UUA Youth Safety Guidelines

Pandemic resources: Guidance for online programs
Immersion experiences for UU youth can be transformative and deeply spiritual. Youth who participate in UUA-sponsored programs like Summer Seminary, Thrive, and GA Youth; Regional programs like Cons, River Rising and Goldmine; UU Summer Camps and Conferences and Learning trips organized through the Colleague of Social Justice and the UU-United Nations Office report that they make lasting friendships, deepen their faith, and leave such experiences feeling empowered and inspired.

Youth safety policies are key to providing the containers that allow youth to have these transformative and even life-saving experiences. Safety policies allow diverse youth to be included, respected, and given the space in which to grow and thrive. The policies and sample procedures presented here represent wisdom that has been gathered and carefully curated. We have been informed by our UU values at every stage of building these policies and guidelines. Rooted in covenant, and given wings by shared experience, we are grateful to be able to provide clear guidance for all UUA-endorsed youth events.

These guidelines are not intended for adoption for individual congregational youth programs, but we hope they will inspire congregations in their own safety work. They are required for UUA events.

For more information, contact us at youthsafety@uua.org.

Guidance on Youth Safety Online

half open laptop with bright colors shining from the screen

During the COVID-19 pandemic our congregational, regional and national youth programs are being quickly shifted to on-line spaces. This is important and life-giving. And we still want to make sure our youth are safe.Here are the guidelines we are using for UUA sponsored youth events, which are also helpful for congregations planning on line youth programming to adapt for their use.
All UUA adult volunteer and staff interaction with youth online must adhere to our current Social Media and Electronic Communication policy, our Photo Permission and Social Media policy still applies, adults must adhere to the Adult Code of Conduct, and youth and adult leaders must adhere to Adult and Youth Leaders Code of Ethics
Here is the current guidance from UUA staff.

Checklist for Evaluating Platforms

The following are some things UUA staff have considered when evaluating platforms. However, no platform is an ideal solution that meets all requirements.

  • Is this a platform youth are willing to use?
  • Can participation be limited to those registered for the program?
  • Is there a way to verify the identity of the youth? (i.e. avoid adults posing as youth)
  • Is there an option to turn off private chatting/messaging?
  • Is there a way for adults to communicate with youth that is visible to other participants? In other words, are there ways to avoid one adult communicating with one youth? (This could include an administrator able to see adults’ messages)
  • Is there an administrative role with the power to mute/unmute, remove people from the room if they do not belong there or can’t follow covenant, lock the meeting, prevent participants from adding others, etc?
  • Can the room be locked once all have arrived?
  • Is there a waiting room option?
  • Is there a way to prevent/limit screen sharing?
  • Can participants prevent others from seeing their contact information?
  • Does the platform itself have a process to remove haters and other dangers to youth?
  • Is the platform one that parents have concerns about, so using it would limit inclusiveness?
  • Does this platform protect the privacy of minors’ information?
  • If there are doubts, is there another platform that would serve as well with better safety functions?

Multigenerational Online Space

Parents/guardians are primarily responsible for supervising their children and youth’s participation in multigenerational spaces. This responsibility should be clearly communicated to parents so they can be sure their youth is signing in from a public space in the house (e.g. kitchen table) rather than private (e.g. bedroom out of sight). Parents/guardians need to be aware of any event that their child/youth has been invited to so they can supervise.

  • UUA events should clearly articulate parent/guardian responsibility in such multigenerational spaces when UUA staff/volunteers are not present and actively attending to interactions.

The UUA practices the following policies including in multigenerational space:

Guidance for Online Events

Overview of guidance for online programs further details in UUA Online Rules and Policies

  1. Ask youth to register for on-line programs, with a kind of verification process including signed parent/guardian permission forms. We don’t want to allow adults posing as youth to join our youth spaces. For UUA programs, verification should must include contact with the youth’s congregation.

  2. Verification can include an orientation meeting in which you are virtually face to face. This will allow you to share ground rules before a youth joins and to visually see the youth.
  3. Consider how to best reduce the chance that unregistered people will show up in your online space and disrupt it: such as individualized zoom links, passwords, enabling waiting room features, disabling screen-sharing, and locking the meeting once everyone has arrived.

  4. Make sure adult leaders are background-checked, and remember to have 2 adults present at all times with youth. Never allow one-one conversations on-line between youth and adults

  5. Consider turning off “private chatting” to avoid inappropriate conversations one-one during youth events. Create covenants within programs about where conversations will happen including not having one on one communication between adults and youth.

  6. Cap registration—be realistic about your capacity to run an on-line youth activity.

  7. Recruit sufficient leaders for your program. For instance, if you will be running breakout groups, recruit sufficient leaders for those breakout groups while leaving enough other leaders to handle other issues.

    • Breakout rooms also require 2 adults. At in person events other adults are present in the space and could easily observe a small group, but this is not possible in an online setting.

    • Breakout rooms can also be led by at least 1 reference checked youth leader.

Guidelines for UUA Larger Virtual Events

  1. Get a letter of reference from a DRE, Minister, or Congregational President. Check with Congregational Life staff to confirm that the letter of reference came from the right person. Only then send out the unique information for the event.

  2. Consider using a webinar mode rather than teleconferencing with cameras only on the presenters. Participants can still chat.

  3. Always have assigned adults and youth leaders (never alone) monitoring the chats.

  4. If your event includes chaplains, you will need to make sure that there are at least 2 chaplains meeting in on-line video or text based spaces for pastoral care of youth. This includes youth peer chaplains.

  5. If you are using breakout rooms, make sure there are reference checked youth leaders in each room, or at least 2 reference-checked adults in each room. Don’t overextend your capacity to keep youth safe by creating too many breakouts.

  6. Have a Virtual Reception Room mimicking the reception/check-in area at an in-person event to orient youth, make sure they are registered, and to check in on any special accommodations they might need.

  7. Be sure to create a way for your leadership team to communicate during the event such as a group chat on a platform like GroupMe or Slack.

UUA Online Rules and Policies

The below spell out specific policies for UUA online programs with links to the rest of the Youth Safety Guidelines where helpful for more details.

Adult Supervision for Online Events

Potential Adult Roles

All adult leaders must be approved under the UUA Youth Safety Guidelines policy.

  • Facilitator—lead programming and/or work with youth leading programming
  • Tech—admit from breakout room, assist with screen sharing, assist youth and adults who drop the connection and need to be re-added
  • Support—watch youth videos, monitor chat, be available to go into a breakout room to talk with youth having difficulty, monitor the separate group chat for youth and adult leaders. May include additional adults serving as chaplains.

Small Group

For instance a youth group or a workshop; up to 15; no breakout rooms

Minimum: Two adults (with an extra adult available to join the group immediately in case one adult has technical difficulty and can’t join the event or loses their connection).

Larger Event

Minimum of 5 adults: 1 facilitator, 2 tech adults, 2 support adults without facilitator responsibilities to monitor chat, watch youth videos, pay attention to youth leader group chat.

Additional adults required for breakout rooms: 2 adults per breakout room with additional adults remaining on tech support and available as leader support.

Break Out Rooms

Breakout rooms can be used as part of larger programs. Breakout rooms should never be 2 youth alone and must either have 2 properly approved adult leaders present or 1 properly approved youth leader. Adult leaders in breakout rooms must have the leadership capacity to monitor safe and covenantal interaction between youth. It is not enough to be an approved adult participant who happens to be at a youth event.Program leaders must provide adequate training and support for youth breakout room leaders.

Large Virtual Events

More than 75 participants including youth leaders

Increase the number of adults to be able to safely do the program. Suggest a minimum of 1 adult to every 10 participants. If there are breakout rooms, 2 adults needed for each breakout room.

If the larger event is having asynchronous smaller events such as identity groups or small workshops, these can follow the small group guidance so long as other adults are on call such as on the leader group chat.

Covenant and Technology Covenant

Each UUA youth program creates and maintains community norms, which can be expressed in a covenant, expressing the goals of the community and how the community will be together.​

Program leaders can create a covenant as part of a program, or create a covenant ahead of time that participants agree to before joining. If creating ahead of time, consider a covenant check-in time where participants can suggest changes/additions.

Sample Covenant

  • Be welcoming and inclusive

  • Respect each other’s identities including pronouns

  • Let all voices be heard – take space / make space

  • Honor an individual’s right to say “no” or pass

  • Bring openness, creativity, and flexibility

  • Deeply listen to each other’s sharing and keep each other’s sharing confidential

  • Adult leaders will expand confidentiality if youth share about doing/considering harm to self or others

  • Check with leaders before sharing personal material that could be hard for others and check for community consent before sharing

  • Respect each others’ personal boundaries including choices not to share contact information or not to be in contact outside online meeting space.

  • Prioritize our own and others’ emotional well-being

  • Support one another in love, respect, and care

  • Strive for accessible language and avoid harmful statements

  • Be willing to hear how our language and actions have impacted others

  • Prioritize self care, take breaks as needed

  • Get curious, not furious…when times get rough, turn to wonder

  • Reach out if you have any difficulties with technology or otherwise

  • Respect the way the event organizers have set up the technology and the facilitation of the event

Technology Covenant

In addition, consider creating a Technology Covenant which participants agree to before the event, including the following:

  • Responsibility to ensure only appropriate images are visible on their camera including that all people are clothed (top and bottom)

  • Not sharing access links with people who aren’t registered

  • Signing in on an account that uses the name they registered with so they can be admitted from the waiting room

Online Registration Policies

Permission Forms

All events require parent/guardian permission in the form of a signed permission form. This form does require a legal signature. Most UUA programs use SignNow for this purpose. Contact the Youth Safety Team for assistance and a model permission form which can be tailored for any UUA sponsored on line event.

Congregational Approval for Youth

The policies on congregational or covenanting community approval still apply. This can be done through email, online sign off, phone call, or letter of recommendation.

Adult Attendees and Staff

Adults attending an online event as participants or in leadership positions require the same approval process as for adults attending in person youth events. These requirements include signing the UUA’s Adult Code of Conduct for all adults and Code of Ethics for Youth and Adult Leaders if staff or in leadership; being over 25; a criminal background check; and a reference check with an adult’s local congregation

Participant Rules/Behavioral Expectations for Online Events

Each youth and adult participant must agree to the event rules/expectations, which must be presented at the beginning of each event. These rules/expectations may be specific to the event, but must include the following:

  • No violence including violent/bullying language, threats, displaying a weapon or violent images.

  • No sexualized conduct or behavior on or off line including sexual advances, jokes, explicit or offensive pictures, requests for sexual favors, sexting, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

  • No use of drugs, alcohol, cannabis, or illegal substances—before or during the event so no one is under the influence during the event.

  • No harassment on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion, disability or any other protected status. Such harassment includes unsolicited remarks, gestures, display or circulation of written materials or derogatory images directed at any of these categories.

  • Online rule of three—no adult one-on-one messaging/interaction with a youth.

Prior to attendance at UUA youth events, all participants must disclose any child welfare agency investigation or any criminal or juvenile delinquency arrests, charges, convictions including those involving abuse, violence, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, child abuse, driving while intoxicated or under the influence, firearms or dangerous weapons or similar matters. UUA may deny or limit a youth participant based on any of these disclosures.

Participant Rules/Behavioral Expectations for In-Person Events

Sending Mail and Packages

Sending physical mail can increase the sense of connection. UUA staff may send condolence and congratulatory cards, and provide supplies for programs. When sending physical mail, including cards, send an email to parents/guardians with a complete list of contents. Label all items and be sensitive to allergies.

Social Media and Adult Leaders

Virtual programming multiples the ways adult volunteers and staff may be interacting with youth both during and outside of programming. Here is a summary of adults’ responsibilities with links to the full polices:

Posting Photos Online: Adults are required to follow the photo permissions policy. Adults may not post on personal social media. Without photo permissions, photos can only be shared within event covenantal spaces. Photos can only be posted on official accounts with appropriate photo permissions.

Communication: When communicating electronically with youth, adults must include a second adult on the message or communication. If a youth contacts an adult one-on-one, the adult must redirect the conversation to add a second adult to the communication and/or redirect the conversation to the appropriate platform.

Social media presence: Adult volunteers and staff are expected to stay in “adult role” on any social media platform in which their posts are visible to youth. This means posts are appropriate for youth to view and are not sexualized, discriminatory, harassing, or otherwise contrary to the rules and philosophy of this policy and UU values.

Connection outside of programs: Youth may find adult staff and volunteers on social media and choose to engage such as requesting to be a friend on Facebook. Adults should not initiate such contact. Adults must not accept friend requests from youth on platforms that allow disappearing messages (like Snapchat). Interaction with youth must happen in ways that are viewable by others rather than in one-to-one private messages. Parent/guardians and religious professionals should be informed. This could be as simple as on Facebook posting on a youth’s wall after they friend you and asking to be introduced to their parents. Adults attending UUA youth focused programs agree to this when they sign the Adult Code of Conduct

Guidance on Platforms

Image Sharing Platforms

Preferred Platform

There is no recommended platform.

Not Ideal: Snapchat, Tiktok, Instagram

Snapchat

Snapchat’s feature of disappearing messages makes it a platform ill suited to safe use with minors. Snapchat may be used to create an announcement account that does not accept friend requests, but only publishes stories. This can be used as a way to document an event—posting all the images submitted—and saving the video to share elsewhere. There is no reason to do this, however, unless the involved youth are on Snapchat and want to be able to use this feature.

TikTok

TikTok has content which is inappropriate for youth which is not easy to avoid. Further there are concerns that TikTok continues not to follow federal laws pertaining to children’s privacy online. Therefore we do not recommend using Tik Tok in ways that pressure families to allow their youth to join, as that should be a decision made by a family.

However, TikTok is a useful way to publish video content that can be re-shared on a variety of platforms. Adult and program accounts should turn off direct messages (dm’s). Posts can be public so they can be shared with commenting turned off to avoid potential inappropriate interaction with strangers, as commentary on TikTok is often ugly/hurtful in tone.

Instagram

Instagram has copied Snapchat’s disappearing message function. Even more problematic than Snapchat, this feature cannot be disabled or avoided by not being friends with someone. Encouraging adults to be on instagram with teens runs the risk of either youth sending troubling messages to adults who do not react in time to screenshot the message—or predatory adults grooming youth through inappropriate messages which the youth are unable to screenshot in time and may hesitate to talk to a safe adult about for fear of not being believed. Covenants should include an agreement not to use such one on one messages and an understanding adults may not see Instagram messages. Adults using instagram should consider not using the messaging function and consider turning off notifications of messages so that they will not see messages sent from youth.

For youth using Instagram, there are some built in parental controls and there are third party apps (such as Bark) which parents can use to filter content on their youth’s Instagram as well. Instagram has instituted policies to mitigate cyber-bullying on their platform (for example by eliminating “likes” counts, and employing filters to detect bullying).

Do Not Recommend

There are no platforms we recommend against yet.

Rich Text-Based Platforms

Preferred Platforms: Teams, Slack, Google Drive, Groupme

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams provides an interface accessible via phone and desktop apps and browser with text based channels (including sharing photos, gifs, and emojis), file sharing, and other add-ons. Supports tagging users for notifications.

  • Users are invited by email address (names for those outside the Microsoft server can only be set when the email address is invited).

  • Private messaging cannot be turned off and should be managed by covenant

  • Supports video calls without the host features of zoom but within a secure environment.

Slack

Slack provides an interface accessible via phone and desktop apps and browser with text based channels (including sharing photos, gifs, and emojis), file sharing, and other add-ons. Supports tagging users for notifications.

  • Private messaging cannot be turned off and should be managed by covenant

  • Supports video calls without the host features of zoom but within a secure environment.

Google Drive

Google Drive provides a collaborative space including ability to comment and reply to comments. Can be especially creative by using editable diagrams in Google Slides re-creating some of what is possible in person on large sheets of paper including using re-arrangeable “stickies”.

GroupMe

GroupMe is primarily a group texting service though it also has features such as attach files, polls, and a group calendar. Accessible via browser, phone app, and SMS message. This makes it a more accessible option for those without smartphones.

  • Private messaging cannot be turned off and should be managed by covenant

Remind

Remind is primarily a texting service intended for teachers to make announcements to classes. It can be managed as an announcement service or a discussion group and through the webpage users can access files and conversations. Messages can be received through browser, email, phone call, or SMS.

  • Private messaging cannot be turned off and should be managed by covenant

  • Group conversations are limited to 9

Not Ideal: Text Messages, Messenger

Text Messages

Text messages may be used for logistical messages, avoiding one on one youth and adult interaction. However even group text messages do not provide the inclusive container that the platforms above do. For example, it is easy to accidentally drop someone off a group text without realizing it.

Messenger

Similar to text messages in many ways. However, it can be used for group messages when all parties are on Messenger and agree to use it. Some youth are on Messenger even though they don't use Facebook. Others prefer to avoid it entirely.

Do Not Recommend: Discord

Discord

Discord provides a functionality similar to Teams or Slack. However, once a user has a username they are able to search public Discord servers. Many of these public servers are dangerous for youth. Therefore, there are parents who do not allow their youth to use Discord and Discord is neither a safe nor inclusive platform for youth events. Therefore UUA youth-specific programs will not be using Discord. We encourage parents and guardians to make their own decisions about Discord including the possibility of using Discord together as a family.

Video Meetings

Preferred Platform: Zoom

Zoom provides the host multiple controls especially suitable for larger groups and groups who are still creating a covenant of how to be together. Zoom is susceptible to entry by those not invited, although recent privacy upgrades are helping. Stay up to date on advice to keep out trolls. Specific youth guidance on zoom.

Less Ideal: Google Hangout, Facetime, Facebook Messenger Video, Houseparty

These platforms do not give a host control such as mute/unmute. They are suitable only for small groups that do have a covenantal understanding of appropriate behavior.

One benefit for small groups using these platforms is that they are not susceptible to the same kind of “zoom-bombing” zoom is.

These should not be used for one-on-one meetings between youth and adults which should be avoided.

Houseparty needs to be locked once attendees are in the party to limit the ability of participants to invite someone who should not be included.

Do Not Recommend: Discord

Discord provides a functionality similar to Teams or Slack. However, once a user has a username they are able to search public Discord servers. Many of these public servers are dangerous for youth. Therefore, there are parents who do not allow their youth to use Discord and Discord is neither a safe nor inclusive platform for youth events. Therefore UUA youth-specific programs will not be using Discord. We encourage parents and guardians to make their own decisions about Discord including the possibility of using Discord together as a family.

Video Streaming Platforms

Preferred Platform: YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

YouTube

When streaming video accessible to the public, YouTube is preferred for youth. This should be done with commenting turned off and any conversation hosted only in a more secure platform.
Other streaming platforms where commenting is not possible or can be turned off are similarly ideal.

Not Ideal: Facebook Live, Twitch-TV, Instagram Live

Facebook Live

Facebook Live provides one way streaming accessible publicly or in a Facebook group. It is less ideal as many youth avoid Facebook fervently. The public Facebook live is not recommended for youth ministry as the comments must be actively monitored because they’re available to the public. If a youth program has youth in a Facebook group, Facebook live within that group can be effective.

Instagram Live

Instagram Live provides streaming with notification to an account’s followers. Inappropriate comments in the chat cannot be deleted, though comments can be reported and the account can be blocked from seeing the video. This may be an effective way to create a short video, especially one with guests, with the potential for abusive and inappropriate behavior monitored.

However, Instagram has copied Snapchat’s disappearing message function. Even more problematic than Snapchat, this feature cannot be disabled or avoided by not being friends with someone. Encouraging adults to be on instagram with teens runs the risk of either youth sending troubling messages to adults who do not react in time to screenshot the message -- or predatory adults grooming youth through inappropriate messages which the youth are unable to screenshot in time and may hesitate to talk to a safe adult about for fear of not being believed. Covenants should include an agreement not to use such one on one messages and an understanding adults may not see Instagram messages. Adults using instagram should consider not using the messaging function and consider turning off notifications of messages so that they will not see messages sent from youth.

For youth using Instagram, there are some built in parental controls and there are third party apps (such as Bark) which parents can use to filter content on their youth’s Instagram as well. Instagram has instituted policies to mitigate cyber-bullying on their platform (for example by eliminating “likes” counts, and employing filters to detect bullying).

Twitch-TV

Twitch-TV similar to Discord there is content on Twitch-TV we do not want to share with youth and everything that can be done there can be done on other platforms.

Do Not Recommend: None Yet

Zoom Specific Technical Guidance

Access this UUA guidance for up-to-date information on keeping Zoom safe.

Account Settings

To have control, especially if trolls try to enter your zoom room, set these settings up in your Zoom account (by logging in online).

Turn on:

  • Mute participants on entry

  • Co-host

  • Allow host to put attendee on hold

  • Always show meeting control tool bar

  • Screensharing, but only allow the host to share

  • Use the password function

Turn off:

  • Annotation

  • Whiteboard

  • Remote Control

  • Allow removed participants to rejoin

Options to Control Who is in the Zoom Room (Dependent on Zoom License)

  1. Once a youth is registered for event send them a link to register for the zoom so they have a unique link with a password.

  2. Create a unique meeting ID and password for each gathering and send shortly before the gathering to reduce the chance it is shared with those who shouldn’t be there.

  3. Consider using the “waiting room” function which allows you to control who is being allowed into a youth space. Ask that people at least have their cameras on initially so that you can confirm who is attending. For those without a webcam, check the registration list.

  4. You can also ask all your participants to set up a free zoom account with their registered name and use the Identify Guest Participants to notice if someone is in the room who shouldn’t be.

  5. Once your expected participants are present “lock” the meeting.

  6. For any of the above: Provide a phone number in your email for participants to call or text if they’re having trouble getting in.​

Settings to Consider Using with Youth

Turn Off “Private Chatting”

We recommend turning off private chatting at the beginning of a gathering at least until all participants are present and the meeting can be locked. When private chatting is turned on, adults must understand that private chatting with youth is against policy. Because inappropriate exchanges can happen privately and be invisible to event leaders, consider carefully when and why to allow private chatting especially before community is built and covenants created.

Dealing with Possible Zoom Bombing

In the beginning of a larger meeting consider these settings:

  • Turn off the chat so no one can chat

  • “Mute All” participants and turn off their ability to unmute themselves.

  • Spotlight your own video for now

  • Disable screen sharing.

You can selectively change these settings as the program begins. You may wish to enable the chat at some times, but not others. You can also mute/unmute participants yourself instead of allowing them to do so themselves.

If you are hit with a zoom bomber, open the Participant List, remove the participants behaving inappropriately, and lock the meeting.

Communication Procedures During Events

In youth events, it’s important to set up communication processes that (1) avoid adults interacting one-on-one with youth; and (2) avoid making youth contact information public. One way to do that is to create a group phone texting number or email address that’s accessible to a group of leaders. This allows more than one person to respond (perhaps in shifts) and means that all messages are visible to multiple people. This might be to contact the event deans or peer chaplains.

For on-line events it may also be necessary to create video chat spaces for a small group of people to meet--such as peer chaplains meeting with a youth needing to talk, or a small group of leaders needing to have a meeting. A breakout room can be used for this purpose in Zoom while the main event continues. Other uses of breakout rooms might include having a reception/registration room, or a tech support room. There should never be adults meeting alone with youth in breakout rooms.
Alternately, a second Zoom account can be used to set up as a kind of reception area or as a separate meeting space for a smaller group.

Important: Whenever an account on any platform is set up for use by a UUA program, UUA staff must have the passwords and have administrative access. This allows staff to be able to monitor things in real time, and also to ensure that the account is appropriately closed in the future.

Suggestions for Setting Up Such Systems

Back-Channel Leader Communication

Since Zoom only allows private messaging, when turned on, to individuals, create group chats for leaders before your event such as on GroupMe. Then use that channel for leadership communications during the event.

Text-Based Messaging

Using a platform like TextFree creates a way to have a phone number that is textable and viewable by multiple people:

  • Set up the account to always send copies of messages to a specific email address monitored by an adult.
  • Give the username and password to the leaders who should be receiving the messages during the time frame they’re on duty. Change the password afterwards.
  • Leaders should have a separate group chat, such as on GroupMe, to decide who should respond to each text.
  • Leaders must identify themselves when responding and texts where the sender refuses to identify themselves cannot be responded to.

Shared Email Address

Microsoft Teams makes this fairly straight forward to have an email address that a group receives. A leader would need to respond from another email address, but could copy other leaders into the reply. An email address can be assigned to a channel in a team. Work with UUA’s IT department to customize that email address.

Other options include creating an account such as a gmail account accessible by multiple leaders.

Zoom Reception Space

If this is a potential need, set up the link and password ahead of time so that it can be shared with whichever participants need it. If adult leaders have multiple devices, they can be signed into both the main zoom room and the other. Ideally two adults are present as a reception desk of sorts.
Create multiple breakout rooms, far more than might be needed. Then as a group signs into the zoom to have a small group conversation they can be put into one breakout room and leave the meeting when they’re done. If a second or third groups arrives while that small group is meeting, there’s no need to disturb the first group because there are multiple breakout groups to use.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Youth Safety Guidelines

Heart in beach sand with a rainbow created from found natural materials.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (“UUA”), an association of congregations and other religious communities, is dedicated to creating a safe environment for all of its members, particularly youth, in all of its programs and activities. As it seeks to create welcoming communities of trust, it recognizes that it must take steps to ensure that appropriate policies, procedures and safeguards are in place to protect youth, who may be particularly vulnerable to abuse due to the developmental realities of adolescence. We, therefore, have developed these UUA Youth Safety Guidelines to guard against abuse and provide our youth with as safe an environment as possible.

As people of faith, we look to Unitarian Universalist Principles to guide our policies and practices. We affirm the worth and dignity of all people and our commitment to justice through these procedures. We also seek to strengthen our community while recognizing that it is impossible to eliminate all risks.

We are committed to holding ourselves and all of those with whom we work and interact—members, volunteers and —​staff to consistent compliance with these guidelines and continued vigilance to ensure the safety and health of all youth. As each state and territory has its own laws regarding child abuse and neglect, it is important to check the local laws applicable to the location where the UUA program or activity will take place. In these guidelines, we have attempted to address as many risks as possible, but recognize that no environment will be risk free.

In this spirit, we endorse and will apply the following policies for all UUA youth events and all-age events with a youth-focused component, and strongly urge our member congregations and other religious communities to adopt parallel policies for their local youth activities.*


*As member congregations and other religious organizations are independent entities, the UUA has no authority to mandate policy/procedure implementation. Ultimately, each member congregation is solely responsible for the creation and implementation of its own safety policies and procedures. The UUA encourages member congregations to familiarize themselves with state and local regulations impacting child safety.

Policy Statements

grouping of six file binderd

UUA Youth Safety Policy

The UUA is committed to ensuring that all of its youth programs and activities are conducted in a welcoming manner and inclusive of youth of any race, color, national origin, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion, or other protected classes. It is also committed to provide UU youth with a safe environment in which to explore their faith and values, learn about the worth and dignity of all people and the requirements for a just and equitable world.

All persons involved in UUA’s programs and activities, including staff, volunteers, members. participants and others, are expected to conduct themselves with civility and respect at all times.

All events should encourage honest and respectful communication and create an environment in which participants can explore issues regarding race, ethnicity, sexuality, and other sensitive areas. These expectations shall be clearly communicated to all participants, and where appropriate, their parents/guardians.

The UUA has attempted to address safety for all youth attendees in its programs and activities by developing the UUA Youth Safety Guidelines. The Guidelines include input from multiple constituencies. They seek to advance UU values while ensuring that all youth attending UUA programs and activities have an age appropriate and safe environment..

All UUA youth events must comply with the UUA Youth Safety Guidelines at all times. These events must make safety a top priority and ensure that all participants are familiar with the requirements of the UUA’s Youth Safety Guidelines. Parents/guardians should receive notice of relevant safety information pertaining to their youth and have access to the Safety Guidelines.

All UUA staff is expected to follow and comply with all of the requirements of the Youth Safety Guidelines. Any exceptions (not following a particular process or requirement) must be approved and documented by the UUA staff in charge of the event.

Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, Bullying and Retaliation at Youth Events

The UUA expects that all of its staff, members, volunteers, visitors and anyone else involved in its programs and activities will conduct themselves in a civil and respectful manner. It is committed to maintaining an environment at all times in all of its programs and activities, free of harassment and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, affectual or sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age,religion or any other protected classification. Harassment based upon any protected classifications at the UUA or UUA sponsored events is strictly prohibited. It is the goal of the UUA to prevent harassment through on-going means of developing and maintaining staff and youth awareness, staff and volunteer training and policy dissemination.

The UUA has identified specific steps that it will take to create a safe, supportive environment for vulnerable populations in our community, and train all youth in the skills, knowledge, and strategies to prevent or respond to bullying and/or harassment.

Should an incident of harassment or bullying occur, the UUA will take prompt steps to address and prevent recurrence and to ensure that individuals impacted are not restricted from participating in the UUA’s programs and activities. Persons who engage in discrimination, harassment, bullying or retaliation may be subject to disciplinary action, including but not limited to being expelled and/or barred from UUA sponsored or related activities.

Harassment

Any harassment of or among youth, staff, members, volunteers, visitors or anyone else based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or any other protected status will not be tolerated. Harassment includes unwelcome communications such as jokes, unsolicited remarks or comments, innuendos, notes, display or circulation of written or online materials, pictures or symbols, gestures or physical contact, or other conduct which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment based upon any of the protected categories.

In addition, sexual advances, jokes, explicit or offensive pictures, videos or other online content, requests for sexual favors, sexting, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment.

By law, the particular communication or conduct is viewed from the perspective of a reasonable person with the characteristic on which the harassment is based. What one person may consider acceptable conduct may reasonably be viewed as harassment by another. Therefore prior to engaging in particular conduct, individuals are expected to consider how their words and actions might reasonably be viewed by others.

Bullying

The UUA is also committed to an environment that is free from bullying and cyberbullying. This commitment is an integral part of our comprehensive efforts to promote learning, and to prevent and eliminate all forms of bullying and other harmful and disruptive behavior that can impede the faith development and learning process.

We recognize that certain youth may be more vulnerable to becoming targets of bullying and/or harassment based on actual or perceived characteristics, including, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, homelessness, academic status, physical appearance, disability, or or other protected classification, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.

We will not tolerate any unlawful, disruptive, disrespectful or inappropriate conduct, including any form of bullying, cyberbullying or retaliation in UUA facilities or premises or in any UUA-related activities or programs. We will investigate promptly all reports and complaints of bullying, cyberbullying, and retaliation, and take prompt action to end that conduct and restore the target’s sense of safety. We will support this commitment in all aspects of our community.

Retaliation

Retaliation can be any action that would discourage a youth or other person from coming forward to make or support a claim of harassment, bullying or discrimination. It can include comments, shunning, ostracizing, interfering with a participant’s involvement in a program or activity, or any other conduct intended to display displeasure or annoyance because of the youth or individual. Such retaliation is prohibited.

Report and Investigation of Complaints of Discrimination, Harassment, Bullying or Retaliation

Youth who believe that they have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, bullying or retaliation should report the matter to UUA staff or volunteer, who in turn will notify their supervisor.

The UUA will promptly investigate complaints of discrimination, harassment, bullying and/or retaliation. If the UUA determines that a violation has occurred, it will take appropriate action to prevent recurrence and to ensure that that the issues are addressed.

In certain cases, harassment or bullying of youth may constitute child abuse under state or local’ laws. The UUA will comply with all legal requirements governing the reporting of suspected cases of child abuse. In addition, the UUA will remind youth and/or parents/legal guardians of their right to report appropriate issues to law enforcement.

When an investigation has been completed, UUA staff will inform the complainant of the results, subject to confidentiality requirements.

Youth Involvement Philosophy

Youth alone with head down

Inclusion

We strive to include youth across a wide range of difference including, but not limited to, differences of race, color, sex, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, and religious belief or other protected classification. All events should be sensitive to the range of human difference rooted in various physical and mental impairments or personality and cultural differences such as introversion/extroversion, emotional expressiveness and reservedness, different comfort levels with touch/noise/light, and different sleep needs. Event and meeting organizers must take into account physical and developmental differences within the age spectrum so that gatherings are comfortable for both younger and older youth. Additionally, event organizers are expected to create a culture where social expectations are discussed concretely and put in writing for clarity and to be more accessible to youth with disabilities including cognitive, behavioral, emotional and developmental challenges.

If youth with disabilities are participating in an event, the youth's parents/guardians and/or youth should be provided the opportunity to review activity plans and offer suggestions on how to accommodate the youth and others for a more inclusive experience.

We recognize that adolescence is a time of identity development and that youth will be at different stages of identity development particularly around race, class, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

We know that adolescents may have specific identity development and pastoral care needs based on such characteristics as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion. We encourage the creation of caucusing space to provide a safe place for youth of color, LGBTQ youth, and/or other basis.

We assume that gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and questioning youth are always a part of our programming. We know that one of the reasons youth and their families join Unitarian Universalist communities is to find a safe community that accepts gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. We also know that many teens, regardless of identity, experiment with same-sex sexual behaviors. Therefore it is never appropriate to assume heterosexuality or gender conformity among youth. Segregating youth by sex and/or gender does not preclude sexual experimentation or sexual behaviors.

Because our youth carry with them the damaging messages they’ve absorbed from the larger culture, it is extremely important to address language, stereotypes and assumptions based on heterosexism and sexism to help create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ youth and to help heterosexual youth escape the damaging effects of such inappropriate messages. Therefore programming and events must seek to avoid reinforcing heteronormative assumptions, gender stereotypes and assumptions that all participants are heterosexual.

We recognize that there may be youth in our programs who may explore, have, or develop a gender identity that is different than the gender typically expressed by members of their sex assigned at birth including both developing an identity of the gender opposite the one typically expressed by those of their birth sex or identification outside of the gender binary. We recognize that medical, hormonal, surgical, or psychological interventions may not be necessary or appropriate for all individuals and therefore individuals will not necessarily have medical documentation available.

Events must make space for transgender, genderqueer, gender variant and questioning youth in the following ways:

  • addressing individuals by their chosen name and pronoun,

  • avoiding forced gender segregation where possible,

  • providing a non-binary gender option for those identifying outside the gender binary when gender segregation occurs,

  • allowing youth to self-select the gender they identify as, rather than forcing segregation by assigned birth sex, and

  • allowing any youth for any reason to use a private shower or restroom instead of a shared gender-segregated one (including providing a gender neutral bathroom at events).

Ideally, gender segregation should never be required because it forces questioning youth to decide between coming out as trans and/or non-binary or being silent and uncomfortable. This can force youth to come out earlier than is healthy for them. Because of the nature of sleeping adolescent identity development and exploration, we support youth in making the best choice for themselves at each event even if that choice changes through time.

When our events are hosted by non-Unitarian Universalist facilities, full inclusion of trans and/or non-binary participants may be more difficult including the lack of gender neutral bathrooms and appropriate sleeping arrangements. Event organizers must do their best to advocate for our trans and non-binary youth and adapt where it is possible.*

We seek to create an environment where each youth is free to be themselves regardless of conformity to gender stereotypes, platonic affection between youth is not assumed to indicate sexual orientation, and the environment encourages platonic friendships among all genders. We believe this kind of environment best allows youth to discover and express their true selves and provides a foundational experience of healthy friendships, regardless of their gender or sexuality.


*If adult or youth participants are uncomfortable with the choice of gendered bathroom or sleeping space of a youth participant, event leaders should consult with the UUA staff responsible for the event.

Sexuality, Sexual Conduct and Boundaries

Sexuality is a healthy and important part of young people's lives. However, there are times and places where sexual behavior and sexual relationships are inappropriate, including at UUA events. The UUA youth programs affirm Our Whole Lives values of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice and inclusivity.

Sexual conduct, including consensual and nonconsensual sexual contact and sexual harassment of any kind is prohibited at UUA youth events. Sexual conduct includes, but is not limited to: open mouth or prolonged kissing, touching of genitals, buttocks, breasts, nipples, any touch meant to sexually arouse, sexualized public displays of affection, nudity of any kind, and any clothing that would not be considered appropriate for public spaces (e.g. underwear, see through clothing), sexting, and inappropriate use of social or traditional media to post or view sexualized photos, sexualized games, persons undressing or in sexualized poses.

All participants must respect each other's physical boundaries. We expect participants to use the practice of obtaining clear verbal consent for all non-sexual physical contact. This includes hugging, hand holding, group physical games, touching hair, and other touch. Since such consent can only be given and received awake, such touch can only happen while youth are awake. Our value of consent and self-determination extends to any other situation where a participant can expect a right to control their own body, including consenting to photos or videos.

Youth will be encouraged to trust their gut reaction and to seek assistance if they feel a touch is becoming sexual or a physical boundary has been crossed without consent. UUA encourages the youth to tell the other person to stop the offending contact and seek assistance immediately. Youth and adult leaders must be able to discuss what is and is not sexual conduct, consent and physical boundary limits in concrete terms with youth participants. (Please note that reporting procedures for violations involving sexual conduct are covered below under Mandated Reporting and Harm to Self or Others.)

Exclusive Behavior

Any kind of exclusive behavior detracts from the community building purpose of youth events. Creating a community in which new people are welcomed in and long standing friendships and friendship groups do not impede inclusion is a challenge for any community. Acting on romantic relationships presents a particular challenge as romantic relationships by their nature are exclusive. Therefore youth events shall not permit exclusive behavior between existing couples nor should new couples engage in such behaviors. This obviously includes sexual behavior but also means holding couples to a high standard of behavior including not cuddling or engaging in any behavior that anyone else would not be welcome to participate in. Similarly, two youth should never be alone in a room together unless it is necessary to fulfill a leadership role, such as a peer chaplain providing peer counseling to a participant, and then the door to the room must be open and the youth visible from the doorway or window.

Restorative Practice

We seek to create a community that honors the inherent worth and dignity of all participants. This needs particular care and attention in times of conflict, where youth find themselves out of covenant with each other, and when rules are broken.

In contrast to punitive systems which have high standards and low support, and permissive systems which have low standards and high support, restorative ones have both high standards and high support. We know that humans learn best in supportive relationships and that shame and social cutoff interfere with learning. We know that youth will make mistakes. We seek to create communities and cultures which help youth learn, through both holding them accountable and supporting them in their learning,
As communities centered on covenant and right relationship, responding to conflict, harm to each other, and rule breaking must center restoring trust, safety, and right relationship over punishment.
This requires keeping the well-being and input of those most impacted by the actions as a central part of the process. Restrictions may sometimes need to be set while trust and safety, with the community, impacted youth, local congregations, leadership, and UUA staff, is re-established.

Hiring and Approving Staff and Volunteers

A "We are hiring" sign

All adults attending a youth focused event must be either approved adults under this policy or fall under the guest policy.

Adult Staff and Volunteer Leaders

Adults ideal for youth ministry should have the abilities to:

  • form real and genuine relationships with youth

  • focus the relationship on the needs of the youth and not the needs of the adult

  • hold appropriate emotional and physical boundaries

  • provide for their own physical, sexual, social, spiritual, and emotional needs in appropriate ways

Adults who work with youth must be at least 25 years of age. Exceptions may be made by UUA staff for presenters who are not supervising youth or UUA staff who are otherwise qualified to serve in youth ministry.

Approval Process

All workers with children and youth must have been actively participating in a UU congregation, covenanting community or related organization for at least six months.

Proof of identification, such as a driver’s license, may be requested.

All staff working on youth activities and programs must disclose (and agree to continue to disclose) any pending or previous child welfare agency investigations or criminal arrests, charges, convictions particularly those involving abuse, violence, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, child abuse, driving while intoxicated, firearms, or dangerous weapons or similar matters. (See UUA Adult Code of Conduct for sample language)

All compensated and volunteer workers working with children will be asked to consent to a national criminal background check and sex offender registry check and such checks will be performed or obtained by UUA staff at least every three years or more frequently if deemed appropriate.

All adults working with youth must sign the UUA Adult Code of Conduct and all adults and youth working in positions of leadership must sign the UUA Leadership Code of Ethics.

Volunteer Adult Attendees and Sponsors

All adults participating in a youth focused event must meet these qualifications.

An Adult Sponsor is an adult participant who attends an event with specific youth and is responsible for supporting those youth at the event. An adult sponsor can sponsor up to the number of youth that meets the youth adult ratio (generally 7 youth to 1 adult. See Youth: Adult Ratios in Supervision section). Sponsors must participate in participant and adult orientations, agree to the Adult Code of Conduct, and follow rules and supervision policies.

Age

Adults must be 25 years of age. Exceptions may be made on a case by case basis as approved by the UUA staff responsible for the event.

Approval for the Role

At multigenerational events like camps or General Assembly, adult sponsors are parents/guardians or are approved by parents/guardians.

For youth focused events, adult attendees and sponsors must be actively participating in a UU congregation or covenanting community. For adults involved in a local UU setting, adults are required to have an endorsement for this role by their Director of Religious Education, Minister, or Board President certifying that the individual is a healthy adult for youth programming and has met the requirements of their Safe Congregations policy, including a background check.

For adults whose involvement is in a virtual UU community, the UUA staff responsible for the event must approve that adult’s participation and may require additional references and conversation. UUA staff will obtain a copy of a background check.

Parents/guardians may sponsor their own child even if they do not meet all the qualifications for the role of adult sponsor with knowledge and permission of the responsible UUA staff. If such a person hasn’t been background checked by a congregation, a UUA staff will perform or obtain a copy of a background check.

Background Check Philosophy and Requirements

Background check requests should include a letter which clarifies that a criminal history is not an automatic disqualification for working with youth, but rather is the opening of conversation about the meaning of the offense and its relationship to youth ministry (e.g. convictions for civil disobedience). (See Appendix for sample letter]).

Background investigations may produce reports of felony and misdemeanor convictions. Some of those convictions may be those that the UUA considers to be social justice issues. Other convictions may be for ones that are not relevant because they occurred a long time ago or pose little or no threat to youth.

The UUA acknowledges the fact that there is pervasive racism, homophobia, and transphobia in the United States’ criminal justice system. People of color are disproportionately convicted of felonies, and homosexuality or claiming a transgender identity has itself been historically considered a sex offense in many states. To help deal with these facts, when the UUA receives criminal history information that raises concerns, experts may be called in when necessary.

Any criminal or child welfare history disclosed to the UUA in the volunteer application process will remain strictly confidential. UUA staff will not share the information without the express written authorization of the applicant.

Background Checks—Technical Information

Background checks should search the national criminal database, the database of the state of the adult’s residence’s, and sex offender registries. UUA staff uses either the background service provided by Human Resources or the basic service provided by Church Mutual’s recommended background check partner.

We recommend congregations use Church Mutual’s recommended background check partner.

Adult Alcohol and Substance Use

Adults, who are responsible for youth or on-call, should not consume or be impaired by alcohol or other substances that impair functioning for the duration of the event or tenure of their responsibility. This includes not showing up impaired from previous consumption.

Removal/Restriction/Reinstatement of Adult Volunteers

The UUA reserves the right to restrict or remove, temporarily or permanently, any adult from contact with youth at UUA events if it determines that the adult worker is no longer suitable for work with youth. Reasons for such a determination include, but are not limited to, arrests or convictions for violent or other actions; inappropriate social, emotional, sexual, or physical boundaries with youth; inability to be responsibly present including due to physical or mental illness, or substance use including prescribed medication; any violation of the Adult Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics for Adults and Youth in Leadership; or any other action that causes significant distress to youth or cause UUA staff to be concerned about the safety of youth. The reasons for any temporary or permanent removal or any other terms of restriction will be documented and communicated with the volunteer, the religious professionals at their home congregation, and any other UU programs in which they serve as a leader with minors.

Reinstatement of Suspended Adult Volunteer Leaders

UUA staff must document the circumstances and events for suspending volunteer youth and adult leaders on a Summary Report Form (see appendix) and forward the records to the Co-Director for Ministry and Faith Development. The volunteer will be informed that a report is being filed. Documentation will be retained according to the Documentation Policy. If legal action is involved, the UUA will maintain a suspension during this process. If the UUA staff recommends a permanent ban, a team, of at least three, including a representative from the Ministries and Faith Development Office, a member of the Lifespan Faith Engagement office, and the UUA staff responsible for the event will determine whether the suspension is temporary or permanent. When the volunteer holds a historically marginalized identity, representatives from other UUA staff teams may be included or consulted to help ensure appropriate and fair consideration of identity-based power dynamics. If the volunteer is in any stage of ministerial formation, the Office of Ministerial Credentialing and Professional Development will be informed and consulted. All documentation will be provided to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee as needed. If a volunteer is either in process or credentialed as a Religious Educator, the Lifespan Faith Engagement office and Religious Education Credentialing Committee will be informed and consulted.

The volunteer will have a right to view a file summary and to make a statement to be considered before any final decisions are in place. If the volunteer is a religious professional they may identify a Good Officer from their professional organization for support, and if the volunteer is not a religious professional they may identify a minister or other religious professional for support. In no case may the volunteer be represented by a lawyer.

Specific developmental plans or actions will be required before reinstatement. In cases where a permanent ban is put in place, a volunteer may appeal such a decision to the Chief Operating Officer of the UUA and the Co-Directors of Ministries and Faith Development for a final determination.

Youth Staff or Volunteer Leader Approval Process

This applies to youth in formal leadership positions, such as those selected or elected ahead of time as well as leadership positions where a youth has formal oversight over other youth, directs other youth leaders, formally mentors other youth, or has access to sensitive information about other youth. Examples include: hire as a facilitator, serve on the right relationship team, election to a planning committee, or service as a chaplain.
Youth in these leadership positions must complete an application process and supply two references. These references will be checked by UUA staff or their designate, and will be good for up to three years. These references should be people who have known the potential worker, preferably in relation to previous work with youth. At least one reference must be from the congregation or covenanted community in which the youth actively participates. UUA staff may restrict the roles a youth can serve based on the contents of these references.

The youth volunteer must have been actively participating in a UU congregation or covenanted community for at least six months.

Youth working in positions of leadership must sign the UUA’s Adult and Youth Leader Code of Ethics(see Appendix).

Removal/Restriction/Reinstatement of Youth Volunteer Leaders

UUA staff may remove or restrict, temporarily or permanently, any youth from UUA leadership positions if that youth volunteer is deemed no longer safe or appropriate for that role. The reasons for any temporary or permanent removal or any other terms of restriction will be documented and communicated with the volunteer, the religious professionals of their home congregation, and any other UU programs in which they participate.

Reasons for removal from a leadership role may include actions violating the rules of events, behavior violating the Code of Ethics for Youth and Adults in Leadership, or a change such that the youth would no longer be able to be approved under the UUA Youth staff or Volunteer Leader Approval Process including receiving concerning reports from a youth’s congregation.

To determine the scope of the restriction, the UUA staff responsible for the event and either the program leadership team or two others responsible for the event will convene.

Youth leaders may also face suspension from youth events based on the policies which provide for Suspension and Reinstatement to Youth Events.

Reinstatement of Suspended Youth Volunteer

UUA staff are responsible for documenting the circumstances and events for suspending volunteer youth and adult leaders on a Summary Report Form (see Appendix) and forwarding these records to the Director of Lifespan Faith Engagement to catalog the reports on a secure drive and share on an as-needed basis. Documentation will be retained according to the Documentation Policy. If legal action is involved, the suspension will be continued until any legal action is concluded.

If a youth is suspended from all youth events, reinstatement will follow the policy and procedures documented in the Suspension from and Reinstatement to Youth Events section.

A team of at least three staff including the UUA staff responsible for the event and two others relevant to the decision will determine whether a leadership suspension is temporary or permanent. When the youth holds a historically marginalized identity UUA staff responsible for supporting youth with marginalized identities will be included.

When youth leaders are suspended from leadership, UUA staff responsible for the program will communicate with both the youth’s home congregation or covenanted community and the UUA staff responsible for any other UUA programs the youth is known to be involved in.

The youth volunteer and/or their parents (if under 18) will have a right to view a file summary and to make a statement to be considered before any final decisions are made. UUA staff will connect the family with pastoral resources in their home congregation to support them through this process.

Specific developmental plans or actions will be required before reinstatement. In cases where a permanent ban is put in place, a volunteer may appeal such a decision to both the Director of Lifespan Faith Engagement and the supervisor of the UUA staff responsible for the program within which their suspension happened.

Files for youth whose suspension is still active when they bridge into adulthood will be kept on record for review in case they wish to volunteer in youth ministry as an adult.

Youth Eligibility and Registration Process

Two people in "volunteer" shirts taking a selfie

Youth Eligibility and Age Requirements

Youth must be active in a UU congregation or covenanted community and be of youth age range (see below).

Age Range for “Youth”

‘Youth’ are defined as those in high school grades 9-12 or the equivalent for homeschooled youth. For the purposes of its programs, the UUA defines “youth” as any young person currently in high school (or the equivalent for home-schooled youth or other uncommon schooling situations) as well as minors of the same age who have left school without receiving a diploma. Youth fitting this definition may or may not be minors. This standard is a shift from an older age-based definition to a new life-stage definition. Here is a breakdown of how this terminology works in real-life situations:

  • 18-19 AND in high school = youth and a legal adult

  • 18 or older and not high school (college, work, dropped out) = legal adult, not a youth

  • Under 18 and in college = minor, not a youth

The UUA staff responsible for an event are able to determine if a 14-19 year old not in a common situation is still at a youth life-stage and therefore eligible for youth events. This determination may be made in collaboration with the religious professionals or lay leaders at the youth’s congregation.

For events during the summer, leaders can choose to define grades 9-12 in terms of grades just complete or those starting in the fall.

Middle School or Junior High Events Age Range

Events that include youth in grades 6, 7, or 8 may have a variable age range so long as the age range includes no more than three grade levels and no more than four years difference in age. Examples include:

  • ages 12-15 and grades 7-9;

  • ages 11-14 and grades 6-8.

Religious Professional Endorsed

For youth involved in a local UU congregation or covenanted community, youth must be endorsed to register at regional and national/international youth events by a religious professional or designated lay leader. The local UU community knows the youth best and therefore knows best if the youth is emotionally ready and prepared to be a safe and covenantal participant in an event.
For youth whose involvement is in a virtual UU community, the UUA staff responsible for the event is also responsible for endorsing that youth’s attendance and may require additional references and conversation.

This policy can be implemented in a variety of ways including:

  • Having a local leader sign an endorsement form

  • Having local leaders submit registrations for participants

  • Having a local leader give their endorsement electronically through online forms or email

  • Having a youth submit a letter of reference

  • UUA staff checking a youth’s references

Programs Open to Youth Who Are Not Unitarian Universalist

Such as UUCSJ programs

For youth who are not a part of a Unitarian Universalist faith community, UUA staff must check a minimum of two references, including a religious professional from the youth’s faith community. If the youth is not affiliated with any faith communities, youth must provide a minimum of two references, including a non-familial adult, who will speak to the youth’s emotional readiness and preparation to be a safe and covenantal participant in an event.

Pairing Youth With Sponsors

An Adult Sponsor is an adult participant who attends an event with specific youth and is responsible for supporting those youth at the event. An adult sponsor can sponsor up to the number of youth that meets the youth adult ratio (generally 1 adult to 7 youth. See Adult: Youth Ratios in Supervision section). Sponsors must participate in participant and adult orientations, agree to the Adult Code of Conduct, and follow rules and supervision policies.

The local UU community is responsible for being sure that an Adult Sponsor paired with the youth is able to help the youth have a positive and supportive experience. Both the parent/legal guardian of the youth and the local religious professional must approve the Adult Sponsor for youth.

The UUA encourages congregations to approve adults who know the youth and attend the same congregation as the youth.

NOTE: Adult supervision is provided by Adult Sponsors supervised by UUA staff or volunteers at most UUA events. Some UUA youth events with vetted participants or individuals who go through an application process do not require Adult Sponsors, because adult supervision is provided by UUA staff, hired adult staff or designated volunteers. These events often use vetted adults, recruited by the event lead, following required adult/youth ratios, and the youth’s needs, accommodations, and modifications are highlighted and acknowledged through the registration process.

Permission Form Requirements

Youth must have a permission form for the event signed by their parents and/or guardians in order to participate in an event. If youth arrive without a signed permission form and the permission form cannot be sent via an online signing service, two adults must obtain verbal permission from the parent/guardian to sign form by proxy, and write that they received verbal permission including the parent’s/guardian’s name.

Youth Orientation Pre-Event

UUA staff will provide relevant information in a timely manner to youth and adult participants before the event.

UUA staff will encourage congregational leaders/religious educators to hold an orientation for youth who are going to participate in immersion events like camps, conferences, General Assembly, etc.

Training Requirements

 A blank to do list on the wall next to a large stack of papers

Annual Training Required for Youth and Adult Volunteers

Training, at least annually, for youth and adult leaders must include their responsibilities for their own personal conduct and these areas:

  • Reporting responsibilities regarding child abuse and harm to self and others as required by the applicable state laws

  • Bullying and harassment policy and reporting

  • Reporting procedures documented in the UUA Youth Safety Guidelines

  • Policy and review of the UUA’s Code of Ethics for Youth and Adults in Leadership

  • Review of Adult Code of Conduct for all adult attendees

  • Social media and electronic communication policies

  • Program emergency medical procedures

Training Required for All Event Participants

Event orientation must cover at a minimum these items:

  • Inclusion

  • Consensual touch including affirmative consent

  • Recognizing and speaking up when behavior becomes sexualized*

  • Bullying and harassment

  • No retaliation - expressing concerns and complaints is encouraged

  • Limits of confidentiality

  • Medication procedures

  • Sleeping and curfew procedures and rules

  • Where to bring any concerns, anything uncomfortable or just “weird”

  • Event community norms and/or covenant

    • Note: Should cover how the youth community addresses inclusivity of all identities, especially those more marginalized (see questions in community norms)

  • UUA Youth Behavior Rules/Expectations

  • Host/Partner site policies if applicable.


*Without a conversation about recognizing when behavior becomes sexualized, it’s difficult for youth to speak up in the grey zone between clearly non-sexual and clearly sexual.

Training Required for 18 Year Old Youth

  • Changes in legal status

  • Increased legal consequences for sexual crimes

  • Increased consequences in UUA programs for sexual misconduct

  • Social changes entering adult world and the change in perception of younger youth’s parents

  • Status as a role model for younger youth, both positively and negatively

See “Sample 18+ and Bridgers' Orientation" in Appendix.

Training Required for Adults at Youth Events

Adult orientations at youth events must cover the following areas:

  • Adult role at event

  • Adult responsibilities as sponsor to youth

  • Adult physical and social boundaries with youth

  • Adult supervision responsibilities

  • Any special supervision responsibilities because of guests or off-site trips

  • Actions to take if finding any violation of rules/expectations, unsafe actions, or learn of harm to self or others

  • Role as sponsor if their youth is involved in covenant or rules/expectations infraction

Rules and Expectations

"Know the Rules" written on a blackboard

Participant Rules/Behavioral Expectations

Prior to attendance at UUA youth events, all participants must disclose any child welfare agency investigation or any criminal or juvenile delinquency arrests, charges, convictions including those involving abuse, violence, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, child abuse, driving while intoxicated or under the influence, firearms or dangerous weapons or similar matters. UUA may deny or limit a youth participant based on any of these disclosures.

Each youth and adult participant must agree to the event rules/expectations, which must be presented at the beginning of each event. These rules/expectations may be specific to the event, but must include the following:

  • No violence, weapons or dangerous items—This includes physical violence, verbal threats or harassment, or possession of weapons or explosives such as fireworks.

  • Respect property/No vandalism—respect local facilities and the community’s possessions, and no theft.

  • No drugs, alcohol, cannabis, or illegal substances—this includes requirement to use medication as prescribed, and turn prescription medication over to an adult if required for that event.

  • No smoking, vaping, or use of nicotine/tobacco products. Participants with nicotine addictions are invited to discuss medical management with UUA staff responsible for the event ahead of time.

  • No harassment on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion, disability or any other protected status. 

  • No sexualized conduct or sexual activity, including open mouth and/or prolonged kissing. In general, includes any touch meant to arouse, sharing sexually explicit material such as videos, apps or games.

  • No unwanted, uninvited touchonly a clearly expressed “yes” means yese.g. ask before hugging.

  • No leaving the event location without proper permission—what constitutes permission may vary by event but must require permission by the adult responsible for supervising the youth.

  • Rule of Three—All excursions off-site must include a minimum of three, multigenerational participants. No youth or adults are to ever be alone in a closed space with another youth participant.

Please see the Restoring Right Relationship and Youth Participant Suspension and Reinstatement Sections for information about the next steps when a Rule/Expectation is violated.

Community Norms

Each youth program creates and maintains community norms, which can be expressed in a covenant, expressing the goals of the community and how the community will be together. Rules/expectations express a baseline or minimum standard. These community norms should express the ideals of community such that all feel comfortable, heard, and included.

The conversation in creating this covenant/document could include questions like:

  • What is the purpose of this program?

  • What does respect look like?

  • What does inclusion look like?

  • What does this community define as “exclusive” behavior?

  • How will we ask for and hear consent from each other?

  • How do we co-create a safer community?

  • How will we support each other’s self-care including sleeping and introvert recharge time?

  • How do we make space for those with marginalized identities including asking others to make space (in leadership, in community culture, etc)?

  • How do we embody anti-oppressive values in this community?

  • How will we recognize that intent and impact are not the same thing, especially in regards to microaggressions?

This document will be discussed at the beginning of each event and be regularly revisited and revised.

Confidentiality

Youth have the right to expect confidentiality of their personal stories except in cases where expanding confidentiality is needed to protect youth. This norm is expressed in most event covenants and is something UUA staff and event leaders must hold up.

In particular, if a youth participant discloses information about their identity, including gender identity or sexual orientation, to UUA staff that the youth has not made public; the UUA staff member(s) will not share the disclosure with other people without the permission of the youth.

Right Relationship Team

All events shall have a designated team, e.g. Spirit Committee or Spirit Corps, responsible for assisting the community at youth focused events in maintaining their community norms (or covenant) and adhering to the rules and behavioral expectations. At events with shared youth-adult leadership the team shall consist of youth and adults. This group will be visible and will watch for and intervene in behaviors that undermine community including exclusive behavior. For large events, it is best practice that the individuals on this team should not hold significant other roles of leadership at the event.

See Appendix for Sample Right Relationship Team Structures and Sample Right Relationship Processes

Restoring Right Relations

A process for restoring right relationship should be in place for every youth event. Rather than viewing this through the lens of “punishment” this should be viewed in service of restoring community safety and wholeness. This may include temporary or permanent restrictions.

See Appendix for Sample Restorative Procedures.

Youth Participant Suspension and Reinstatement

When any youth’s actions have made youth events unsafe or are inconsistent with the rules and expectations of the event, UUA staff or empowered program leaders, including those members of Right Relationship Team (e.g. Spirit Committee, Spirit Corps, etc.) may suspend or restrict that youth’s involvement in UUA events. Potential causes are noted in the section on rules and behavioral expectations.

UUA staff is responsible for documenting the circumstances and events for suspended youth on a Summary Report Form (see Appendix) and forwarding these records to the Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministry. All documentation will be retained according to the Documentation Policy. If legal action or child welfare agency action is involved, the youth will remain under suspension until legal processes and/or child welfare processes are resolved.

To determine the scope of the suspension or restriction, the UUA staff responsible for the event and either the program leadership team or two others responsible for the event will convene. This process will occur after an investigation and potential restorative process as described in “Restoring Right Relations.” When the youth holds a historically marginalized identity UUA staff responsible for supporting youth with marginalized identities will be included.

Permanently banning youth from all youth events is a last resort and done only if a youth’s behavior constitutes a serious threat to the other attendees or the youth that cannot be remedied with less restrictive behavioral contracts or in less serious situations after restorative practices have been pursued.

The reasons for any temporary or permanent removal or any other terms of restriction will be documented and communicated with the youth, their parents or guardians, the religious professionals of their home congregation, and any other UU programs in which they participate.

The youth and their parents or guardians (if under 18) will have a right to view a file summary and to make a statement to be considered before any final decisions are in place.

Specific developmental plans or actions will be required before reinstatement. In cases where a permanent ban is put in place, a youth may appeal such a decision to the supervisor of the UUA staff responsible for the program within which their suspension occurred.

Files for youth whose suspension is still active when they bridge into adulthood will be kept on record for review in case they wish to volunteer in youth ministry as an adult.

Mandatory Reporting and Harm to Self or Others

Red flag against cloudy sky

Mandatory Reporting Policy

While the laws in each state vary, the UUA expects all participants act as “mandated reporters” within our organization. Any volunteer or leader, youth or adult, must report to the UUA staff responsible for an event anything that constitutes harm or potential harm to a minor (“harm to self or others”) immediately and no later than 8 hours after becoming aware of an incident, regardless of whether the particular report would constitute a mandated report in the state in which it occurs. UUA staff responsible for the event are responsible for determining whether a legal report should be made in each circumstance and making that report in the legally mandated time frame (usually 24-48 hours). If it is determined that a report is required, UUA staff will make a report. Individuals who are mandated reporters under state law should also make a report themselves.

UUA staff must familiarize themselves with state and local laws around mandated reporting, child abuse and neglect, and criminal sexual conduct, including non-consensual and peer sexual contact for minors, and include (as relevant) in training of youth and adult leaders.

Reporting Procedure For Harm to Self and Others Including Child Abuse

  1. Youth and adult leaders will report any knowledge of harm to self or others to the UUA staff responsible for the event.
  2. Harm to self or others may include, but is not limited to: suicidal ideation; cutting; burning or shocking oneself; physical or verbal aggression towards self or others; violent intimate relationship; bullying or threatening to harm another; potentially dangerous relationship (e.g. much older adult); addiction to dangerous substances; Internet grooming; symptoms of eating disorders, such as food refusal or frequent vomiting; and/or any suspicious or concerning participant behavior.
  3. Suicide: Suicidal ideation will be taken seriously as an immediate emergency
  4. Self-harm: Cutting and other self-harm behavior which can include a wide range of behaviors including punching or hitting objects and burning or shocking oneself.
  5. Any suspicion of child abuse including on site non-consensual peer sexual contact and sexual contact between peers with an age gap beyond what is legally allowed.
  6. Emergency services will be brought in as necessary. See Special Point on Law Enforcement (below).
  7. If UUA staff is not on site, event staff will contact the UUA staff responsible for the event immediately.
  8. If appropriate, UUA staff will follow the Mandated Reporting Procedure for Child Abuse and/or Neglect immediately.
  9. Event staff will complete an incident report form.
  10. UUA staff will ensure that parents/guardians and local religious professionals are informed. except in cases where youth may be harmed. Any exceptions to not inform parents/guardians or local religious professionals must be made in consultation with one’s supervisor and the reason must be recorded in writing.
  11. UUA staff, parents/guardians and local religious professionals will assess whether and when youth is able to keep themselves safe at future UUA events.
  12. UUA staff is responsible for collecting documentation of all action taken and the decisions made.

Mandated Reporting Procedure for Child Abuse and/or Neglect

To create a safe environment for youth, the UUA staff will report any suspected incident of abuse or neglect to state child protective services and to the youth’s religious professionals, who may share the information with the youth’s parents/guardians, by following the procedure below.

(1) The UUA staff is responsible for determining if a report of “harm to self or others” or “abuse or neglect” requires a mandated report. They should consider:

  • Consulting a religious professional from the youth’s congregation who may have more information on state law requirements;

  • Consulting with a professional in the state with knowledge of mandated reporting;

  • Reviewing the state law.

(2) Required reports should be made within the legal time frame required by state law after knowledge of the abuse and/or neglect by a leader, volunteer or staff. While the proper venue to receive mandated reports varies by state, the report should most likely be made to the state or county child or family services, or such as through a state child abuse hotline (see special point below). Most likely this report is required to be made in the jurisdiction in which the incident happened. Based on the facts and circumstances, additional reports may be appropriate and UUA staff should review with legal counsel.

(3) UUA staff must inform their supervisor immediately and keep them informed throughout the process and to help determine all actions that should be taken. The situation and process should be documented thoroughly.

(4) If required to report, the UUA staff will inform the Executive Vice President, and report the incident to state child protective services. Depending on the circumstances in appropriate cases, a report will be provided to the youth’s religious professionals, who may share the information with the youth’s parents/guardians. If the abuser is the religious professional or the parent/guardian they should not receive notice of the charges until the youth is safe. If the UUA staff determines the incident is not a mandated report, this decision must be approved by the UUA Executive Vice President and the reasoning must be recorded in writing.

(5) If the person accused of child abuse is a youth in UUA programs or an adult volunteer and/or sponsor, UUA staff is responsible for determining eligibility for future youth events and for appropriately documenting the incident.

Special Point Regarding Police and Law Enforcement

The safety of youth is the primary focus of these Guidelines. Decisions to report to police and law enforcement should be made based on the facts and circumstances of the situation. If there is a potential risk of immediate harm then 911 should be called. However, in other situations, such as incidents of alleged inappropriate touching or abuse, the decision to involve police should be made by the victim and their parent or guardian. Any report of inappropriate abuse or neglect must be reported to state child protective services (see mandated reporting procedure for child abuse and/or neglect).

We recognize the role of discrimination and racism in our legal system, and seek to keep UUA interaction focused on human welfare and restorative practices whenever possible. In general, reporting to legal authorities will center on harm prevention and victim empowerment.

  • Unless there is risk of immediate and/or serious harm, child abuse should be reported to child protective services rather than law enforcement.

  • UUA staff and leaders will support the victim(s) and their families if they choose to pursue a criminal complaint with law enforcement.

  • Where there are local restorative justice organizations for responding to criminal complaints, we will support victims if they make this choice.

  • In situations where UUA staff, participants or property is not the target of a crime, staff will only report crimes to the police if doing so is necessary to prevent further immediate harm (for instance in cases of an armed attacker)

  • If law enforcement is called to an event, leaders will consider the full possible impact of law enforcement’s involvement on the range of identities held by participants and provide as much support as possible.

Mandated Reporting to Law Enforcement

Any incident relating to UUA vehicle or property damage, including UUA staff and participant vehicles or property damage, must be reported to law enforcement immediately for investigation. The investigation will provide answers to insurers. Examples of incidents that must be reported to law enforcement for investigation immediately include: vandalism, theft, vehicle damage, cyber liability, embezzlement, or anything indicative of fraudulent behavior.

Adult Supervision Requirements

Flashlight Photo

UUA Staff Oversight and Adult Leadership

Each event must have a UUA staff person responsible for the event. Event leaders must know which UUA staff members are on call for their event and have contact information for those individuals’ in case of emergency.

Each event must have a small number of designated adult leaders who serve as the points of contact for UUA staff. These adult leaders must be approved under the Approval Process for Adult staff and Volunteers. They must be trained by the UUA staff responsible for the event for this role including meeting the requirements in the Hiring and Approving Staff and Volunteers section. They must have a copy of these Guidelines and any special procedures created by the UUA staff in charge of the event.

While involved in UUA activities away from home, youth and their parents or guardians should know ahead of time who will have primary responsibility for their youth, and have a way to get in touch with this person at all times of day or night during the event (usually a cell phone number).

It should be clear to youth who is responsible for their well-being and who to talk with if they have questions, concerns or feel uncomfortable for any reason during a UUA event.

Adult: Youth Ratios

The only adults who meet the requirement for this ratio are those adults approved under this policy. See requirements for “Adult Staff and Volunteers Leaders”. Other adults such as guest presenters do not count towards ratio. See section on “Age Range for Youth” for definition of youth.

1 adult: 7 youth for high school youth, 1 adult: 5 youth for junior high youth events. Some events may be deemed to require a higher number of adults.

In addition to meeting the adult:youth ratios, there must always be at least two adults present for any event.

Two adults who are in a committed partnership or marriage cannot satisfy the requirement of having at least two adults present around youth.

Guests

If there are outside guests (such as a presenter) or someone in the building for another reason, adults must be alert to the interaction of the guests with youth and monitor this so that they know when all guests have left. Guests must stay in main programming area, wear a nametag, and sign in/out.

Guests must be approved by the event leadership and the UUA staff responsible for the event.

Partner Organization Staff

Adult staff for host sites or partner organizations must be oriented to these Guidelines and the safety policies contained therein. They must commit to implementing those safety policies on site, as well as to following these policies as a minimum standard.

Upon the failure to follow these Guidelines by host staff, their supervisor should be contacted with the expectation that the offending staff member(s) will be removed.

Daytime Supervision

Event leadership needs to see that event staff and/or volunteer adults are evenly spread through programming such that no programming or free time is happening without adult supervision. Adults will either be physically present in all rooms or periodically roaming. Refer to the “Rule of Three” in Participant Rules and Behavioral Expectations

It is highly discouraged for youth or adults to leave the premises. If youth or adults leave, the procedures for off-site trips will be followed.

In general, youth should be in spaces visible to adult supervision. Therefore, the doors to all programming and sleeping spaces for youth should be kept open at all times, day and night. Visibility requirements for situations such as formal peer pastoral care (peer chaplains) can also be met by windows on doors so long as the room is lit and the youth are clearly visible. The exception would be any sensitive meeting (such as dealing with a rules/expectations violation) at which there are at least two adults present, including one adult leader.

As immersion youth events can be draining, adults will be encouraged to take breaks for self-care and get sufficient sleep.

Offsite Supervision

When programming includes trips out of the main event site, programs will follow the transportation policy outlined below and youth will be accompanied by adults meeting the ratio requirements of adult leaders or adult sponsors under this policy.

Housing and Nighttime Supervision

All host sites must have insurance to cover liability as well as potential damages incurred to property and/or to persons. Individual’s homes or domiciles may not be used to house UUA sponsored events.

UUA events will follow the host site safety policies including complying with rules designed for state law, fire code and local health code compliance.

Congregations

When UUA events are held in congregational buildings:

  • Our programs will follow congregational policies in addition to those set forth in these Youth Guidelines.

  • We will follow building rules

Nighttime Supervision and Sleeping in Congregations

The sleeping policy will be shared with parents and guardians. UUA staff responsible for the event will determine the implementation of these policies.

Each youth must have their own bedding. The floor must be visible between youth in the sleeping areas.

Youth leaders are expected to distribute themselves among the youth rather than self-segregating. Any leader who might need to be found at night, such as peer chaplains or those responsible for the community covenant, should have their sleeping space clearly marked. (i.e. with a colored plastic cone or other object the community assigns to this role).

At all points during an event, any unneeded spaces which can be locked, should be locked. Spaces which youth should not be in and cannot be locked will be clearly marked. Spaces which are used for daytime programming, but not for sleeping, should be locked at night if possible.

Single gender and all-gender sleeping spaces will be provided if space and numbers allow. All-gender sleeping spaces are provided for the reasons detailed in the Inclusion section.

Since consent can only be given and received while awake, touch can only happen while youth are awake and in supervised space. (See Sexuality, Sexual Conduct and Boundaries section).

When Youth Have the Option to Stay Awake

Adults will be housed in adult only spaces. After the end of programming, adults not on overnight supervision duty are expected to be in the “awake” hangout room or in their sleeping room except for trips to the bathroom, to attend to personal necessity, or if needed by a youth they are sponsoring. Adults are not to wander the building alone at night.

After the end of programming, youth will be expected to be in the “awake” hangout room or in a youth sleeping space except for trips to the bathroom, or to attend to personal necessity. Not being in one of these spaces will be considered a violation of covenant in terms of exclusive behavior.

Youth sleeping spaces will be provided such that the sleeping spaces are near each other and can be patrolled in a minimum amount of time. Each youth room must have at least three youth sleeping in it with a preference for larger numbers. Preferably, youth will be housed in the smallest number of spaces that will accommodate them for shorter patrol times.

Supervision will be provided by two continually roving pairs, a pair of adults and pair of youth leaders. The pair of adults and pair of youth will take turns “sweeping” the building with the other pair remaining in the “awake” space.

Adults will organize their shifts in such a way as to minimize interference with drivers’ abilities after the event.

When Youth Are Expected to Sleep

When there is a curfew as part of the rules/expectations and covenant the UUA staff can approve the following policy in lieu of the awake all night supervision policy (above):

Congregations will provide sleeping spaces for youth and adults such that at least two adults sleep in each youth sleeping space positioned strategically for awareness of youth activity. When numbers of adults permit, single gender rooms will be offered in addition to the all-gender sleeping room.

Leaders should create a plan to wake up to check (in pairs) overnight at times not pre-announced to see that everyone is in their own bedspace and that boundaries are maintained.

Youth out of this space (for reasons other than trips to the bathroom or to attend to personal necessity) is a significant violation of the trust we place in youth and will have consequences. Such violations of curfew will be immediately reported to the right relationship team (group assigned to monitor the community well-being) and consequences may involve being sent home.

Adult leaders and sponsors will organize their shifts in such a way as to minimize interference with drivers’ abilities after the event.

Dormitories

Dormitories are used when programs are on college/university campuses, some retreat centers, and hostels. They typically have 2 or more beds with either shared or en-suite bathroom facilities.

A designated UUA staff person (or equivalent responsible adult) must be available by predetermined means at all times in the building where youth are staying.

Training events held in dormitories will house youth by self-identified gender identity. Youth with a non-binary gender identity will be housed on a case by case basis, such as housed with another youth known to be supportive and affirming. Awake adult supervision is provided until curfew, after which youth are expected to be in their rooms, in their own bed, and asleep.

Youth under 18 will not be roomed with youth 18 or older, to avoid putting youth over 18 into a legally unequal situation. Participants attending as youth will never be housed with participants attending as young adults.

Youth should be asked if they need alternative accommodations and any requests for singles or other configurations based on orientation, gender identity, medical issue, etc. should be met if possible.

Only individuals assigned to a room are allowed in the room when the door is closed.

Violations of these boundaries or curfew will be immediately reported to the group assigned to monitor the community well-being and consequences may involve being sent home.

Hotels and Convention Centers

NOTE: This does not apply to multigenerational events such as General Assembly where youth are the responsibility of their parent/guardian or Sponsor.

Hotel-based programs or programs with hotel housing are rare for UUA youth ministry events and have their own challenges. Hotel rooms typically have one or two beds with an option to get a cot and an en-suite bathroom. Some hotel rooms may be connected to other rooms directly.

A designated UUA staff person (or equivalent responsible adult) must be available by predetermined means at all times in the building where youth are staying.

Under no circumstances should non-familial youth and adults be rooming together in a small room (e.g. hotel).

Youth under 18 will not be roomed with youth 18 or older, to avoid putting youth over 18 into a legally unequal situation. Participants attending as youth will never be housed with participants attending as young adults.

Every youth must have their own bed.

When multiple youth are present, they are typically placed in single rooms or in same-gender double rooms based on the self-identified gender that youth indicate on their registration forms.

Youth should also be asked if they need alternative accommodations and any requests for singles or other configurations based on orientation, gender identity, medical issue, etc. should be met if possible.

Only individuals assigned to a room are allowed in the room when the door is closed. Violations of these boundaries or curfew will be immediately reported to the group assigned to monitor the community well-being and consequences may involve being sent home.

NOTE: Most private hotels will not allow minors, or often those under 21, to register for or check into a room by themselves. UUA staff usually have to co-sign room registrations with youth.

In Cabins and Camp Facilities

When UUA events are held at camp facilities:

  • Camp facilities should be appropriately licensed for their state

  • Our events will follow all necessary rules to comply with state laws

See Medical policies for Onsite Staff for requirements for camps.

Nighttime Supervision and Housing in Cabins

Events where sleeping occurs in camps with cabins will assign sleeping spaces by self-identified gender identity.

Awake adult supervision is provided until curfew, after which youth are expected to be in their bunks, in their own bed, and asleep.

All cabins will have two adult counselors sleeping in the cabin for overnight supervision. Adults need to be mindful to never be alone in the cabin with a youth camper (See Rule of Three).

Youth should be asked if they need alternative accommodations and any requests for singles or other configurations based on orientation, gender identity, medical issue, etc. should be met if possible.

Only individuals assigned to a cabin are allowed in the cabin during overnight or quiet hours.

Violations of these boundaries or curfew will be immediately reported to the group assigned to monitor the community well-being and consequences may involve being sent home.

Multigenerational Events with Youth-Focused Programming

Parents/Guardians are primarily responsible for supervising youth. UUA Youth Safety Policies, including rules related to sexual behavior, supersede parental consent for underage, romantic partners to co-house. Programs are strongly encouraged to set expectations with parents/guardians around adult substance use.

Parental and/or guardian responsibilities may be delegated to another adult, to serve as an onsite chaperone or sponsor, but this requires a legal and notarized temporary guardianship form. (Sample in Appendix)

Leaders of multigenerational events are responsible for setting ratios for sponsors and youth. Ratios shall be equal to or more stringent than other youth events. In general, more adults are needed to supervise youth due to the complexity of multigenerational settings.

Multigenerational Housing in Dormitories

Youth housing will be determined by parents and/or guardians including the option to be housed with a particular roommate, an assigned roommate of the same sex, a sibling, or the parents.

Youth will not be housed with a romantic partner.

Parents and/or guardians will be housed in the same building as their youth and, as available, may be housed on the same floor or in the same room as their youth.

Parents and/or guardians will be fully informed about when supervised youth programming is available and are responsible for supervising their youth at all other times.

Parents and/or guardians are responsible for supervising their youth overnight.

Medical and Emergency Policies

Red First Aid Kit

Life-Threatening Medical Emergency Policy

In case of life-threatening medical emergencies, leaders will call 911 (or host site emergency response number), preferably from a hardwired phone instead of a cell phone, and then call the youth’s parents and/or guardians, or the adult’s emergency contact. At least one adult will follow or travel with medical personnel and the youth in the ambulance to the hospital. Such adults will accompany them until they are released back to the program or their parent/guardian arrive.

Emergencies requiring 911 include, but are not limited to:

  • Anyone who stops breathing

  • Any loss of consciousness

  • Allergic reactions of any severity such as to insect bites or food

  • A fall of more than three feet

  • Bleeding that is not stopped by elevation and pressure soaks through a bandage within minutes

  • Possible broken femur or other serious bone break

  • Chest pain of any kind

If the program has a supervising nurse or doctor, that person will be notified of a medical emergency on site as soon as is prudent.

Medical Forms and Documentation

See Medical Documentation policy in Documentation Policies.

Medication Policy

Programs must have a clear on site procedure, see policy requirements below.

Medication should be transported in their original prescription bottles.

Adults keep all medication (over the counter and prescription) in a secure location. (Exceptions include epipens, inhalers, birth control pills, and topical meds, supplements and vitamins as well as others approved by UUA staff and First Aid responsible for the event).

Medication that is a controlled substance must always be kept in a secure location by adults.

For smaller training events and meetings, parents may be given an option on the permission form to allow youth to hold on to their own medications, with the exception of controlled substances.

Programs longer than a weekend or which involve service work should include permission options for parents to pre-authorize common over-the counter medical treatments their youth may require. Sample in the Appendix.

Products to manage a nicotine addiction such as gum or patches may be used by youth and adult participants. They must be treated as a controlled substances and held by adults. Youth may only have the products given to the adult leaders by their parents/guardians. These products will be distributed to youth at the dose and time intervals specified in writing by their parents/guardians.

With First Aid or EMT Staff:

No over-the-counter medication may be administered by first aid or EMT level staff. Adults hold the medication and youth self-administer the medication sent by the parents and/or guardians with parent and/or guardian verbal or written approval on their permission form.

When parents and/or guardians cannot be reached, if there is an on call nurse/doctor, that person may be consulted. If the on call nurse/doctor deem the over the counter medication urgent, the medication can be given and the reasons for giving documented.

With Onsite Nurse, Doctor or Paramedic

If there is an onsite nurse, doctor, or paramedic,, that individual may administer the youths’ medication.

Non-Life Threatening Medical Emergency Policy

The following conditions require consulting with either an on-call nurse/doctor, quick pick up by parent/guardian or appropriate transport for an adult, calling 911, or transport to an emergency room or urgent care medical facility:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries such as sprained ankles/wrists

  • Headache that lasts an hour or longer after taking medication

  • Dizziness that does not resolve after eating something or recurs

  • Vomiting more than once

  • Burns that cause blistering

  • Complaints of pain or discomfort that is not eased by medication or that does not appear to have a direct cause

  • Fever of more than 102

For programs with an on-call nurse/doctor treatment may include remaining on site with over the counter medication given on the advice of the nurse/doctor.

The following require quarantine, consulting with the parent/guardian for youth, and consulting with the on-call nurse/doctor if the program has one:

  • Fever: quarantine, until a youth is picked up or symptoms require transport to ER/urgent care

  • Vomiting: quarantine until a youth is picked up, symptoms require transport to ER/urgent care, or after an hour if the vomiting doesn’t reoccur, the youth doesn’t have a fever, and the youth has no other symptoms

Programs with an on call doctor or nurse must establish procedures for handling communication between on site first aid staff and the on call doctor or nurse when such non-life threatening emergency medical needs arise.

If adult sponsors transport the youth to the ER/urgent care, two adults will accompany the youth. Such adults will accompany them until they are released back to the program or their parents arrive.

See Sample Medical Procedures in Appendix.

Onsite Medical Staff

First-Aid Staff

Events at minimum should have an identified adult with current First Aid and CPR training from American Heart Association or Red Cross* to respond in case of onsite emergencies. A copy of certification for this onsite care provider will be kept on record.

* Must have attended an in person training within the last 10 years. Subsequent renewal through American Heart or Red Cross online training is acceptable

Programs Needing Higher Level Medical Staff

Some events need higher level medical staff. These include:

  • Events held at camp facilities with significant outdoor risk

  • Events held more than two hours from Emergency Medical Services

  • Events where a risk assessment from Church Mutual determines a greater need

Hiring EMT’s and Paramedics

Where EMT’s or Paramedics are hired, they must provide not only a copy of their license, but also how they comply with state laws for medical control. If necessary, an on call nurse or doctor must be hired to provide off site medical control to meet state law requirements.

Option for On Call Nurse/Doctor

The medical procedures for onsite staff with only First Aid or EMT level training provide for two program circumstances: one with an on call nurse or doctor and one without.

Where a program has an on call nurse or doctor that person is responsible for supporting any on-site first aid responders and will be notified in case of medical emergency. They are responsible for implementing communication procedures between them and onsite adults following these policies, state law, scope of practice of on-site leaders with medical certifications, and medical best practices.

See Appendix for sample Medical Procedures.

Sharps Policy

Participants who need to use injectable medication should bring a sharps container. If a participant does not bring one and there is not one in the host location, staff should create a temporary one. A temporary one should be leak-proof, made of metal or heavy plastic such as a laundry detergent or bleach container, and have a tight fitting puncture resistant lid. The sharps container should be stored with the other medication. Clearly mark the container sharps and send it home with the participant for appropriate disposal.

Transportation Policy

Car tire

Requirements for off-site trips

by Public Transportation (Bus, Train, etc.)

When transporting youth by bus or train, youth must travel as a group with at least two adults. Every person in the group should know the route and the final destination in case the group gets separated. One adult should lead and one should follow to prevent youth from being separated from the group. The ratio of adults to youth should be the same as for the event.

Written permission of the parent/guardian of all minors traveling will be obtained prior to being transported. This permission will include all relevant details pertaining to the event, such as date and location, the method of transportation, time of departure and time of return, and an approximate itinerary. Emergency contact information including name of physician, health insurance information and consent to treat in case of an emergency must accompany all minors who are being transported by adults other than their parents. During travel, the forms should be kept by the responsible adult traveling with the group. In addition, each responsible adult will leave a list of the names and emergency information for all of the youth traveling in their party with an adult leader of the event. If possible, every responsible adult will carry either a cell phone or a prepaid long distance calling card. The group should have a plan in effect in case the group gets separated and all youth will have the cell phone number of the adult or another adult emergency contact.

by Car

All drivers of vehicles containing minors other than their own children must be at least 25 years of age and must provide proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license. They must be either a UUA staff/volunteer or be approved by a congregation to attend the event.

There must be enough functioning seat belts for everyone and everyone must wear a seatbelt. In areas, such as during international trips, where seat belts may not be available for all participants, parents/guardians must sign a waiver acknowledging the risk.

No adult may drive alone with a youth other than their own child. The ratio of youth to adults for the group must be at least the same as the ratio for the event while driving even if the group is in more than one car.

Written permission of the parent/guardian of all minor passengers will be obtained prior to being transported. This permission form will include all relevant details pertaining to the event and trip, such as date and location, name of driver(s) whenever possible, time of departure and time of return. Emergency contact information including name of physician, health insurance information and consent to treat in case of an emergency must accompany all minors who are being transported by adults other than their parents. During travel, the forms should be kept by the driver of the vehicle. In addition, each driver will leave a list of the names and emergency information for all of the children and/or youth traveling in their vehicle with an adult leader of the event. If possible, every driver will carry either a cell phone or a prepaid long distance calling card.

In the rare event that an accident or breakdown should occur drivers should contact the UUA staff member responsible for the event to problem-solve. In case of medical emergency, drivers should call 911.

No driver may be sleep-deprived, consume alcohol or use any form of drugs that can affect physical or mental performance during or before carrying out their duty as a driver.

Car sharing rides are not preferred for transportation (compared to background checked drivers or public transportation) due to insufficient background check policies. When ride shares must be used, background checked adults must accompany youth in each car.

by Larger Capacity Vehicles (Vans and Coaches)

In the event that larger capacity vehicles are needed, the UUA prohibits the use of 15 passenger vans for transporting youth.

For 12 Passenger Vans

All drivers of vehicles containing minors other than their own children must be at least 25 years of age and must provide proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license. They must also be approved by a congregation to attend the event. The ratio of youth to adults for the group must be at least the same as the ratio for the event while driving even if the group is in more than one vehicle.

The driver should understand and be familiar with the handling characteristics of a fully loaded van. No driver may be sleep-deprived, consume alcohol or use any form of drugs that can affect physical or mental performance during or before carrying out their duty as a driver.

There must be enough functioning seatbelts for everyone and everyone must wear a seat belt.

Written permission of the parent/guardian of all minor passengers will be obtained prior to being transported. This permission form will include all relevant details pertaining to the event and trip, such as date and location, name of the drivers whenever possible, time of departure and time of return. Emergency contact information including name of physician, health insurance information and consent to treat in case of an emergency must accompany all minors who are being transported by adults other than their parents. During travel, the forms should be kept by the driver of the vehicle. In addition, each driver will leave a list of the names and emergency information for all of the children and/or youth traveling in their vehicle with an adult leader of the event. If possible, every driver will carry either a cell phone or a prepaid long distance calling card.

For Coaches or Charter Buses

(driven by drivers supplied by rental company)

Adult leaders will be spread throughout the bus. Headcounts will be done upon entering and exiting the vehicle. The ratio of adults to youth should be the same as for the event.

If there are seat belts, they should be used.

Written permission of the parent/guardian of all minor passengers will be obtained prior to being transported. This permission form will include all relevant details pertaining to the event and trip, such as date and location, method of travel, time of departure and time of return. Emergency contact information including name of physician, health insurance information and consent to treat in case of an emergency must accompany all minors who are being transported by adults other than their parents.

Transportation to and from UUA Events

It is the responsibility of the local congregations or the parents and/or guardians to provide safe transportation to and from youth events.

Unaccompanied Youth Arriving by Plane, Train, and Bus

Unaccompanied youth should be booked on direct flights when possible, even if it is more expensive. They must be met at their arrival location (airport, bus station, etc.) by UUA staff or event adult leadership. Adults meeting youth at their arrival location should carry a hard or electronic copy of the youth’s itinerary, medical release forms, and contact information, and youth should have the contact information of the adults who are meeting them before they travel.

It is preferable for youth to travel in groups to and from event locations and with multiple adults present. Travel should never include one youth and one adult alone in a private space (e.g. car). This includes travel on public transportation, taxis or other situations in which there would be no possibility of locating witnesses if questions about the situation arose.

Options to manage exceptional travel delays or other extenuating circumstances may be granted with parental permission.

Specific Activities

silhouette of a person on a ropes course

Justice/Advocacy/Witness

The UUA encourages people of all ages to engage with justice, advocacy, and witness work to bring faithful values into the world. The UUA does not allow youth or the adults responsible for them to engage in civil disobedience or other high-risk direct actions as part of UUA sponsored events. Groups must have safety plans appropriate for the context of the event. See Appendix for best practices for bringing youth to a protest or march.

Outdoor and Higher Risk Activities

At a minimum:

Swimming

Swimming, as part of youth focused programming, including hotel pool, requires a certified lifeguard (Red Cross or equivalent) with at least one lifeguard per ten swimmers. Lifeguards do not count in maintaining adult ratio. A copy of the lifeguard’s certification must be kept on record if hired for the event.

High Risk Activities

Activities like white water canoeing, ropes courses, and rock climbing require contracting with industry certified organizations or professionals to lead the activity. The organization and/or professional must be approved by UUA staff, hold their own liability insurance, and their certifications kept on record with UUA staff. Parents/guardians must sign the permission form of the contracted organization.

Other Outdoor Activities

Activities like day hikes, flat water canoeing, or short overnight backpacking trips will be done according to American Camping Association (ACA) standards including using appropriate safety equipment such as life jackets or helmets. If engaging in activities in this category, UUA staff will consult with an organization accredited by the ACA, preferably in the same state as the event to learn about state laws, for instructions in safely engaging in the activity. Such an organization could be UU summer camp for instructions.

All such outdoor activities require a first aid kit and an onsite medic meeting the policy requirements.

Trips outside of an hour from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) require staff with current Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification. Copies of their certifications must be kept on record.

Service Work

Youth and adults participating in service and volunteer work should be aware they represent the organization.

Staff will attempt to make sure that service opportunities are available to people of all abilities. Appropriate training will be provided by partner organizations and use of heavy machinery is prohibited for those under the age of 18. Groups must have safety plans, equipment, and skilled supervisors appropriate for the context of the event.

Service work requires a first aid kit be present.

Sexuality Education

If sexuality education is a programed part of a youth event, the leaders must be specifically trained and have the knowledge and skills not only to teach about sexual health but to fulfill the trust inherent in the role of a sexuality educator. Such training should include experience, comfort and skill with this specific age group as well as anti-bias awareness.
Youth programming containing sex education will adhere to Our Whole Lives guidelines.

Documentation Policies

A stack of files

Incident Report Forms

Programs must have an incident report form available to event leaders. Incident reports must be submitted to the UUA staff responsible for the program. The UUA staff are responsible for maintaining secure storage of incident reports, notifying other UUA staff as needed, and providing appropriate follow up.

Items that must be documented include:

  • Any injury or medical attention needed by a participant

    • See Medical and Emergency policies

  • Any report of harm to self or others

    • See Mandatory Reporting policies

  • Any rules/expectations violations by participants of any age

  • Inappropriate behavior by adults

  • Any instance of not being able to find a youth

  • Any occurrence which puts participants at risk for harm

  • Any other occurrence of a violation of this policy

    • Examples include: a time when an adult and a youth ended up being one on one or an adult didn’t understand and slept in an inappropriate location.

  • Anything that could concern UUA staff, participants and/or parents

Access to Documentation

Access to incident reports is limited to UUA staff and relevant Unitarian Universalist credentialing organizations. Youth and adults with documentation on file may request a file summary in writing by contacting the Director of Lifespan Faith Engagement.

Medical Documentation

Program Medical Forms

For a weekend program the registration form should require:

  • What medication a youth is taking

  • Medical needs and allergies

  • Medical policy: including need for medications in original containers and on-site storage

For a longer programs and those requiring further travel the registration form should additionally require:

  • Doctor name and contact information

  • Insurance company and policy number

  • Date of tetanus shot if program involves service work

While we don’t require other immunization records, some host sites may require this.

Programs longer than a weekend or which involve service work should include permission options for parents to pre-authorize common over-the counter medical treatments their youth may require. Sample in the Appendix.

Incident Documentation

All injuries and/or medical attention to attendees, youth and adults must be documented in an incident report form.

Medical Documentation Confidentiality

People have an expectation that their medical conditions and treatments will be kept confidential unless they choose to self disclose. For this reason, we expect all medical information provided in the forms will be kept confidential and only shared with those who need the information. And, we expect any incident that occurs and treatment that occurs will be kept confidential.

The adults who require access to a youth’s medical information include: the adult leaders of an event, the person serving as first aid or medical staff, and the youth’s sponsors if any.

Adult medical information will only be shared with the first aid, medical staff or UU staff as necessary.

Dietary allergies will be shared with those responsible for food for an event.

Record Retention Policy

All programs must retain permission forms, photo permissions, incident reports, and supporting documentation for a minimum of twelve (12) years.

The UUA’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries will maintain all documentation of incident reports concerning behavior of youth or adults temporarily or permanently suspended from youth programming in a secure drive. Incident reports concerning behavior of youth or adults impacting the safety of the community or harming others will be kept indefinitely as record of past behavior can impact assessment of future participation or additional concerning incidents. This includes files for youth whose suspension is still active when they bridge into adulthood in case they wish to volunteer in youth ministry as an adult.

Photo/Media Issues

Media Inquiries

Any media inquiry should be referred to UUA staff responsible for an event. UUA staff will inform their supervisors and work with UUA Communications staff to appropriately respond.

Photo Permissions and Social Media

Permission forms must include photo permissions. This permission only applies to media from the event named on the form and does not cover media from other contexts of the same youth.

UUA staff may share photos or videos on social media during events. Other photos may be used in websites, promotional material, or social media. UUA staff will not tag or name the youth who appear in posted photos without a signed photo permissions form from their parents/guardians and verbal permission of the youth.

All event leadership are expected to follow this policy and are prohibited from sharing photos, videos, audio recordings and similar items without permission. This requires event leadership to check permission forms at registration to see if any parent/guardians do not give permission.

Social Media Policy for Adult Volunteers

Adults will seek parent/guardian permission before communicating with youth and include an opportunity for the parent/guardian to limit interaction. Parents have the right to be copied on any communication they request. If they request to be added to group conversations, their role is only to witness and share any relevant logistic information pertaining to their youth. They are encouraged to share any concerns about the group business with adult leaders or regional staff rather than participating in conversation. Parents and UUA staff have the right to ask to view any communication between adult volunteers and youth.

When communicating electronically with youth, adults must include a second adult on the message or communication. If a youth contacts an adult one on one, the adult has the responsibility to redirect the conversation to add a second adult to the communication and/or redirect the conversation to the appropriate platform.

  • If it is necessary to have a virtual one-on-one interaction between a youth/adult, the adult will:

    • Let other people know (staff and/or parent guardian) you will be communicating, around what time, and what about.

    • Make sure there is a record of the conversation, including recording phone calls. Documentation should be archived for no less than 12 years.

Adult volunteers and staff are expected to stay in “adult role” on any social media platform in which their posts are visible to youth. This means posts are appropriate for youth to view and are not sexualized, discriminatory, harassing, or otherwise contrary to the rules and philosophy of this policy and UU values.

UUA advertising and endorsement of non-UUA youth events

UUA staff will only endorse and/or advertise UU events that are in alignment with these policies. Any exceptions must be approved by the UUA’s Executive Vice President.

Appendix

This Appendix contains specific forms for implementing this policy in UUA programs and to support other UU programs in developing their own safety policies and procedures. These appendices are a work in progress and will be expanded as UUA programs fully implement the 2019 Youth Safety Guidelines.

Adult Code of Conduct

UUA Adult Code of Conduct for Youth Events, 2019

NOTE: This code of conduct applies to all adults at UUA youth events -- including those adults sent by congregations to sponsor or advise youth.

Adults at UUA youth events are in a special position of trust as they foster youth spiritual development. Therefore we ask adults serving at such events to agree to the following expectations and Code of Conduct:

Youth-Adult Partnership: We aspire to healthy youth-adult partnership. Most of our programs are run by teams of youth and adults who work closely together. Portions of programs are run mostly by youth with adult supervision. Adult attendees are expected to respect youth and adult leaders, support youth leadership, and be able to work with mutual respect with youth.

Adults have special responsibility to monitor safety and to report to leaders any unsafe behavior, behavior which violates the behavioral expectations or site rules, and to take immediate action as needed to keep individuals safe, including seeking medical care.

Communication: Adult leaders need to be mindful of the impact of their communications. Communication includes body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, as well as choice of words in written and verbal expression. We expect adults to use kind and compassionate communication, even when being honest about their own feelings. We expect adults to model healthy ways of resolving conflict including apologizing and seeking to restore relationship.

Any form of abuse, neglect, bullying or harassment of any community member will not be tolerated and is in violation of this code of conduct.

Sexual conduct: It is never appropriate to engage in any manner of sexualized conduct with youth. This includes explicitly sexual conduct; seductive or erotic behavior; nudity or clothing inappropriate for public view; sharing bedding with other adults in view of youth; sexually provocative behavior, jokes, innuendo or sexualized language.

Physical expressions of affections such as hugs can be valuable for youth, but it is best to allow the youth to initiate them. Adults must be sensitive not to allow hugs to be prolonged or inappropriate, and should ask youth for permission before hugging them.

Sleep: Adults are expected to get enough sleep to be alert and able to maintain good judgment and clear thinking. We expect each adult to take individual responsibility for getting ‘enough’ or ‘a reasonable amount’ of sleep each night, so that they may perform their expected duties in a competent and professional manner including being able to safely drive. Events that require “awake shifts” require that adults balance the need for monitoring with individual sleep requirements.

Confidentiality: Having trusted adults is important in youth lives. Holding the confidences of youth is an important component, but adults may receive information which is unsafe to hold in confidence. This includes any disclosures from youth about harm to self or others, including self-harm, suicidal thoughts, homicidal or abusive thoughts, child abuse, intimate partner violence, bullying, harassment, serious substance problems, and all other ways youth may be at risk of serious harm.

FOR THE SAFETY OF BOTH THE YOUTH AND YOURSELF, YOU MUST NOT KEEP SUCH INFORMATION TO YOURSELF. Never give youth the impression that you will keep secrets for them. When you are given information which must be shared for the well-being of the youth, encourage the youth to seek help from a parent, minister, religious educator, or other trusted adult. In addition, you yourself MUST consult with a person of greater authority. If in doubt, ask adult leaders in your program or UUA staff responsible for the youth program.

If a youth participant discloses information about their gender identity or sexual orientation that a youth has not made public to an adult; that adult will not share the disclosure with other people without the permission of the youth.

Adult Role: Adults are expected to remain in an adult role at all times. Although we hope that youth and adults will have a genuine fondness for one another, in the adult/youth relationship the adult is the one who assumes primary responsibility for maintaining appropriate boundaries and cultivating an atmosphere of health and trust.

Adults should develop authentic and genuine relationships with youth. Adults must also monitor their self-disclosures such that they are for the good of the youth, age appropriate, and do not result in unclear boundaries. This particularly applies to sharing information about one’s own sexual activity and substance use. Adults should never encourage or condone illegal or unethical activity on the part of children or youth.

Adults must take responsibility for meeting their own social, emotional, sexual, and spiritual needs so that their own needs do not interfere with their ability to attend to the needs of youth.

It is expected that relationships that an adult has with youth who have grown to young adulthood will not become exploitative, including interactions on social media platforms.

Adult Alcohol and Substance Use: Adults who are responsible for youth or on-call cannot consume or be impaired by alcohol or other substances that impair functioning for the duration of the event or tenure of their responsibility. This includes not show up impaired from previous consumption.

Unofficial Contact with Youth including Social Media: Sometimes a genuine mentoring relationship will develop between a youth and an adult. These can be healthy and transformative. However, “predators” who do not have the best interest of the youth at heart will often disguise an unhealthy relationship with a youth as a mentoring relationship. Therefore, if a youth wishes to be in contact with you outside of UU youth events or outside of social media groups hosted by the region or congregations, it is imperative that your behavior both be and appear to be above reproach. Any relationship you develop with a youth outside of UU youth events or social media groups must be instigated by the youth and with the knowledge and consent of the parents or guardians.

Furthermore, you should let an appropriate member of the UUA staff responsible for the program know what you are doing and notify the youth’s religious education professional (or minister or congregational president). This is for the protection of the youth from potential predators, but also for your own protection. You will best protect yourself from false accusations of misconduct by keeping UUA staff, congregational staff and the parents/guardians aware of your actions.

Contact between an adult and a youth should never be one on one whether in person or through electronic communication.

Agreement

By signing below, I indicate that I have read this Code of Conduct and agree to abide by it. If I violate any of its provisions, I understand that I may be removed from youth events.

Additionally, I will notify the UUA of any previous or new child welfare agency investigations or criminal arrests, charges, or convictions involving abuse, violence, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, child abuse, driving while intoxicated, firearms or dangerous weapons or similar matters against me.

_______________________ ________________________ _____________

Name Signature Date

Adult and Youth Leader Code of Ethics

UUA Youth and Adult Leaders Code of Ethics 2019

Adults and youth in leadership roles are in a position of stewardship and play a key role in fostering spiritual development of both individuals and the community. It is, therefore, especially important that leaders be well qualified to provide the special nurture, care, and support that will enable youth to develop a positive sense of self and a spirit of independence and responsibility.

Leaders shall be informed of the code of ethics and agree to it before assuming their role. In cases of violation of this code, UUA staff may remove or restrict, temporarily or permanently, the leader from the leadership role and/or from UUA event participation.

As either an adult or youth leader I agree to:

  • Serve as a role model to other youth and adults in my program including modeling affirmative consent following all site rules, UUA Behavioral Expectations, and UUA policies.

  • Respect any information that must be kept in confidence. I understand that as a youth, this information need not be held secret from my parents. And as a leader, I understand I have the freedom to seek the counsel and support of my local religious professional.

  • Report to UUA Staff any unsafe behavior, threats or thoughts of harm to self or others, violations of UUA behavioral expectations, poor adult boundaries, and any possible child abuse or other ways youth are in danger including substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

  • Communicate with UUA staff about anything which threatens the well-being of any program or youth community

  • Engage in conflict and disagreement directly, creatively, and honestly while holding others with dignity and compassion. Listen to others with openness and a willingness to receive feedback. Seek mediation when needed.

  • Remain an active participant and in covenant in a UU Congregation or Covenanting Community

  • Engage in the emotional and physical self-care, ongoing training, and spiritual development needed to bring my best self to my community.

  • Respect the full range of human difference including race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender/gender expression, socioeconomic status, physical and mental ability, theology/belief, and primary language among my community and seek to build a community inclusive of all.

As a youth leader I agree to:

  • Refrain from engaging in any form of sexual, seductive, or erotic conduct with other youth at events and; outside events, to be conscious of my power as a youth leader when sexually or romantically interested in a peer I met through UU youth events.

  • Empower other youth as part of my leadership.

  • Be attentive to ways current or potential youth leaders’ behavior may be damaging to the trust the community puts in them and seek both youth and adult assistance.

  • Where I am older than other youth, recognize the greater influence my age gives me and the greater responsibility I have to maintaining healthy relationships with younger youth. This includes keeping appropriate emotional, sexual, and physical boundaries with youth who are still minors after I bridge.

  • Seek the assistance of other adults in leadership or UUA staff when I have discomfort with any adult, especially one in leadership.

  • If I am a driver, I will not drive other youth to events.

As an adult leader I agree to:

  • Commit to following, modeling, and mentoring other adults in the ethics described in the Code of Ethics for Adults attending UUA Youth Events

  • Refrain from all behaviors at youth events, with youth from youth events, and in view of youth online, both verbal and physical, that are in any way erotic, seductive or sexual in nature.

  • Consciously engage with youth in ways that seeks to meet their needs rather than mine. Refrain from any behavior that takes advantage of youth and adult attendees.

  • Understand that it is primarily my responsibility to maintain appropriate boundaries with youth and youth leaders and to cultivate an atmosphere of health and trust with them.

Agreement

Adults and youth in leadership positions who work with youth under the aegis of the UUA are responsible not only to the youth, but to the UUA as well. Remember: you are acting as a representative of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

I have read this form in its entirety and I understand the ethical responsibilities of both youth and adults in leadership. I commit to following this code of ethics in my own actions and to support my co-leaders, both youth and adults, in living in covenant with each other, the UUA, our congregations, parents and our youth community.

_______________________ ________________________ _____________

Name Signature Date

Sample Training Addendum

I have received training in the following areas :

Program social media posting, photo, and electronic communication policies

Program driving policy for youth and adults

Program mandated reporting and “harm to self or others” procedures

Program medication policy and medical response procedures

Program incident reporting

Background Checks

Recommended Provider

We currently recommend Trusted Employee as a background check provider. They can do a national criminal justice and sex offender registry search along with other additional search options.

Sample Letter

This is a sample letter to use when asking adults to undergo a background check.

Dear [Name],

Thank you for your commitment to UU youth community. With the incredible support from adults in our denomination, our youth are able to lead, organize, worship, and act on their faith. Adults are a vital part of our community and we celebrate the relationships built across the ages. In order for these relationships to flourish, we need to be sure that everyone is as safe as possible.

In order to create safer space for our youth, we take a number of steps.

One of the steps we take is obtaining national criminal record reports and sexual offender information for all adult participants and leaders. We understand that most folks who abuse and assault youth and children are never caught and so this is only one part of our policies and procedures.

We understand that there are many reasons an individual may have a criminal record, including participation in social action or witness, injustices present in the system, and offenses which are not relevant because they occurred so long ago or pose little to no threat to youth. Each adult who wishes to volunteer with us and be involved in our community has inherent worth and dignity. Thus, each instance where a record is returned will be carefully considered. A documented conviction is not a guaranteed exclusion from our community, but rather the beginning of a conversation.

We acknowledge the fact that there is pervasive racism, homophobia, and transphobia in the United States’ criminal justice system. People of color are disproportionately convicted of felonies, and homosexuality or claiming a transgender identity has itself been historically considered a sex offense in many states. To help deal with these facts, when the UUA receives criminal history information that raises concerns, experts may be called in when necessary.

Any criminal or child welfare history disclosed to the UUA in the volunteer application process will remain strictly confidential. UUA staff will not share the information without the express written authorization of the applicant.

Thank you,

Communication with Congregations Regarding UUA Programs

Because we are an Association of Congregations, UUA youth programs seek to be in covenant and partnership with congregations. As we aspire to high standards of safety across UUA programs, communication with religious professionals and congregations is paramount to the success of our youth ministry endeavors. All stakeholders are encouraged to reach out to the UUA staff responsible for these programs with questions and concerns.

For the kinds of communication listed in this document UUA staff responsible for youth programs communicate primarily with religious professionals. In congregations without religious professionals, UUA staff will communicate with presidents or their designee.

Responsibilities of Congregations

When youth and adults attend youth events, there are several responsibilities the current Youth Safety Guidelines gives to congregations.

  • Approve youth as attendees. You know best if a youth is emotionally ready and prepared to be a safe and covenantal participant in an event.

    • The policy requires youth to be active participants in a UU community and trusts the community to know the youth. Each congregation/covenanting community will decide how they define “active.” How much participation is needed to be “known” varies by congregation.

  • Approve adults as attendees including providing a copy of the local background check to the UUA.

  • Pair youth attendees with adult sponsors (for programs that require adult sponsors) so that youth are paired with adults who can support them.

    • We encourage congregations to pair youth with adult sponsors who know the youth and attend the same congregation as the youth.

    • Orient sponsors to specific congregational expectations and/or policies.

  • Consider holding pre-event orientations for youth and adults attending immersion experiences.

So that our youth can be best supported and cared for, we request that local congregations communicate with UUA staff responsible for event anything which UUA staff should know including:

  • Prior: Any substantial support required by a youth including inclusion and support suggestions from the congregation’s experience.

  • Prior: Any issues regarding a youth's life or behavior in the local congregation that could impact a youth's experience at a youth event such that chaplains or adult leaders should be alerted. For example, a recent mental health difficulty, concerning behavior, or local covenant violations.

  • After: Any concerns, including rumors after an event.

Our policy does not take responsibility for transportation to UUA events. We ask congregations will follow their own Safe Congregations’ transportation requirements.

UUA Staff Responsibilities when Communicating to Congregations

UUA Staff are responsible for sharing the Youth Safety Guidelines with congregations.

Congregational staff and/or leaders will be given access to incident report forms involving their youth and/or adults, as well as incident report forms for incidents that happen in their building.

When UUA staff hear of issues after or between events, we will include congregational staff and/or leaders in the plan to reach out and interview any involved participants.

Congregational staff and/or leaders will be informed of incidents involving their youth and/or adults including:

  • When there are concerns about an adult’s ability to be a healthy and safe adult in a youth space or to follow the Adult Code of Conduct

  • When a youth has a medical or behavioral issue noteworthy of documentation,

  • When a youth engages in behavior which breaks Participant Rules / Behavioral Expectations

  • When a youth is out of covenant within the community and needs support in their relationships.

  • When a youth has been hurt by other participants’ behavior and needs support from their home community

  • When UUA staff hears of a past covenantal or rule issue requiring follow up.

  • When a youth has shared a pastoral concern where leaders are concerned for their safety (See Reporting Procedure For Harm to Self and Others Including Child Abuse)

  • Where UUA staff must make a mandated report of child abuse (See Mandated Reporting Procedure For Child Abuse and Neglect)

If parent/guardians are present or the situation is life-threatening, parents/guardian communication may be prioritized over communication with the congregation.

Note: the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) open enrollment programs may communicate directly with parents/guardians as these programs are open to all youth and the UUCSJ does not always have congregational information. The UUCSJ does have a reference check process.

Sample 18+ and Bridgers Orientation

Who:

  • Co-hosted by youth and adult program leaders

  • For youth who are turning 18 and/or bridging soon. (Include any other youth who want to come. This is important info for everyone).

  • At least one parent of a teenager should be present to share view of parents with younger youth

When:

  • After orientation is a possibility, but people are also tired

  • A meal the first day may be a better option

  • This conversation should not be a one-time thing through a program year but happen at multiple events

  • Bridging Con (for those who will be 18 the next year)

Why:

  • One’s legal and social world changes at age 18 and youth do not receive much notification of this, preparation for it, or discussion on navigating it. This is a form of neglect.

  • It’s all too easy for youth to get themselves in trouble through naivety

  • We should be talking with and supporting bridgers in the changes they’re going through

Ideally this is a relaxed conversation with room for questions, tangents, stories from youth and adults, youth sharing tips with each other, and so on. Try to be sure the main points below are covered.

More:

This is a relatively narrow conversation. Bridging youth benefit from workshops, programs, and conversations on the whole of the life transition of bridging into young adulthood. If you have time to do a longer program you may find the Bridging Handbook helpful.

Sample Outline

Centering and Chalice Lighting

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made of layers, cells, constellations.
Anais Nin, becoming

Why Are We Here?

In the United States, our culture has determined that the legal age of adulthood is 18, but we also typically consider them “youth” until after they graduate high school. All cultures mark adulthood in some ways, and this is ours.

Because y’all are turning 18, are 18 (or older), we are here to have a conversation about expectations. Legally, you are adults. Here, you are our oldest youth leaders. With both of these roles, as however wanted or unwanted they are, come responsibility.

We have expectations for you, but before we go into those, let’s talk about the differences between 17 and 18 year olds.

Discussion/Brainstorm of Differences between 17 and 18 year olds (5 minutes)

This is meant to be a short, light-hearted way to introduce the deeper stuff below. You might get responses like “you can be sued, charged as an adult...etc.” You might also get “a year or a birthday” or something similar. Hopefully youth see that the designation of “adult” is arbitrary...who can tell the difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old on sight?

The Details

Conversation about the details listed below--especially those that haven’t already come up.

Commitments

What are commitments we can make as legal adults but still youth for this community?

Summary of Things to Cover

Legal Changes

  • Can now be sued

  • Criminal convictions are part of a permanent criminal record

  • Higher penalty for:

    • Con-consensual touch of minors

    • Possessing nude pictures of minors

    • Sending nude pictures to minors

    • Sharing substances with minors

  • While there is often lessening of legal penalty if the difference in age is small, the younger youth’s parents can still pursue legal action against you. (if you the leader can know your state laws about sexual contact between 18 year olds and younger youth, this is helpful information for the youth to have).

  • Minors can sometimes be prosecuted as adults; as adults, you would definitely be prosecuted as an adult.

Social Changes

  • Access to a different world—may have been happening gradually, happens at a different pace for different youth, may not fully emerge until out of the house but in general:

    • Don’t need parental permission

    • Often have access (if wanted) to increased substances, parties, etc

    • Increased sexual freedom—and social expectations/pressures/availability/ease

  • Parents of younger youth know all of this and may see you as a danger — they want to protect their kids from what you have access to...

    • Remember parenting teenagers is a hair-raising, terror inducing life stage. a little compassion is warranted even if you think they’re overprotective or out of touch

    • Parents of younger youth will hold you to a higher standard even than they hold their own child to -- you and a younger youth might both freely choose to do something, and their parents might hold you responsible and be mad at you instead of their child.

Changes in the UU World

Because of the changes in the world, there are changes here--

  • Parents’ signatures giving permission no longer have any legal meaning!! We still ask for parent signatures because we want parents to know where their teen is and agree to pick you up if you need it!

  • Because of the changes in the legal and social worlds--this could mean we would need to set more serious limits or consequences with 18+ youth if they have trouble keeping others safe.

  • We do expect you to be a role model!

  • If you start to realize you’re more of a young adult now than a youth, please come talk to a trusted adult. This transition can sneak up on you. 18-19 year old youth not in traditional schooling should be having some conversations with their religious educators and advisors about if they’re still youth or starting to be young adults.

Tips on Ethics

  • There are lots of kinds of power imbalances in the world. there are ways men have more power than women, for instance. age is another power imbalance and there are ways you have more power than younger youth.

  • Remember younger youth may think you are old (and cool or inaccessible or desirable or…). be sensitive about:

    • Touch, consent, inclusion without inviting into not age appropriate things, setting an example through your behavior, things they may perceive as pressure to do or not to something.

    • Pressure and role model status can be used for good too!

  • Remember appearances matter, what a situation looks like may matter as much as what is actually happening

    • Think a little about your surroundings when you sleep near other youth

    • May not want to jump into cuddle puddles with them

  • If you have a romantic thing starting with a younger youth

    • Think about letting them lead, don’t pressure

    • Cannot be overstated: meet their parents and be on the up and up

  • Be careful with sexting even without images with minors and skip images until you’re both over 18

Sample Event Covenants

“Covenant is the silk that joins Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations, communities, and individuals together in a web of interconnection. The practice of promising to walk together is the precious core of our creedless faith.

‘Covenant’ is both a noun and a verb. It can be a written agreement among individual community members promising to behave in certain ways, and it can mean to engage in mutual promises with Spirit, with other people and communities.”

From “Covenant is Foundational to Congregational Polity

Different kinds of events need different covenants. In the case of ongoing communities, deep and effective covenants work best when the community has time to dive into the space of conversation. The same covenant can be used for successive events with time to discuss rather than always creating the covenant from scratch.

Learning Community Sample Covenant

Adapted from the Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong

  1. Be fully present with your heart and your head

  2. Commit to the—processbring confidence and humility

  3. Let all voices be heard—move up/move back

  4. Support one another in respect and care

  5. Use what’s in the room

  6. Consent—only “Yes” means “Yes.”

  7. Confidentiality: share your learnings, not others’ stories

  8. Honor different learning styles, paces, and needs

  9. Remember that intent and impact are not the same thing

  10. Help us stay focused: Use the parking lot/bike rack

  11. Get curious, not furious…when times get rough, turn to wonder

Sample Community Building Event Covenant

  1. Respect everything: oneself, each other, the space, and worship

  2. Clean up your own darn stuff

  3. Take space, make space

  4. Challenge yourself to grow

  5. Lessons leave, other people’s stories stay

  6. Affirmative consent--ask and get a “yes” before touching

  7. Intentionally inclusive -- form croissants not donuts

  8. Keep the mission in mind

  9. Act with good intentions and be responsible for the impact of your actions

  10. Stay curious

  11. Self care

Other additions by some youth communities:

  1. Tasteful language

Adapted from the Ohio Meadville Youth covenant

Second Example Community Event Building Covenant

We maintain covenant with each other in order to

  1. Focus on effective, intentional and thoughtful communication.
  2. Respect the needs of ourselves and our peers.
  3. Encourage radical inclusivity and aim to make each person feel valued.
  4. Hold ourselves accountable to each other, while realizing our actions impact more than our immediate community.
  5. Operate with a focus on consent: each person gets to determine how their body is touched and treated including whether or not they are photographed.

We recognize the above not as rules, but as a set of necessary values meant to aid us in sustaining a healthy community. Our covenant is fortified and made possible by our unconditional love for each other, and our determination to better the atmosphere for all attendees of a youth event.

Adapted from the St. Lawrence District Youth Covenant 2015

Additional Resources:

If you want to build a deep and effective covenant we recommend this workshop on Building a Covenant.

Singleton’s Four Agreements for Courageous Conversations

UUA Summary Report Form

This is a report to submit to the UUA confidential record system for youth and adults whose actions at UUA youth ministry events warranted temporary or permanent suspension or restrictions in attending events. This report provides a summary of the status of the relationship between the individual and the program for future UUA staff should the individual wish to re-engage with UUA youth programming in the future. This does not replace the need to submit other necessary documentation including incident report forms. Contact Sarah Lammert, Co-Director of Ministries and Faith Development for information on submitting this form.

Name of individual:

Age at time of incident:


Staff people and roles writing report:

Date completed:
Current status of individual:

Individual contact information: (phone and email)

If youth, names and contact information of parents/guardians:

Current restrictions: (if can attend events, in what roles and with what restrictions)

Summary of precipitating events: (include dates, references to related incidents, and references to documentation)

Summary of actions taken so far:

Summary of responses and actions by the individual since the incident: (including restorative measures they’ve taken)

List of other documentation submitted not mentioned above:

Context and responsibility of system in events:

Unresolved concerns about the leadership or presence of this individual:

Follow up needed: (If follow up is already planned, please provide details and timeline. If follow up is contingent on the individual choosing to reach back out, provide your professional recommendations to the future UUA staff who may handle this process)

Youth Safety guidelines Webinar for DRE's

Youth Safety Guidelines Webinar for DRE's

Recording of the Zoom Webinar.

List of UUA and UUA Region Summer 2020 Programs and Events