Veronica Del Bianco
The Louisiana 4-H Youth Development Program is dedicated to providing a safe and positive environment for all our youth participants. Nowhere is this more challenging than in overnight situations. Every year, thousands of 4-H youth attend life-changing experiences like 4-H Camp for fourth-through sixth-graders at Camp Grant Walker, 4-H University on LSU campus for high school aged kids, and awards trips to places like San Antonio, Atlanta and Orlando. That is why, in 2004, the Overnight Chaperone Program was developed to educate adult volunteers about how to create safe and positive environments in these enriching overnight settings.
The Overnight Chaperone Program has four components. The first is a background check to ensure there are no existing concerns. Second, a volunteer receives a role description so they understand their responsibilities. The next step is that all overnight chaperone volunteers attend a three-hour training that covers youth development principles, discipline, youth and adult protection, health and safety, and crisis management. Then, to reinforce it all, volunteers sign a code of conduct.
Since implementing the Overnight Chaperone Program, the Louisiana 4-H has trained approximately 200 overnight chaperones annually. An evaluation of the training was sent to these volunteers, and 477 returned the evaluation. The results indicated that 100 percent felt more comfortable and prepared to handle crisis and emergency situations; 97 percent of participants reported gaining knowledge on how to create and maintain a safe environment for youth; and 96 percent were more aware of health and safety considerations in overnight settings (Table 1).
More than a decade after its creation, the Louisiana 4-H Overnight Chaperone Program continues to provide a set of standards, guidelines and trainings for youth protection and teach 4-H adult volunteers how to create safe, positive environments for youth in overnight settings. Whether sending their fourth-grader off to 4-H camp for their first night away from home or their 11th-grader off to 4-H University for their first night sleeping in a college dorm, parents and loved ones know there is a well-trained, caring adult chaperoning their child.
Veronica Del Bianco is the 4-H volunteer and leadership development specialist.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture