CER Code of Conduct for Adults Working with Youth
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.
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.
For events involving driving, I agree to follow all traffic laws.
I have disclosed to the UUA any past and will disclose any new child welfare agency investigations or any criminal or juvenile delinquency arrests, charges, or convictions particularly including those involving abuse, violence, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, child abuse, driving while intoxicated, firearms or dangerous weapons or similar matters against me.