Chaperones in the 4-H Program
A chaperone is defined as someone who will have independent supervision of a 4-H youth/ member overnight.
- All chaperones at club, local, county, state, regional and national events must be enrolled 4-H volunteers and must have successfully completed the volunteer selection process.
- For State events chaperones must be 21 years of age.
- For Regional and National events chaperones must be at least 25 years of age.
Adult and Youth Interaction
- Follow the “two deep” policy (one adult should never be alone with one member – always have another person present, preferably another adult or older teen.)
- The “two deep” policy should be discussed with youth in an age-appropriate manner. Older youth especially should be aware that adults need to follow this policy.
- In situations where one-on-one interaction is unavoidable, written permission from the parent or guardian should be obtained when possible.
- Eighteen- and nineteen-year –olds are legally considered adults. In situations where it may be necessary for 4-H members younger than eighteen to room with eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds, written permission should be obtained from the parents or guardians of the younger members. While 4-H members ages 18 and 19, legally are considered adults, the 4-H program requires they abide by all 4-H rules and regulations in all respects.
- Appropriate signs of affection, congratulations, etc. should be discussed among leaders and if appropriate, within the club. Allow youth to initiate hugs or other forms of affection or support.
- Always consider, “How does this look?”, “Could this be misinterpreted?”
Guidelines for Volunteers and Staff Chaperones for Overnight 4-H Trips
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension (UMCE) recognizes the value of overnight experiences for members, leaders and staff. UMCE also understands that those adults acting as chaperones carry a great deal of responsibility. The following guidelines have been created to assist 4-H volunteers and UMCE staff in the role of program chaperone. Chaperoning 4-H events is a wonderful experience for everyone involved and these guidelines are to help each volunteer and staff member understand the details involved when you have an opportunity to travel with young people.
- 4-H Volunteer Orientation & Leadership Training (VOLT) Certified volunteers and UMCE staff may act as chaperones on overnight 4-H trips/events.
- 4-H volunteers and UMCE staff are covered by University liability insurance while on 4-H trips.
- If at all possible, 4-H volunteers and UMCE staff taking on the leadership role on a specific 4-H trip should have been on the trip before as an assistant.
- 4-H volunteers and UMCE staff chaperoning 4-H trips are expected to be role models for all youth and abide by all 4-H policies. (These can be found on the UMCE Web Site or a copy may be requested at your county Extension Office.)
- A chaperone is defined as someone who will have independent supervision of 4-H youth/member(s) overnight.
- 4-H volunteers who would like to be considered for chaperoning a 4-H trip may need to submit an application form to the committee overseeing each specific program. This requirement will depend on each planning committee. The minimum age for an assistant state event chaperone will be 21 and the minimum age for the chaperone acting in the role of group leader will be 25 (25 is also the minimum age for rental from an auto rental agency).
- 4-H volunteers and staff should have all of the necessary emergency contact information and be prepared for emergencies prior to the trip.
- 4-H volunteers and staff need to abide by the following steps in the event of an accident:
- Seek immediate medical help.
- Notify the appropriate Extension staff liaison to the trip.
- Notify the parents, and discuss any further information and action needed.
- Fill out the University Accident form. This form is on the UMCE web site.
- Follow-up with staff and parents.
- The 4-H program may want to purchase the minor health and accident insurance for participants and chaperones for the duration of the trip. (See your county staff for information.)
4-H volunteers should follow these guidelines when chaperoning overnight:
- 4-H volunteers may not stay in the same rooms as 4-H members (the program will look into available condo/suite housing).
- Teens may stay in rooms in pairs, with no more than 4 in a room, same sex only.
- Chaperones should conduct room checks at times during the evening until late at night (this will take some individual judgment as to how often and when the room checks need to take place).
- Teen leaders and delegate advisors should be given leadership responsibilities during the event and can be a designated direct contact for a small group of teens housed with the delegate advisor attending the event.
- Chaperones should never be alone (i.e., one-on-one) with youth participants.
- Chaperones must make sure all permission slips, emergency information, photo consent and health forms are filled out prior to the trip and the chaperone should carry a copy of each with them at all times.
- Chaperones must adequately supervise all activities, meals, recreation and free time during a trip.
- Chaperones must realize that while these trips are very rewarding they can be physically and mentally exhausting (chaperones should expect to get very little sleep).
- Chaperones should review all program schedules and events with staff prior to attending the trip. A parent meeting and a review of the schedule should also be held prior to the trip.
- Chaperones and staff should try to identify all possible risks prior to attending the event.
- All 4-H volunteers and staff in leadership roles should be aware that they will need to assist with program evaluations from all participants.
- All 4-H volunteers and staff attending the trip will need to take part in a follow-up report about the experience.
- Make sure the facility is clean, safe, healthy and handicapped-accessible if needed.
- Make sure all participants are aware of emergency numbers and how to reach you in the event of need.
- Make sure all participants know where to meet you in the event of a building evacuation.
- Make sure all participants know that they will be charged for phone use, pay-for-view TV, refrigerator snacks, etc. and how to avoid the charges.
- Check in with the hotel and have any inappropriate TV channels blocked from view (this should include late night movie channels with inappropriate selections).
- Set up a system of communication room to room with your teen leaders if appropriate given the size of the group.
- Make sure the entire group knows your room number, cell phone number and schedule.
- Have a sign-in and-out system if members are leaving their rooms to attend conference presentations, programs, etc.
- Call the hotel prior to the trip and arrange for the rooms to be located together in the hotel.
- Work to provide accessibility for all.
- Review environmental surroundings and safety concerns.
- Review all program expectations and rules with all members and parents of members attending the overnight program.
- 4-H volunteers will be instructed on all expenses that are required to be filed with the IRS as potential income.
- 4-H volunteers and staff who are responsible for program funds, checks and receipts will be asked to maintain a log of funds, keep all receipts and account for all program funds upon the return of the group.
When Traveling by Plane
- Verify flight arrangements at least a week in advance and then the day before. Remind youth who are traveling with you to verify arrangements as well.
- Make sure youth have 2 forms of Photo ID with them. Acceptable forms of Photo ID are: School Photo ID (only if under the age of 18), Driver’s License, Passport, and State of Maine ID. We realize that airlines only require one form of ID but the second form serves as a backup in case the first form of ID is lost or stolen on the trip.
- Remind youth about safety issues and what they can and cannot pack. When in doubt refer them to the information about airport security and/or the airlines. It is better to check things ahead of time instead of on the day of travel at the airport.
- Advise youth to be at the airport 2 hours before departure.
- Send out flight departure and arrival information (include airline, times, airports and flight numbers) to youth and parents/guardians well before the trip.
- Have a communication system in place so that people can reach you both to and from the airport in case of travel delays – usually providing a cell phone number works well.
- When passing through airport security if there are 2 chaperones have one go first and the other go last to make sure all of the youth make it through the screening. If you are the only chaperone then go through security last.
- Plan ahead of time how you will get from the airport to where you are staying and also confirm how you get back to the airport once you are there. Work with your staff liaison about these arrangements.
- On the return trip verify flight information and remind youth to contact their parents/guardians about flight arrival information.
- Once the plane has arrived back in Maine please ask the youth to check in with you so that you know for sure they have been picked up at the airport by the appropriate person.