Office of Risk Management helps youth programs stay safe

Danielle Ferguson

Before Brenda Allen can be involved with her favorite outreach program with the youth of Iowa, she and all the other ISU faculty, staff or student volunteers have to go through the proper training.

Youth outreach programs at Iowa State can include anything from an afternoon at the swimming pool to overnight camping trips.

The offices of Risk Management, Conference Planning and Management and ISU Extension and Outreach are holding youth program training for ISU youth program leaders, administrators and student organizations that are involved with youth outreach programs from 1 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 11.

Required preregistration ends Nov. 10 and can be done by emailing [email protected].

Youth activities and programs can include educational outreach sessions, precollegiate programs, sports camps and more and can range from a few hours a day on campus to an overnight trip off campus.

Ages involved in these programs can range from elementary to high school and sometimes pre-kindergarten.

Though Nov. 11’s training is primarily for youth programs, the Office of Risk Management is also involved with programs that involve ISU students and employees.

Allen is an extension program specialist with the 4-H Youth Development program. She said there are a number of different risk management tactics to take into consideration when planning events with minors.

Planners must think about the proper adult-to-youth ratio, methods of transportation depending on the event, the amount of space used, dietary needs, health restrictions and more, she said.

Different youth and 4-H programs call for different protocols and concerns, so Allen said the department works closely with the Office of Risk Management.

“When we’re going to be out at the 4-H camp with the challenge course or doing something in the woods, that’s very different than sitting in a classroom on campus,” she said about looking into different risk concerns.

Steve Wieneke, risk specialist with the Office of Risk Management, said the office has its hand on every outreach program, especially those dealing with youth on and off campus. The training, he said, happens about eight to nine times a year or upon need and works with programs that occur both on and off campus.

“Our goal is to provide an opportunity to provide awareness of policies, procedures and forms or paperwork that needs to be completed for conducting youth programs,” Wieneke said.

Allen said the programs have yearly updates and trainings but are updated of new policies throughout the year when necessary.

“[Risk management] has just become a part of our planning,” Allen said. “When we do activities, risk management is always something that’s taken into consideration. That’s part of our protocol.”

Iowa State has three primary youth-related policies: Youth Activities; Pre-Collegiate Programs and Camps; and Volunteers and Children in the Workplace, such as job shadow opportunities on campus.

These policies explain the proper procedures that need to be taken before a group can interact with youth, the necessary faculty and staff supervision and can sometimes identify when a background check is needed.

Different programs have different levels of interaction between the volunteers or staff and the minors involved. Therefore some employees, students or volunteers may need to go through a low-level background check. Programs with higher interaction levels may require those involved to go through a criminal background check.

Iowa State has six different interaction codes that explain levels of contact each program may allow or require.

“Where we have specific youth program opportunities where we offer dance programs, swimming lessons, wrestling camps, where they have physical contact that’s going to be likely in order to teach a person how to do one of those types of things,” Wieneke said. “We look at what we need to do to properly scope what the appropriate level of interaction we’re going to have and what the recommended ratio of adults to students are for interacting in a youth program.”

The main goal for the training, Wieneke said, is to make sure the youth and program supervisors stay safe and learn from the experience.

“We spend a great deal of time making sure they understand why we have policies set forward … why it’s important to keep minors safe when they come to [Iowa State] or when we go out to do an outreach program,” he said.