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Guidelines for Safe Activities

Girl Release to Authorized Person
Girl Scout leaders and their designees shall release girls only to persons authorized by the parent or guardian.  The troop/group leaders or co-leader will maintain the Girl Scout release information and will update information annually.   

Planning Safe Program Activities
 
How can you, as a Girl Scout volunteer, determine whether an activity is safe and appropriate? Good judgment and common sense often dictate the answer. What is safe in one circumstance may not be safe in another. An incoming storm, for example, might force you to assess or discontinue an activity. If you are uncertain about the safety of an activity, call your council staff with full details and don’t proceed without approval. Err on the side of caution and make the safety of girls your most important consideration. Prior to any activity, read the specific Safety Activity Checkpoints (available on your council’s website or from your support team in some other format) related to any activity you plan to do with girls.
 
 
When planning activities with girls, note the abilities of each girl and carefully consider the progression of skills from the easiest part to the most difficult. Make sure the complexity of the activity does not exceed girls’ individual skills—bear in mind that skill levels decline when people are tired, hungry, or under stress. Also use activities as opportunities for building teamwork, which is one of the outcomes for the connect key in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

When Sensitive Topics Come Up
 
According to Feeling Safe: What Girls Say, a 2003 Girl Scout Research Institute study, girls are looking for groups that allow connection and a sense of close friendship. They want volunteers who are teen savvy and can help them with issues they face, such as bullying, peer pressure, dating, athletic and academic performance, and more. Some of these issues may be considered “sensitive” by parents, and they may have opinions or input about how, and whether, Girl Scouts should cover these topics should be covered with their daughters.
Girl Scouts welcomes and serves girls and families from a wide spectrum of faiths and cultures. When girls wish to participate in discussions or activities that could be considered sensitive—even for some—put the topic on hold until you have spoken with parents and received guidance from your council.
 
When Girl Scout activities involve sensitive issues, your role is that of a caring adult who can help girls acquire skills and knowledge in a supportive atmosphere, not someone who advocates a particular position.
 
GSUSA does not take a position or develop materials on issues relating to human sexuality. Our role is to help girls develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives. We believe parents and guardians, along with schools and faith communities, are the primary sources of information on these topics.
 
Girl Scout volunteers and girls are encouraged to responsibly advocate for societal improvements that are important to the girls as a part of the “Discover, Connect, Take Action” learning process.  Volunteers and girls, within their role as Girl Scouts, may not take a stance or initiate a campaign for or against a specific organization, religion, political party or individual.
 
Communicating With Parents

Girl Scouts of Western Ohio are committed to partnering with parents to ensure their daughters needs are being met by group activities.  Therefore parents/guardians make all decisions regarding their girl’s participation in Girl Scout program that may be of a sensitive nature. As a volunteer leader, you must get written parental permission for any locally planned program offering that could be considered sensitive. Included on the permission form should be the topic of the activity, any specific content that might create controversy, and any action steps the girls will take when the activity is complete. Be sure to have a form for each girl, and keep the forms on hand in case a problem arises. For activities not sponsored by Girl Scouts, find out in advance (from organizers or other volunteers who may be familiar with the content) what will be presented, and obtain parent and council permission before proceeding.

 

Report concerns There may be times when you worry about the health and well-being of girls in your group. Alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, abuse, depression, and eating disorders are some of the issues girls may encounter. You are on the frontlines of girls’ lives, and you are in a unique position to identify a situation in which a girl may need help. If you believe a girl is at risk of hurting herself or others, your role is to promptly bring that information to her parent/guardian or the council so she can get the expert assistance she needs. Your concern about a girl’s well-being and safety is taken seriously, and your council will guide you in addressing these concerns.  If you suspect abuse, refer to the child abuse section under the risk management of Volunteer Essentials for guidance.
Here are a few signs that could indicate a girl needs expert help:
  • Marked changes in behavior or personality (for example, unusual moodiness, aggressiveness, or sensitivity)
  • Declining academic performance and/or inability to concentrate
  • Withdrawal from school, family activities, or friendships
  • Fatigue, apathy, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased secretiveness
  • Deterioration in appearance and personal hygiene.
  • Eating extremes, unexplained weight loss, distorted body image
  • Tendency toward perfectionism
  • Giving away prized possessions; preoccupation with the subject of death
  • Unexplained injuries such as bruises, burns, or fractures
  • Avoidance of eye contact or physical contact
  • Excessive fearfulness or distrust of adults
  • Abusive behavior toward other children, especially younger ones
 
Hosting a Girl-Led Event
If you’re working with girls who want to host an event--large or small—be sure girls are leading the event-planning, instead of sitting by passively while you or another adult plans the event. To get girls started, ask them to think about the following questions:
  • What sort of event do we have in mind?
  • Who is our intended audience? Does the audience have to be invited, or can anyone come?
  • What’s our main topic or focus?
  • What’s our objective—what do we hope to accomplish at the end of the day?
  • Will one or more speakers need to be invited? If so, who? How do we find speakers?
  • Where will the event take place?
  • Is there a charge for this venue?
  • Is the venue large enough to accommodate the audience?
  • Do we have to obtain permission to use this venue? If so, from whom?
  • Are there adequate facilities for the audience? If not, how much will extra portable toilets cost, and how many do we need?
  • Is there adequate parking or a drop-off point for girls?
  • Do we need tables? Chairs? Podiums? Microphones? Speakers?
  • What sort of entertainment will we provide?
  • Will we provide or sell refreshments? If so, what kinds?
  • How many chaperones will we need? Who will we ask?
  • What emergency care do we need to plan for? Is the event large enough that local police and fire departments need to be notified?
  • Do we need to purchase additional insurance for non–Girl Scouts?
  • How will we advertise the event?
  • What decorations will we use?
  • Will we charge for the event?
  • Who will set up the event? Who will clean up after the event?
  • How will we determine whether the event was a success?
 
Ideas for girl-led events with family, friends, and community experts are also available in the Journey adult guides!