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Guidance for Youth Programs

  1. Comply with all applicable University policies;
  2. Abide by Equal Access and Anti-Discrimination laws and policies;
  3. Establish behavioral expectations for program staff and participants;
  4. Adopt policies and program rules which promote youth safety including all required policies described in the Handbook section below;
  5. Train all Program Staff including volunteers;
  6. Utilize additional screening measures where appropriate based on the level of access Program Staff will have to children;
  7. Observe the recommended staffing ratios below paying special attention to overnight staffing;
  8. Prohibit use and influence of alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, and dangerous weapons in accordance with University policy; and
  9. Report all major incidents, policy violations, and emergencies to the appropriate campus authority.

A - Avoid Alone Time

Alone time refers to situations where a single adult is alone with a single child either in person or electronically. You can eliminate alone time by adopting the Rule of Three, which requires there to be at least two children with every adult or at least two adults with every child at any given time. 

In order to operate, child predators require access, privacy, and control. By eliminating private interactions between youth and adults, you remove one leg of that triangle. There are usually specific red flags displayed when an adult is trying to gain access, privacy, and control. For more information on the Red Flags, see this document from Praesidium.

Examples of rules which eliminate private interactions include: 

  • Copying a child's parent or the Program Director on any electronic communication between a child (including Program Staff under the age of 18) and Program Staff; 

  • Prohibiting closed door meetings between Program Staff and minors unless medically necessary; and

  • Requiring Program Staff to conduct tutoring or mentoring sessions in public spaces and view of other participants or program staff

B - Beware Bullying

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Middle school-aged children are particularly at risk of these behaviors.

According to Praesidium, statistics show that:

  • 1 in 4 youths are bullied and over 70 percent report bullying as an ongoing problem

  • Every seven minutes a child is bullied at school

  • 160,000 children miss school each day for fear of being bullied

  • 49 states now have laws addressing bullying

Studies have shown that when not interrupted, bullying can lead to sexual abuse—bullying language becomes sexually explicit and physical aggression becomes sexual assault. Simply ignoring bullying won’t make it go away, and youth-serving programs know bullying can expose their organization to civil and criminal liability. 

When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. There are simple steps adults can take to stop bullying on the spot and keep kids safe. Click here for more information on Bullying Awareness and intervention.

C - Careful with Contact

Issues surrounding physical contact, particularly in sports, can be controversial and complex. Some activities require physical contact between adults and children for skill development; others do not.

If physical contact is to occur, it should always be within clear guidelines to reduce the risk of inappropriate touching and to ensure people working with children e.g., coaches, officials etc. are not placed in situations where they could be accused of abuse.

Physical contact is appropriate if it: 

  • is used to assist in skill development; 
  • is required for the child’s safety;
  • occurs with the player’s understanding and permission; and
  • is for the child’s benefit, not adult gratification;

Physical contact is inappropriate if it:

  • includes touching the groin, genital area, buttocks, breasts or any part of the body that may cause distress or embarrassment;
  • frightens, distresses or embarrasses a child;
  • destroys their trust;
  • occurs against the child's wishes; or
  • occurs in a private space.

D - Ditch Inappropriate Discipline

Discipline is the system of teaching a child what is and is not appropriate behavior.  It can mean praising good behavior or correcting bad behavior. Either way, the goal is to guide the child in the right direction. There are many ways to discipline children. Age-appropriate discipline can be effective, especially if caregivers have learned tools for positive discipline and are consistent with children. (Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance)

Sometimes the line between discipline and abuse is clear – for example, sexual contact between an adult and a child is never appropriate and is always child abuse. Other times it is not so clear. Whether an action is appropriate discipline or child abuse often depends on the severity, duration, and age-appropriateness of the behavior, as well as the impact it has on the child.

When engaging in discipline or behavioral management:

  • Do not touch minors in a manner that a reasonable person could interpret as inappropriate.
  • Do not engage in any abusive conduct of any kind toward, or in the presence of, a minor, including but not limited to:

    • verbal abuse such as humiliating, threatening, or degrading language;
    • physical abuse such as striking, hitting, punching, poking, spanking, or restraining except for the safety of the child;
    • mental abuse such as shaming, withholding, or cruelty;
    • neglect such as withholding food, shelter, or medical attention.
All incidents of discipline must be documented and disclosed to the program director and the minor's parent or guardian.

E - Eliminate Extracurricular Engagement

Meeting outside the program's designated meeting times and locations can blur the lines and set the stage for opportunistic predators. 

  • To meet with a minor outside of established times for program activities, get written parental authorization. This meeting must include more than one adult from the program.
  • Avoid using personal vehicles to transport program participants who are minors, if possible.
  • Do not engage or communicate with minors through email, text messages, social networking websites, internet chat rooms, or other forms of social media at any time, except and unless there is an educational or programmatic purpose and the content of the communication is consistent with the mission of the program and the University.

The below table and information provides the staff supervision ratios as recommended by the American Camp Association.

Recommended Staff Supervision Ratios

Participant Age

Number of Staff

Day-Only Participants

Overnight Participants

<= 5 years




6-8 years




9-14 years




15-18 years




At least 80 percent of the program staff should be 18 years of age or older. If the program is primarily for minors with special needs, 100 percent of the staff should be adults.

All of the program staff should be at least 16 years of age and at least two years older than the minors with whom they will be working.

At least one staff member representative of the expressed gender(s) of the participants must be on duty at all times.

When considering the above ratios, program staff should not include individuals whose primary responsibility is administrative, food service or maintenance.

Anyone age 18 or older is required by Indiana law to report any suspected or witnessed abuse or neglect of a minor. 

Suspected or witnessed abuse or neglect of a minor must be reported even if the alleged perpetrator is also a minor. 

Reports must be made to the local police or child protective services and may be made anonymously. Call 911 in an emergency.

Local Numbers



Purdue University Police


Lafayette Police


West Lafayette Police


Child Protective Services


Suspected or witnessed child abuse that occurs in conjunction with a Purdue University program or activity should also be reported to the program or activity director. Anonymous reports can be made to the University's Whistleblower Hotline website or by calling 866-818-2620. The person making the report must also report the information to the police or child protective services in order to fulfill their obligation under Indiana law.

A Sponsor may provide its own training to Program Staff so long as it covers, at minimum, information on youth safety and the mandatory reporting requirements in Indiana. Complete training will include the following information.

Child Abuse and Neglect Generally

Definition of child abuse and neglect

Behavioral and physical signs of:

  • physical abuse,
  • sexual abuse,
  • emotional abuse, and
  • neglect

What to do if a child discloses abuse or neglect

Peer-to-Peer Abuse: Signs of Bullying

Indiana's Mandatory Reporter Law

Who must report

Timeline for reporting

Reporting to University or Supervisor DOES NOT relieve duty to report

CPS Hotline - How to report

Program and University Policy Overview

Staff behavioral expectations

Prohibited conduct:

  • One-to-one or private interactions
  • Electronic communication
  • Program Staff accompanying children into the restroom

Appropriate behavioral intervention

Anti-Harassment policy

Alcohol, tobacco, and drug policy


Emergency response

Incident reporting protocol

Missing participants

For additional support related to this information, please contact the Youth Safety Compliance Specialist.

Required Policies

Participant Check-in and Check-out
  • Policy must establish check out procedures that prevent kidnapping.
  • Policy may take maturity level of participants into consideration

Incident Reporting
  • Policy should establish how program will keep track of all incidents internally. 
  • Policy must also include notice to the Youth Protection Compliance Specialist and the child's parent or guardian in the event of an incident involving serious bodily or psychological harm. 

Emergency Response Plan 
  • Policy must include notification to the Youth Protection Compliance Specialist and, where appropriate, PUPD.

One-on-one interactions
  • Policy must prohibit one-on-one contact altogether.  If a program receives written approval from VPEC for one-on-one interactions, the specific safety measures being put into place must be clearly outlined.
  • Policy should include electronic contact as well. 

Prohibited items 
  • Policy must prohibit dangerous weapons, tobacco products, vapor products, alcohol, and illegal drugs in accordance with University policy.


  • Policy must prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, genetic information, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, or status as a veteran.
  • Program must provide accessibility accommodations. Note: Accommodations for children with disabilities can be costly and are not optional. Programs should be prepared to absorb those costs as needed. 

Recommended Policies

While specific policies on these topics are not required in accordance with University policy, Programs may wish to consider adopting policies related to the following subjects:

  • Behavior Management (including protocols for program dismissal for staff and participants)
  • Bullying, Threats, and Violence
  • Curfew (for residential programs)
  • Dress code
  • Electronic Devices (Presence and Use)
  • Fighting
  • Medication (Use and Disbursement)
  • Obscenities
  • Social Media Use
  • Unsupervised Time or Free Time (especially for residential programs)
  • Visitors 

Questions to Consider

How will parents communicate with participants while the program is in progress?

What will you do if staff or participants violate program or University policy?

What age and maturity level are your participants?

Are any of your employees or volunteers under the age of 18 (especially if you are using incoming students as Program Staff?) If so, have you considered policies to protect them?

What will you do if a child becomes ill during camp?

Does your program involve swimming, water sports, high ropes, or other high-risk activities?

Will participants need any money with them during the program?

Will the program provide participants with any/all meals during?

How will you handle participants wanting to bring their own food?

Under what circumstances will parents be contacted during the program?

How will you handle late pick ups and absences?

Will participants have downtime at any point?