vehicles.
SAFETY PARTNERSHIPS: Boys & Girls Clubs of America works with leading experts in the areas of safety, security and technology to develop state-of-the-art solutions for our over 4,600 sites.
- BGCA’s National Child Safety Advisory Task Force, a group of national multidisciplinary experts in various aspects of child safety and protection that meet quarterly to review and advise on national safety trends and BGCA’s safety strategies;
- Blue Ribbon Taskforce, comprised of local Club leaders charged with providing input on the safety direction and key safety initiatives;
- Mental Health First Aid, a national program that teaches skills to recognize and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse; and
- Crisis Text Line, a confidential text message service for youth in times of crisis.
APPROPRIATE USE OF TECHNOLOGY: BGCA has developed policies to ensure the safe and appropriate use of technology in Clubhouses, including computers, mobile technology and social media. Resources, trainings and activities are tailored for various audiences and age ranges, including kids, tweens, teens and adult staff members. Additionally, BGCA provides Clubs with digital use policy templates to help Clubs create their own local policies.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: Organizations have access to resources to help guide policy, strengthen safety practices and train their staff and volunteers on how to keep children safe. Keep Safe: The Club Safety Desk Reference, a 200-page manual published by BGCA, provides tools, resources and best practices to enable Clubs to develop customized safety strategies. In partnership with MetLife Foundation, BGCA also published Kids in Control, a guide of youth-focused safety awareness activities. Both publications are available to every Club.
CONTINUED COMMITMENT: To further strengthen our steadfast commitment to safety in our Clubs, BGCA initiated a third-party independent review of our policies and practices in 2019 to ensure Boys & Girls Clubs are continually doing everything we can to keep young people both physically and emotionally safe. The review was conducted by RAINN, the largest organization dedicated to abuse prevention, awareness, and response. RAINN’s review was conducted over an 8-month period and was both thorough and comprehensive. This works builds on the efforts already underway by Boys & Girls Clubs to strengthen the overall safety culture and protocols.
Based on RAINN’s review and recommendations, we plan to take additional steps to improve safety at Clubs including enhanced delivery of and access to staff safety trainings, hiring of additional safety staff, increased offering of social-emotional development programs for youth and families, and greater access to locally based resources.