Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County Transition from “Open Door” to “Safe Passage”

bg-pocoNothing is valued more highly than the safety of our Club members and the children of our communities by Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. Club staff and the Board of Directors for the organization continually evaluate and assess organizational practices and policies to ensure that children are in a safe and welcoming environment. In April 2015, the Board of Directors voted to move away from the Club’s traditional “Open Door Policy” to a “Safe Passage Policy.”

“Since the incorporation of our organization, we have operated under the traditional Club “Open Door Policy,” meaning all members were free to enter and leave the Club unescorted by an adult. While we always have tracked every child entering our facilities, our “Open Door Policy” allowed Club members to leave the building on their own,” states Mark Jones, director of operations for Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County.

Beginning with summer programming (June 15), this policy will change to a new “Safe Passage Policy” whereby Club members under the age of 12 must be retrieved from the Club by a parent, guardian or pre-authorized personnel. Members 12 and older may leave the Club unescorted, and may escort other members of their household from the Club, only with expressed written permission from a parent or guardian. “We are asking for parents/guardians/authorized adults to enter all of our Clubs through the front doors to pick up their children. To ensure the safety of our entire Club membership, our staff will no longer allow Club members to leave the premises of the facility unescorted at the request of a parent phone call,” Mark Jones emphasizes.

The new “Safe Passage Policy” also outlines that Club personnel will not physically restrain, nor block, any child who may insist on leaving the Club unescorted. “It is for this reason that we our requesting parents or guardians to discuss the ‘Safe Passage Policy’ with his or her child(ren) and ensure that he or she complies,” states Jones.

Parents and guardians of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County’s membership have been informed of the policy change through written correspondence. Included in this correspondence was the new policy in written form along with an authorization update form providing parents with the opportunity to inform Clubs who has permission to retrieve their children from the facilities. Further, each Club will be providing an information orientation for parents and/or guardians who may have questions. The orientation dates and times are:

Duneland Club: June 1, 2015 at 5:30 pm
Portage Club: June 3, 2015 at 6 pm
South Haven Club: June 4, 2015 at 6 pm
Valparaiso Club: May 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm

“Safety of children is our number one responsibility,” states Ryan Smiley, president of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. “Our new ‘Safe Passage Policy’ will help foster an even safer environment at our Clubs. Our primary reason for this change is to encourage members to stay at our Clubs for as long as possible rather than leave the premises unsupervised where they may be exposed to dangers that are beyond or Club doors and the control of our staff. Our parents have been honest about our ‘Open Door Policy’ and some of their concerns with the previous policy. Our parents want to know their children are safe and supervised and our ‘Safe Passage Policy’ will now provide them with even greater peace of mind,” Smiley states further.

For more information, Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County encourages individuals to call Mark Jones, Director of Operations at (219) 464-7282, Extension 225 or contact him via email at mjones@bgcpoco.org. Also, more information can be obtained by visiting bgcpoco.org/safepassage.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County has been opening doors to GREAT FUTURES for Porter County’s youth since 1971. Clubs are open after school and provide a great place for youth in grades K-12 to meet friends and have fun while in a safe, supervised environment. Clubs are also open during holidays and in the summer. Annual membership is only $35.00. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. For information on membership, volunteer opportunities, or to make a tax deductible donation to Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, please contact your local Club, call (219) 464-7282 or visit www.bgcpoco.org. Great Futures Start HERE.