Free Range KidsJoin me at LetGrow.org, Where the Free-Range Movement Continues!
The YMCA Song…and Dance, When It Comes to Background Checks and Liability
March 18, 2015
I suppose this is happening all over, this excessive testing, checking and hounding of anyone who, God forbid, wants to work with — or even nearby — kids. This letter comes to us from a 30ish YMCA volunteer in Ontario:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I’ve been attending our local YMCA for longer than I can remember (beginning with parent-and-child swimming lessons, I’m told), and volunteering there off and on since I was twelve. So I’ve been involved there longer than the people who are currently in charge, and most of the people who work there have known me for years.
In 2013, they introduced a mandatory Child Protection course for ALL staff and volunteers over the age of sixteen, even those who don’t actually work with children. Fine, a bit much, but it’s a family facility, and the Child Protection course only takes about an hour (the first incarnation was in person, but after that, it was online).
Then, with the introduction of the Child Protection course, they also insisted that we get Police Record and Vulnerable Sector Checks done every six months, when the standard rule is that these are good for a year.
In addition to that, they instituted a rule whereby everyone over 16 has to show I.D. to enter the YMCA. Okay, that’s also a bit over the top, but they don’t really enforce it with people they know.
But this year, they upped the ante again, Here are the new requirements:
1. Take an online Child Protection Course (about 60 minutes to take)
2. Take an online AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) course (about 30 minutes)
3. Take an online course about Bill 168, which is about workplace harassment (about 30 minutes)
4. Take an online WHMIS [Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems] course (about 60 minutes)
5. Provide the contact information of three references who’ve known us for at least a year, aren’t family members, are over 18 years of age, and can speak directly to our ability to work with children.
6. Update our Police Record and Vulnerable Sector checks if we’re nearing the six-month mark since last time. The Y will write you a letter authorizing the police to do it for free, but it’s still a hassle.
7. Attend an in-person volunteer orientation.
Now, maybe some of this makes sense for some people, but the materials course certainly doesn’t apply to everyone at the YMCA. WHMIS is mostly for factory workers, or people who work around dangerous chemicals. So, it’s not really relevant to anyone other than maintenance staff, and possibly lifeguards, who have to periodically test the pH of the pool and add more chlorine.
The Child Protection course I can understand, because even people at the YMCA who don’t specifically work with children, are going to run into them. I don’t even mind taking the AODA course, because one of the things I’ve done over the years at the YMCA, and plan to do again, is volunteer in an adaptive fitness class for people with disabilities.
However, I don’t see any reason for everyone to take everything, except that it’s easier to set a blanket rule, and send a mass message, than to think about what’s really necessary for whom. As for the letters, I don’t know three people who’d fit all the criteria to act as references, and the only one I’ve found so far is another YMCA employee, which the YMCA didn’t specifically forbid……yet.
As for the volunteer orientation, I can’t imagine what it would entail that hasn’t already been covered in the myriad of online training courses. And the best part? I got the e-mail about all of this late on a Sunday afternoon, and we were told that we had to finish everything by the following Thursday. It’s a little over a week later, and I’ve just managed to finish the first four things.
The most ironic thing about all of this is the fact that the YMCA purports to be all about “Building healthy communities.” It’s impossible to do that when trust and goodwill have given way to bureaucracy. – Y Volunteer
It may be fun to STAY at the YMCA, but just try volunteering there!