At BGCHarlem, Child Safety is always our #1 priority.
Ensuring child safety is fundamental to the mission of Boys and Girls Club of Harlem.
The Safety and Wellbeing of Young People Comes First
We work every day to create a safe, inclusive, and fun environment so kids can have every opportunity to be successful in life. We have no tolerance for inappropriate behavior of any kind, including child sexual abuse or misconduct, and we put resources behind this commitment.
Culture of Safety
BGCHarlem continually updates robust safety policies, programs, training, and supervisory practices for our staff and volunteers designed to promote child safety and protect young people from threats present in our society. We implement multiple layers of protection to keep our kids safe, including:
Adhering to the health and safety standards of New York City and New York State regulatory agencies
Organization-wide health plan
Ongoing training and support
Mandatory health screening of all staff and visitors that enter the building
BGCHarlem has comprehensive safety policies in place that protect youth, including, but not limited to, supervision, transportation, communication, and prohibiting private one-on-one contact.
Mandatory Background Checks
BGCHarlem submits all prospective personnel and volunteers to background screening conducted by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), which is valid for up to five years and can be revoked at any time. This screening includes:
NYS criminal history check
FBI criminal history check
Child abuse and maltreatment registry screening
NYS sex offender registry check
National Crime Information Center - National Sex Offender registry check
Required Immediate Reporting
BGCHarlem staff and volunteers are all 'mandated reporters' and are required to report any critical incident/safety concern to local authorities immediately. We are also required to report any critical incident to Boys & Girls Clubs of America within 24 hours.
Mandatory Annual Safety Assessments
We complete a safety assessment each year to ensure we continually make improvements to safety at our Club.
Ongoing training and supervision of staff members and volunteers is critical. Both staff and volunteers continuously participate in a wide variety of child safety training. Upon hire, they must complete OCFS' Foundations in Health and Safety e-Learning and Mandated Reporter trainings.
In the first year of employment, we require completion of CPR and First Aid certification and child supervision trainings. Within two years, staff and volunteers are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of all OCFS-approved trainings, which focuses on safety, youth development, and management.
With the support of Boys and Girls Club of America, we also engage leading third-party safety experts to guide our policies and approaches, including Praesidium, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and the National Children’s Advocacy Center.
BGCHarlem has a dedicated safety committee to provide oversight, input, and guidance on local policies and safety strategies. Priorities and initiatives include:
Ensuring that our organization complies with the standards set forth by regulatory agencies, OCFS, and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Conducting routine safety checks to ensure that our facility is free from hazards.
Conducting routine drills (fire, shelter in place) to ensure readiness.
Regular review of safety policies and procedures to update when needed.
Ensure that new protocols and procedures have been adopted.
Ensure all staff training on safety has been developed and implemented.
Modeling and reinforcing safety rules for children.
Mandatory Employee Reference
Any employee interested in moving to another Boys & Girls Club is required to have a reference from the previous Club, even if the Clubs are within the same community.
State and Local Laws
We comply with federal, state, and local safety laws, including those impacting facilities and vehicles.
Nationally, Boys & Girls Clubs of America works with leading experts in safety, security, and technology areas to develop state-of-the-art solutions for Clubs. Partners include:
National Child Safety Advisory Task Force, made up of leading experts and organizations
Blue Ribbon Taskforce, comprised of local Club leaders charged with providing input on the safety direction and key safety initiatives
Mental Health First Aid, a national program that teaches skills to recognize and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse
Crisis Text Line, a confidential text message service for youth in times of crisis
Locally, BGCHarlem partners with:
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
NYS Office of Children& Family Services
In July 2020, all local Boys & Girls Clubs voted to adopt additional safety measures to improve safety within our Clubs further. Many of these practices were already in place; however, Boys & Girls Clubs determined these practices should be mandatory for all Clubs.
These measures include more stringent reference and background checks, enhanced Club Safety Committee requirements for all Clubs, greater communication of key safety resources and information available for staff and members, and more.
Nationally, Boys & Girls Clubs of America advocated the U.S. PROTECT Act's passage, which improved background screening systems and access. The national organization has also partnered with the FBI, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Centers for Disease Control to contribute to the development of safety practices that benefit ALL youth-serving organizations.
America’s young people deserve nothing less than our constant focus on their safety and our firm commitment to protecting every child entrusted to our care at BGCHarlem. To learn more about our national safety policies and actions, please visit Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Child Safety page, here.