Managing Volunteers Who Work with Students: Best Practices
By Sophia Cooney, Florida 4-H
Volunteers are a valuable resource for programs to grow and fulfill their overall goals. However, policies need to be in place for volunteers who work with students.
When developing policies that involves volunteers working with youth, you first need to define tangible goals that best suit your school
district’s needs while protecting the safety of participants and students.
Onboarding /Volunteers Selection and Screening
Department of Children and Families Clearinghouse (DCF) states that anyone who will be supervising youth or working or volunteering 10 hours or more a month, must be screened prior to the start date.
Keep in mind that each person screened through DCF must be rescreened every 5 years to remain in compliance with the law.
Volunteers serving during school hours or within an afterschool program should be subject to documentation and screening required by the school or district. Adding background screenings to the volunteer onboarding process will save your program from any discrepancies.
Proper Training on Youth Protection
How will volunteers be trained? Online or face-to-face training? Online trainings are shown to be most effective, as volunteers can complete this step in the comfort of their homes, or in person.
Trainings can be centered around volunteer roles, interacting with youth, social media guidelines, emergency procedures and event/activity responsibilities.
Teachers and afterschool coordinators/staff will not necessarily have time to attend the same volunteer training as traditional volunteers. Be creative in how you train school-based volunteers. More one-on-one trainings may be necessary to accommodate their schedules.
Proper training on youth protection should be completed by volunteers and staff annually.
Defining Volunteers’ Roles
Roles should be clearly defined by your school system. Volunteers must be held to the same standards as staff and faculty. Consider establishing a volunteer code of conduct and a process for conflict resolution. As previously stated, volunteers play an important role within your program. They serve as mentors to youth as well as help coordinate and run afterschool programs and events.
Ensure Effective Communication between Volunteers and Youth
Program coordinators should make certain that activities are coordinated in a way that will ensure that appropriate supervision ratios are always in place. For example, try to avoid one-on-one or private meetings with youth. Instead, interactions with youth should always two or more adults present or in view.
Florida 4-H is the youth development program of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. With a focus on leadership, community service, STEM and healthy living, 4-H uses a learn-by-doing approach to help nearly 200,000 Florida youth ages 5-18 gain the knowledge and skills they need to be responsible, productive citizens. To learn more, visit florida4h.org.