SAFETY OF MINORS

By Marci Hutchinson and Larissa Trout

Keeping children safe is always the number one concern for programs that serve minors. Parents, children and the administrators alike expect that schools and other institutions of learning are safe havens, however we know that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be abused sometime before they turn 18. The number one goal of Youth Protection and Program Support (YPPS) is ensuring the safety and protection of youth participating in University of Utah programs.

YPPS was created in 2015 to help implement the Safety of Minors Participating in University Programs or Programs Held on University Premises policy.  The policy outlines several mandatory requirements for compliance, each of which is designed to provide a safe, educational environment for those in the programs. YPPS goes above and beyond to ensure the safety of minors with an informed policy, robust outreach, and comprehensive training and materials that are made available to individuals who facilitate and lead youth programming at the U. To learn more, we sat down with the director of YPPS, Nate Friedman.

What is the University Safety of Minors policy?

The Safety of Minors Policy establishes minimum requirements for any university entity providing programming to minors, as well as minimum requirements for the adults that will be working with youth as part of these programs. The policy went into effect in July 2016 and was created to provide for the safety and protection of minors who are participating in university programs or programs held on university premises. In creating this policy the U joins colleges and universities across the nation that are adopting similar policies.

Who has to follow the policy?

One of the most common questions we get asked is “How do I know if my program falls under the policy?” The short answer is that the policy applies to any program or activity that is specifically designed for minors as the participants, whether it happens on or off campus. However, we have learned that not all programs are the same and there are a lot of questions about how the policy applies to them. Our recommendation is that any staff, faculty or program providing programming or activities to minors should contact us to determine how the policy applies to them.

Are there a lot of programs at the U that serve minors?

Many people are not aware that the U serves approximately 50,000 minors every year. The types of programs can vary from summer camps or athletic camps to academic classes or outreach programs working in communities throughout the state of Utah. There is so much value in giving children early exposure to higher education and these programs have a great impact on the youth and communities that they serve.

Why is the policy necessary?

We know that unintentional injuries and even abuse can occur in even the safest of environments. The impact that incidents of violent or sexual abuse has on the victim, the organization, and the community are so severe that it is important to do everything possible to try to prevent it. This is why the University of Utah has taken action to pass a policy that seeks to protect minors.

How does the policy protect minors?

The policy requires background checks and mandatory training for any adults that will be supervising or interacting with minors. The training covers mandatory reporting obligations and how to report known or suspected abuse of a child.  Most importantly, the training identifies behaviors that are and are not appropriate when working with minors and calls out red flags for predatory conduct and abuse. Awareness of these issues can be a powerful tool to prevent abuse from occurring.

The policy also requires that each program register with our office. The registration includes information on the program, such as a Risk Management Plan. When creating a Risk Management Plan programs must think through some of the potential risks to the safety of the minors in their care and how they will mitigate those risks.

What is the role of Youth Protection and Program Support?

YPPS was created to provide assistance to programs that serve youth and to help program directors and staff understand and comply with the Safety of Minors Policy. We work in collaboration with the Office of Equal Opportunity and the Office of General Counsel to meet these goals.  We understand, it is important to not only have a policy, but also to provide additional resources to the youth programs.

What kind of resources do you provide for these programs?

YPPS provides resources to help programs understand the policy and make it easier for them to come in to compliance.  Most programs have found that the requirements of the policy are easily met and can add to the value of their program.

Our office conducts the mandatory training, which can be done in-person or online. Since the policy implementation we have provided the training to approximately 2,000 staff, faculty, students and community volunteers.

A registration database that will allow all programs to register their information and track their staff and volunteers is in the final stages of development. This new database should help programs track background checks, staff training and other useful program data.

YPPS will also provide information about national organizations and other educational resources to help programs comply with state and federal laws in addition to campus policy.

How can programs get in touch with YPPS?

They can call us at 801-581-4444, or email youthprotection@utah.edu. We are happy to speak with anybody that has questions about how they can navigate the policy. Our website also has a list of resources and information here.