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Pathfinder Safety: Preparing staff and volunteers

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ARM reminds leaders how to make sure staff and volunteers are properly prepared for any Pathfinder event.

January 14, 2018

Hunter Pettis, account executive, Adventist Risk Management


Pathfinder Safety: Preparing staff and volunteers

[Photo courtesy of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division]

Giving, contributing, and volunteering for the enrichment of our community are some of the most noteworthy actions of the Adventist Church. The heartfelt donation of time and energy is a meaningful experience both for the volunteer, as well as the organization. Being of service has allowed the mission of our church to thrive and for many programs within our community to do the same, including Pathfinders and Adventurers.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church places a priority and high value on children. Due to the vulnerable nature of children and youth it is appropriate to create a child protection plan. A child protection plan includes not only protection from all forms of abuse, but also providing qualified supervision on trips, having adequate emergency plans in place and consistent practice of emergency drills. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring the protection of all children. Leaders will find resources for establishing a well-rounded and robust program to excel in the initiative of child safety on the Pathfinder page of ARM’s website. These resources include supervision, appropriate touch, and even a child protection planning guide.

Preparing Your Staff and Chaperones for Camporee

As you begin to prepare for the 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee, make sure to also prepare your Pathfinder staff and volunteers to safeguard club members. Spend some time carefully familiarizing yourself and staff with best practices to maintain a wholesome and hazard-free environment for all camporee attendees. Make sure each staff member is properly equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to keep campers safe in your facilities, on the road, and at the campsite.

It is imperative for persons working with children to know and understand recommended staff to child ratios based on varying locations and activities. Determine how many of your club’s children will be attending the camporee, and decide how many staff members you will need to provide sufficient supervision and protection for the club’s campers. Review supervision guidelines with the staff several times leading up to the departure date to make sure each person is familiar with the guidelines. Use ARM’s Youth Supervision Guidelines to explain best practices to your staff.

Every child must submit a signed permission slip and updated emergency contact information prior to activities or outings. Make sure all staff are aware of known medical issues and can access the documentation if needed. Do not place staff or children in the position of being unable to provide needed care. For example, if a child needs to have refrigerated medication and you are unable to accommodate that need, that child should not be approved to participate in the trip or activity.

Screening for All Volunteers and Staff

Protection of our youth must always be at the forefront of ministries where young people are involved. This includes ensuring that the volunteers who work with the young and vulnerable are safe and that we have not placed a predator in their midst. Where possible, training, and screening all volunteers before they begin to serve is appropriate. Working policy in the North American Division (NAD) requires all volunteers to complete a background screening. Please contact your local Conference to confirm the process they have implemented for screening.

It is the moral and ethical responsibility of every leader to properly protect children and adults from the tragic results of abuse. As we grow our churches, we want to ensure good practices are utilized to provide a fun and loving environment for all. 

Transportation

Traveling to and from youth activities (including the International Camporee) is a logistical challenge that carries several risks.

Do not under any circumstances rent, borrow, or use a 15-passenger van. These vans are not considered safe and the church has experienced tragic losses with them. Because of this, the church has set a clear and firm policy in place that these vans should not be used under any circumstances. This would include a 12-passenger van that could be configured as a 15-passenger van.

Choose bus companies carefully. If you are traveling across state lines, consider a nationwide bus company and review the contract carefully. What provision does the bus company have in the event of an accident or a breakdown far from their point of origin? Are other buses available along the route to pick up passengers and avoid a lengthy and uncomfortable delay by the side of the road?

No matter what type of vehicle you use, be sure that you choose qualified drivers and have adequate supervision on board the vehicle. Drivers should be well-rested and switch when needed. The driver should not be tasked with supervision duties but should be focused on the act of driving. The vehicle should be inspected and in good working order before use. Verify that there is adequate insurance coverage for all vehicles and drivers.
 
By implementing these strategies for your Pathfinder club, you can rest assured knowing staff and volunteers are properly prepared for any Pathfinder event that is planned. For more information on keeping Pathfinders safe and preparing for the International Camporee, visit ARM’s Pathfinder Safety page.

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