Seven Steps to Effectively Screen Youth Working with Children
Summer is the time of year when children and youth-serving organizations incorporate teens into volunteer, mentor, and staff positions. Teens are a valuable resource for many summer programs and often provide endless energy, connection, and a sense of community for the kids attending.
As juvenile offenses against children can happen, it’s critical to understand who is receiving direct access to kids. As programs evaluate potential candidates, the emphasis needs to be on improving child safety through a consistent and comprehensive screening process.
As with the evaluation of adults, having a consistent screening process for teens functions as a deterrent for bad behavior, eliminates easy access to children, and bubbles up need-to-know information about their character, commitment, and any prior red flags.
Screening procedures for teens working directly with children:
- Written application – Should be 100% completed and include all current contact information, verifiable social security, and driver’s license numbers (if applicable).
- Social Media Check – There are pros and cons to this one, but social media is a valuable resource for learning in-depth information about an individual and offers an unfiltered glimpse into their life. It has the potential to uncover additional skills and talents not mentioned in the interview or on the written application. On the flip side, the information shared can create a negative impression, be inflated or untrue
- Optional Background Check – Running a background check on youth is tricky and requires parental consent. Some background check companies don’t suggest it because minor’s records are sealed. Nonetheless, if a teen were tried as an adult, the records would provide an opportunity for discussion and further consideration.
- Personal Interview – Yields valuable information and allows a candidate to be reviewed from different angles. The interview team should include 2-3 trusted staff, a parent, board member, or human resource professional. It can gauge a person’s interest and commitment to the position and should be done for all volunteers, staff, and leadership who work directly with kids or youth.
- References – Experts agree that references are a good way to solicit feedback from outside sources. Unfortunately, a small percentage of references are ever contacted, even though they can provide information that directly reduces the rate of incidence for abuse – so it’s essential that you follow up! Candidates should provide two non-related and two institutional references (programs that can speak to the candidates work with children or youth).
- Optional Motor Vehicle Report –Should be done for any position requiring an individual to transport kids. It also provides insight into a person’s character and can uncover critical red flags, such as drug and alcohol abuse, risky driving habits, and recklessness – items not uncovered during the application and interview process.
- Optional Waiting Period – By instituting a waiting period, you allow yourself time to train and educate a candidate about your organization. You’ll also get to see how they interact with staff, leadership, and families. Seeing first-hand how a candidate actively integrates, or not, into the organization is helpful in verifying the data you’ve obtained from the written application, the face-to-face interview, and reference feedback about their character and work history.
Teens are an important part of any organization and contribute significantly to the value and experience kids receive from your program. That’s why taking the time to thoroughly screen is an important step in identifying youth that are a good fit and keeping child safety a priority.
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