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| 3 minutes read

Take Time to Review Your Records and Policies

The end of one year and the beginning of the next are traditional times to review progress and make new plans. For youth organizations, it is a good time to take a close look at your policies and records to determine which ones to keep going forward. Not only will the process make your program more efficient, but it will help you avoid, or at least mitigate, future problems.

Each program is unique, but be sure that your review covers the following areas:

Locate old insurance policies

With more and more states extending statutes of limitation, you need to find as much information as you can about your old insurance policies. Gather whatever records you have, even if it’s only a record of paying the premium, into a handy location. If you get hit with a claim from many years ago, you will need this information, and the best time to find it is now.

Review current insurance policies

Talk to your team and colleagues about the kinds of claims that organizations in your field are facing. Work with your insurance agent or broker to be sure that your liability policy covers those claims. Even a frivolous claim can rack up attorneys’ fees, and you don’t want to be left without insurance to cover litigation costs.

Audit your records

Make certain that you have all of the information that your licensing agency or accrediting association requires in your client and staff files. Then, compare your records to your own policies. For example, if your internal policies require higher credentials or more experience for your staff than what your licensing agency requires, make sure that your staff records reflect those credentials. If you are hiring people without those qualifications, then you need consider whether you need to change your policies. At the very least, be sure the file reflects a good reason for hiring individual staff who don’t meet your internal requirements. Whether you need to improve your record-keeping or move to more realistic policies, make sure that your records match your aspirations.

Review your internal policies

The next step, or a part of your records audit, is to measure how well you are following your other internal policies. The policies that you should review at least once a year include:

  • Child protection, including staff screening and supervision
  • Document retention
  • Staff training
  • Staff handbooks & discipline policies
  • Parent & student handbooks

The most common pitfall that I see with my clients is that they let their good intentions lead them into setting unrealistic standards. For example, if licensing rules or general practice in the area requires three references for staff applications, an organization may decide to require three work references and two personal references. Unfortunately, the administration may find that the day-to-day pressures of running the organization don’t leave enough time for five references, and they fall back to the required three. Yet, the written policy remains the same. Then when a problem occurs, the organization is held to the higher standard of its own good intentions.

So you need to consistently review your internal policies to be sure that your organization is following them. If the standards are not negotiable, such as mandated reporting or criminal background checks, then figure out what you need to change in order to meet them. If your standards are aspirational, figure out whether you need to pare them back to a realistic goal given the strict limits of time, budget, and manpower.

Review your advertising

Finally, take a good look at your advertising. It can be tempting to promise parents whatever they want to hear. The problem comes when your advertising creates promises that can come back to haunt you. Do your employees, for example, meet the “highest standards” or only state licensing requirements? Is safety your “highest priority” or do you run an adventure camp where children learn to manage risk as safely as possible? As with your internal policies, compare your advertising to your actual performance and change whatever needs to be changed so that the two align.

Take some time at least once a year to review all of your policies and audit your records. Whether you do that at the beginning of the year or later, be sure to do it before you are dealing with an emergency or serious claim.

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ausburn_deborah, youth services law
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