By: Rob Connolly
President, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco
As a new calendar year begins, we are traditionally encouraged to embrace a fresh start and take the opportunity to set goals and establish priorities for the year. At the very end of December, staff across all levels of our organization joined together in our annual Safety Awareness Day training and recommitted to another year of making safety our #1 priority.
Like many organizations over the past two years, we at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco have become acutely aware that priorities shift and goals will evolve out of circumstances beyond our control. The intensity of the current Omicron-driven COVID-19 spike is a clear reminder that we must remain nimble and adaptable. At the same time, the COVID experience has also crystalized that certain core values should never change -- no matter what. BGCSF’s commitment to the safety and well-being of every child in our care is one such value.
When it comes to safety, our expectations are unapologetically high: We expect everyone to do the right thing every day, in every way, to keep our members safe.
Everyone. Every day. Every way.
As always, our Clubhouses continue to strictly adhere to the most current City and County COVID-19 health guidelines. Although we are focused on the current challenge of navigating through Omicron as safely as possible, we are also planning for a bright future. As we move further into 2022, we are optimistic that we will be able to bring back more and more activities, programs, experiences, and partnerships. We look forward to resuming field trips, increasing access to more sports and other enrichment activities, welcoming more kids to Camp Mendocino, and the return of parents and volunteers to our Clubhouses.
We know that these additional opportunities come with increased responsibility. The health and safety of our youth and staff are always at the forefront of all our decision making and we are ready for what 2022 will bring. While we are proud of our outstanding reputation for being a safe and well run place for youth to learn, grow, and succeed, we know this reputation is only as strong as our ability to back it up every day.
Our dedication to safety extends across all levels of our organization. From our direct service staff to our 8-person Board Safety Committee (all experts in the field), to our programmatic and leadership teams, we are unified in a cohesive approach. We also benefit from the support of Boys & Girls Clubs of America's national Child & Club Safety Department. As part of this collaboration, the best practices we implement are informed by leading third-party safety experts including Praesidium, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and the National Children's Advocacy Center.
These comprehensive layers of support will allow us to plan for the future in the most responsible way possible. There are also critical focus areas on which we always ground our commitment to safety and I want to take this opportunity to share them with you:
From Safety Awareness Day and Manager-specific Safety Awareness Day to earthquake preparedness, active shooter drills, and emergency evacuations, we frequently review and refresh policies related to safety. Through a combination of training formats, the paramount importance we place on safety is clear to all staff.
All candidates for employment at BGCSF undergo a thorough criminal background check. Within their first 90 days on staff, new staff must complete CPR/First Aid training, nine hours of online training specifically focused on child safety, a 90-minute training on creating safe and positive environments, and a one-hour training on mandated reporting of child abuse and the importance of healthy boundaries. On the first day of employment new staff hear directly from the President or Chief Operating Officer about the importance of child and Club safety.
Our Clubhouses are designed for safety. Open view corridors, well-lit spaces, the ability to close off areas of the facility when staff are not present, and separate adult restrooms are some of the intentional design features that make Clubs physically and emotionally safe places for youth.
Safety signs and messages clearly communicate our expectations for safety to youth, staff, volunteers, partner organizations, and any other visiting adults.
Clubhouses conduct a safety self-assessment and our BGCSF leadership team participates in three facility audits at our Clubhouses annually. These dedicated events allow us to develop plans to improve safety if a need is identified, as well as to dialogue with Clubhouse leadership about ways to sustain or improve safety.
Incident reports allow us to gather facts, track trends, and respond to patterns so that we can provide our staff and young people with proper support.
I am incredibly proud to lead an organization that consistently reaffirms our commitment to unwavering core values while building a brighter future for all youth. 2022 will bring opportunities and challenges. As we continue to navigate and adapt, we remain unified in our ongoing commitment to safety above all else. We are dedicated to doing the right thing -- everyone, every day, in every way - to keep our members safe.
You can find more detail about BGCSF’s safety processes here.