Ensuring the safety of children is fundamental to the mission of Boys & Girls Clubs. For more than 100 years, child protection and safety have been the bedrock principles of our work. The many actions we have taken over the years include advocating for the passage of the U.S. PROTECT Act, which improved background screening systems and access. We've also partnered with the FBI, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the CDC to contribute to the development of safety practices that benefit ALL youth-serving organizations.
In today's world, young people are faced with enormous challenges – from poverty to the high school dropout crisis to an obesity epidemic – that threaten their chance to have great futures. And, unfortunately, headlines remind us every day that we live in a dangerous world that puts too many young people – America's most precious resource – at serious risk.
Given these realities, we must be ever-vigilant in ensuring that our Clubs are safe havens for America's youth, staffed by caring adult mentors who have the best interests of kids at heart. While child safety has been priority #1 for Clubs throughout our history, our work in this area is never done.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) is committed to helping our Clubs provide a safe and secure experience for youth. Through our Child & Club Safety Department, we implement a six-step plan that follows the best practices available today, using the latest advances in technology and expertise:
- Criminal background checks are required for every staff member and volunteer who has direct contact with children. BGCA partners with LexisNexis, the world's largest data company, to provide the most comprehensive screenings available today.
- Through our partnership with Praesidium, one of the nation's leading safety experts, BGCA provides a 24-hour toll-free Child Safety Hotline to allow Club managers, staff members, volunteers and Club members to confidentially report suspicions or concerns. For Club-related child safety issues, contact the Child Safety Hotline at (phone) 866-607-SAFE (7233) or email . For child safety concerns that are NOT related to a Boys & Girls Club, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453).
- Ongoing training and supervision of staff are critical. Clubs participate in a wide variety of child safety training conducted through seminars, conferences and webinars.
- Safety policies and procedures must adhere to the highest standards. Clubs are required to report any suspected child abuse to local authorities. No adult should ever be alone with a child – all activities inside and outside the Club must have appropriate ratios of staff and members.
- All facilities and vehicles are required to comply with federal, state and local safety laws. BGCA works with leading experts in the area of security technology to develop state-of-the art solutions for our 4,000 sites.
- We work hard to create a Culture of Safety, which includes the following initiatives:
National Child Safety Advisory Task Force, made up of leading experts
National Peer Review Program to share best practices
National Safety Award Program to recognize leadership and innovation
National Child Safety and Protection Symposium, a forum to enable all youth organizations to share their best ideas and solutions for protecting kids
These are just some of the steps we take to ensure the safety of children. We constantly look for ways to improve our practices and training for our local Clubs and staff, and will continuously introduce additional resources as they become available.
Our message to communities and parents is clear: We work every day to create a safe, fun environment where kids can pursue academic success, good character and citizenship, and a healthy lifestyle – all under the guidance of caring, trained, trustworthy adult leaders.
And our message to anyone who would potentially compromise our Clubs and our mission is equally clear: We have ZERO tolerance for inappropriate behavior of any kind, and we put resources behind that stance.
America's young people deserve nothing less than our constant focus on their safety, and our firm commitment to protect every child who is entrusted to our care.