Seeds For Success Volunteer Manual
Volunteers are the backbone of Seeds 4 Success (S4S), role models for our participants and our community ambassadors. The health, care, and safety of our program participants is paramount to our mission. We expect all volunteers to conduct themselves in a professional, nurturing manner. This manual provides guidance for fulfilling your role as a volunteer. Please refer to it on our website as often as needed on our website as amended versions may be available. Our staff and board appreciate your time and energy! We look forward to working with you.
The Volunteer Services Department maintains records on each and every volunteer through our client management software. Records include dates of volunteer service, positions held, duties performed, evaluation of volunteer performance, training attended and awards/recognitions received. Volunteer records (applications, reference checks and background checks) are confidential. If your contact information changes please notify the Volunteer Coordinator directly in order to update pre-existing information. Volunteers are responsible for submitting and updating information contained in their files to the Volunteer Services Department.
As representatives of S4S volunteers are responsible for presenting a positive image to our youth, their families and the community. Please dress appropriately for the conditions and performance of your duties (academic coaches: in weekly programming; mentors: when out in the community with program participants). Volunteers that serve in a capacity of a presenter, speaker or other face-to-face constituent contact will wear an S4S name tag that will be provided by the S4S Volunteer Services Department. Those who work as support persons in our office situations should dress according to the code of that particular office. Individual volunteers will be informed of the dress standard for their duties at the time of assignment.
Attendance is important to the operation of each program. Unless an emergency arises, volunteers should notify the volunteer coordinator 24 hours in advance if they are unable to be present on their scheduled day. Regular attendance at weekly S4S sponsored programming will be recorded. If volunteers meet with students outside of specific S4S sponsored programming, they are responsible for completing and submitting their time through the Volunteer Portal on our website.
We ask all volunteers to commit to serving at least one full school year. Sometimes life brings changes and we are understanding, and we are able to accommodate changes of many kinds and for a multitude of reasons. You may request a change in placement or participant re-match at anytime during your volunteer service. Please keep in mind that re-matching is at the discretion of the Volunteer Coordinator and depends on both the nature of the initiating request and on student availability. If a volunteer elects to be re-assigned, the volunteer must apply for the volunteer position and receive all appropriate training. Since S4S works with children, we require that any volunteer asking to be rematched participate in a closure process with their former participant.
Volunteers are expected to provide notice in advance of upcoming vacations to the Volunteer Coordinator. Any tutor who has to miss a session should provide a short note to their student (either in writing or emailed to the Volunteer Coordinator). Your note will be presented to student at the start of the missed session and it means a great deal to your tutee.
Volunteers receive training as part of their volunteer service with S4S. All volunteers must complete an orientation, on-the-job or program training. We encourage mentors to participate in continuing education classes/ opportunities (to be identified by the volunteer coordinator).
Annual Volunteer Training provides an overview of S4S, its mission, history and goals. Each volunteer will participate in a scheduled orientation either at the beginning of the school year or within the first month of beginning their service. The orientation is designed to provide S4S’ volunteering framework. All volunteers (both new and returning) are asked to attend this training annually to learn of updated policies and procedures and provide feedback.
Volunteer Workshops are provided provided throughout the year in various subject areas that help volunteers understand and serve Seeds 4 Success youth. An example would be social emotional workshops. Volunteers are encouraged to attend workshops whenever possible.
Focus Groups and Surveys At the academic year’s end, S4S will offer a focus group for all volunteers to provide constructive feedback for improvement of the following program year. All volunteers are encouraged to participate.
S4S strives to provide open lines of communication between volunteers and staff. If a volunteer requires communication with S4S offices, to ensure continuity between departments please contact the Volunteer Coordinator or a member of the volunteer staff directly. This ensures continuity between departments. Please refer to the communication policy.
Volunteers often need to connect with program participants and their families during the program year. For all paid and unpaid staff it is important to understand that many of us, including participants and their families, share unique and diverse cultures shaping the ways in which we communicate. Remembering this detail while communicating with participants and/or families will result in healthy interactions for all members of S4S, volunteers and participants alike.
Respecting the privacy of our participants, donors, members, staff, and volunteers is a basic S4S value. All information concerning participants, former participants, staff, volunteers, financial data, donor information and business records is confidential and should not be disclosed or discussed with anyone without permission or authorization from our Executive Director.
Privileged information must be kept confidential both during and after employment or volunteer service. Staff and volunteers, including board members, are expected to return materials containing privileged or confidential information at the time of separation from employment or expiration of service.
Failure to maintain confidentiality may result in termination of your volunteering. This policy is intended to protect you as well as S4S because in extreme cases, violations of this policy also may result in personal liability.
S4S expects you to respect the privacy of participants and to maintain their personal and financial information as confidential. All records dealing with specific clients must be treated as confidential. General information, policy statements or statistical material that is not identified with any individual or family is not classified as confidential. Staff members are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of information relating to other staff members and volunteers, in addition to clients.
“Confidential” means that you are free to talk about S4S and about your program and your position, but you are not permitted to disclose participants’ full names, photos, or descriptions, without prior authorization. This is a basic component of client care and business ethics. Our board of directors, staff, and clients rely on paid and volunteer staff to conform to this rule of confidentiality.
Confidentiality is the preservation of privileged information. By necessity, personal and private information is disclosed in a professional working relationship. Part of what you learn is necessary to provide services to the participant; other information is shared within the development of a helping, trusting relationship. Therefore, most information gained about individual participants through an assignment is confidential in terms of the law, and disclosure could make you legally liable. Disclosure could also damage your relationship with the client and make it difficult to help the person.
Care shall also be taken to ensure that unauthorized individuals do not overhear any discussion of confidential information and that documents containing confidential information are not left in the open or inadvertently shared.
Before you begin your assignment as a volunteer, you should be aware of the laws and penalties for breaching confidentiality. Although S4S is liable for your actions within the scope of your duty, giving information to an unauthorized person could result in the agency’s refusal to support you in the event of legal action. Violation of the state statutes regarding confidentiality of records is punishable upon conviction by fines or by imprisonment or by both.
Volunteers will be given program evaluation surveys sometime after the academic year. These surveys help us evaluate and improve the overall volunteer program.
The Volunteer Services Department along with the S4S Board of Directors sponsors recognition events for volunteers to highlight the contributions of volunteers to the organization. Continual recognition of volunteers is vital and occurs whenever possible.
Volunteers are expected to follow rules of conduct that will protect the interest and safety of all program participants, volunteers, staff and S4S.
S4S intends to provide a safe and healthy environment for all program participants. Smoking during programming or while in the presence of any S4S program participant is prohibited.
S4S provides a drug-free, healthy, and safe environment. While working with S4S program participants and while conducting S4S-related activities outside of S4S sponsored programming, a volunteer may not use, possess, distribute, sell or be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Occasionally, S4S may sponsor events where participants are not present and alcohol is served. In such situations, volunteers who consume alcohol are expected to act in a responsible manner.
S4S aims to provide a safe and healthy environment for all volunteers and program participants. If a volunteer is injured in the course of the volunteer’s service, it is important that the volunteer either notify the Volunteer Coordinator or other S4S staff (when the Volunteer Coordinator is not in attendance) immediately. The volunteers involved should also complete an incident report and submit the report to the Volunteer Coordinator.
S4S’s general liability coverage, with some limitations and exclusions, protects volunteer workers for covered injury or damage that results from activities or service that volunteers conduct or perform at S4S’s direction and within the scope of their duties for the organization.
S4S’s general liability coverage does not provide coverage to volunteers themselves for liabilities they may have incurred from their actions. S4S’s volunteer accident insurance coverage covers some injuries to volunteers while volunteers are performing volunteer service on behalf of S4S (to include transportation of program participants). In some instances, volunteers must sign a release absolving S4S of liability when S4S volunteers voluntarily and knowingly subject themselves to certain risks while performing volunteer services on behalf of S4S or in the case when volunteers (with the exception of the mentor) organizes outside opportunities for participants which may subject them to unforeseen danger. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator with questions or for more information about insurance and liability.
In the event of an incident or injury involving a participant, volunteers are to notify the Volunteer Coordinator or other S4S staff immediately (when Volunteer Coordinator is not in attendance). Volunteers should also complete an incident report and submit the report to the Volunteer Coordinator, either in-person or via email. Incident report forms are available on the website volunteer portal.
If driving a participant in your car please follow all state laws, including no texting while driving; please refrain from talking on the phone while driving, even if you have a hands-free device; children under 13 are not permitted to sit in the front seat and ALL participants must wear a seatbelt; non-S4S youth should not be transported in a car along with S4S participants; and be sure that the participants’ parents/caregivers/guardians and program staff know where you are going, how to reach you, and when you will return.
When transporting program participants please make sure to return children to the location where you have picked them up unless you have personally confirmed alternative plans with the participants’ parents prior to your outing.
Safety when Providing Transportation. Many of the communities that our participants live in experience episodic violence and it is not uncommon to see patrol cars during the day and in the evening when picking up and dropping off participants. It is important to make sure that you are taking necessary precautions when travelling to these locations and make sure to stay alert and aware of your surroundings. S4S staff travels within these communities frequently. Over the years no one has encountered targeted violence. But, the risk is there and as a volunteer it is important that you are aware of that risk. If you suspect that a participant may be in danger (specifically when picking up or dropping off) we ask that you refer to the “What to do if you Suspect Child Abuse or Encounter an unsafe Home Environment” section.
Participants. In general, please refrain from giving, but we understand in some circumstances volunteers want to provide birthday gifts to their students. In these cases, do not give gifts that are valued at more than $30 (per outing). This policy is in place to maintain equity and continuity for all program participants. While we understand that many volunteers are in the position to gift their mentees with amounts over $30 (per outing), we never want to create disparities within the program, or have other participants feel their mentor relationship is lacking. We also acknowledge that not all volunteers are in the position to provide similar gifts. Keeping this in mind, please adhere to these guidelines.
Participant Families. Volunteers ARE NOT PERMITTED TO PROVIDE MONEY TO THEIR STUDENTS OR FAMILIES. Volunteers are also not permitted to pay for family bills or other obligations. We also ask that you refrain from entering into an employment arrangement with participants and/or their families.
If you find out that a program participant and/or their family is in need of assistance (food, warm coat, electricity, trouble paying bills, etc.) please notify the Volunteer Coordinator and the organization will connect families to the appropriate resources within the community and/or link them to the necessary support services.
Photography is permitted within S4S programs and events, but volunteers are not permitted to post photos of participants to any online social platforms including, but not limited to: blogs, wikis, message boards, video and photo sharing websites, and social networking services. The Public Relations and Communications department at S4S handles all of the promotional advances for S4S including a social media presence. If you wish to share photos that include participants for promotional advances please contact the Volunteer Coordinator.
S4S knows that online social platforms, including blogs, wikis, message boards, video and photo sharing websites, and social networking services constantly transform the way we interact. We recognize the importance of the internet in shaping the public view of our organization and its members. All volunteers will be asked to review and sign a Photography and Social Media Release form at the beginning of their volunteer term.
S4S prohibits taking program participants on overnight trips of any sort. As volunteers we also ask that you do not have participants in your home for any length of time. Mentors and tutors are permitted to have group outings with other mentor or tutor pairs at homes but there must be at least 2 other mentor-mentee/tutor-tutee pairs present (4 additional individuals), making a total of 6 people for this type of home visit.
If tutors want to meet outside of programming, it must be for an academic opportunity (reading, homework, etc). However, they must first check in with the mentor to ensure it does not coincide with something else they had planned. All tutors must abide by the home visit policy stated above. Any additional tutoring hours must be reported in the volunteer portal.
Volunteer are expected to maintain appropriate boundaries with students and families in every aspect of their interaction with the students and families. Please refer to the Mentoring and Academic Guidelines manual to gain a deeper understanding of your role.
It has been the experience of some of our volunteers that program participants live in difficult environments. A certain aspect of this is unavoidable due to challenges within the community over which S4S has no control. If you drop off a participant and notice an unsafe environment (fights, yelling, etc.) please contact the participant’s family. Consult with them regarding how they would like you to proceed. If the family does not have a phone or you are unable to contact them, call the Volunteer Coordinator or Manager for guidance. You are NEVER permitted to take youth home with you, no matter the concern.
If you encounter an unsafe home environment (in the participant’s house), please refer to the following guidelines for suspected child abuse adapted from Maryland Department of Human Services and be sure to contact/ inform the S4S Volunteer Coordinator.
All MD citizens should report suspected abuse or neglect to the local department of social services (Anne Arundel County: 410-421-8400-24 hours) or to a local law enforcement agency.
Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) defines child abuse and neglect as:
Additional information of reporting abuse or neglect can be found at the web address below: http://dhr.maryland.gov/child-protective-services/reporting-suspected-child-abuse-or-neglect
If you wish to become certified with the skills to act as a mandated reporter you can visit Maryland’s Resources for Mandated Reporters website at https://www.reportabusemd.com/ or attend the Speak Up..Speak Out workshops provided by the Blue Ribbon Project, https://blueribbonproject.org/upcoming-events.html.
Should there be a situation where the volunteer must report abuse please visit https://www.reportabusemd.com/take-action to locate the appropropriate phone number to contact.
In any case whenever a report is submitted, the volunteer is also required to inform the S4S Volunteer Coordinator of the incident within the same few hours of the occurrence either by phone or email.
All paid and unpaid staff of S4S are expected to adhere to federal and state laws regarding child abuse and neglect. An act or acts of child abuse and/or neglect toward any participant committed by a paid or unpaid staff of S4S may result in the permanent termination of involvement with S4S and reporting to local authorities.
Seeds 4 Success understands that events can occur and cause unforeseen or planned termination of your further volunteer involvement. If termination proves necessary, providing a healthy closure between the volunteer and program participant is paramount. Therefore, S4S requires a proper exit procedure to take place before volunteer termination concludes --
Volunteers are responsible for completing the following steps before concluding your service with an S4S youth:
By completing these steps, a healthy closure between you and the participant is likely, and both volunteer and youth understand the reasons for termination. Volunteers assume all legal risk if they continue the relationship with youth post termination.
Upon completion of a volunteer term of commitment or a termination, all S4S property is to be returned to the S4S offices. This includes, but is not limited to, folders, documents, name tags and any other materials. These items may be returned by contacting the Volunteer Coordinator who will arrange a convenient method of retrieval.
This does not include awards, gifts, or tokens of involvement presented to you by S4S during the course of your volunteer term.
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 Maryland Department of Human Services: Child Protective Services