Youth Program Best Practices

The following guidelines represent broadly accepted best practices for working with youth. Deviation  from these best practices requires clearly documented justification and approval from the program sponsor or department head.

  1. The recommended supervision ratio for on-site programs is one staff or volunteer for every ten youth (1:10). The recommended supervision ratio for overnight or off-site events is one staff or volunteer for every eight youth (1:8). If the youth participants are younger than 3rd grade (or 8 years old), the recommended ratio is one staff or volunteer for every five youth (1:5). NOTE: these ratios may vary for specific activity camps. See the American Camp Association supervision standards for more information:
  1. Faculty, staff, and volunteers should avoid situations where they are alone with one, unrelated youth. A “Two Deep” supervision strategy of having two or more adults supervise youth is highly recommended. Another faculty, staff or volunteer should be made aware prior to an unavoidable one-on-one event.
  1. Youth should be within visual and/or hearing supervision of adults at all times. Exceptions to visual supervision include bathroom or changing room use. Under these circumstances staff or volunteers should respect youth privacy but remain within hearing supervision by waiting nearby. Having participants wear brightly colored t-shirts displaying the program name increases visibility and eases identification in crowded areas.
  1. Staff or volunteers charged with supervising a group of youth must remain in sight and/or sound supervision of that group until relieved by another faculty, staff or volunteer.
  1. To avoid youth-on-youth abuse, youth should not be left alone with another unrelated youth for more than a few minutes. For example, avoid leaving youth for prolonged periods in bathrooms or changing rooms or situations where they are not under visual supervision. Follow a “Rule of Three” principle, where at least three people are always present (i.e., one adult and two children, or two adults and one child).
  1. Avoid placing youth of widely differing ages (more than 3 years) in the same group. If this is not possible, closely supervise the group for appropriate interactions.
  1. Faculty, staff or volunteers who do not follow these stated practices are not allowed to work with youth. (See Appendix C – Standards of Behavior)
  1. Programs should have a plan for emergency evacuation, relocation and reunification of youth with their parents or guardians. A template plan can be found online at

content edited 10-23-2019