Trustees receive update on youth program compliance at Penn State

Laura Waldhier
September 17, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For the past several years, Penn State has worked diligently to implement changes and improvements in oversight of its youth programs and in training all University employees, volunteers and independent contractors who work with children on reporting protocol for suspected abuse.

Sandra Weaver, youth programs compliance specialist in the Office of Ethics and Compliance at Penn State, presented an update on youth program compliance to the Board of Trustees on Thursday, Sept. 17, in a meeting of the joint Committee on Audit and Risk and Legal and Compliance.

Weaver was hired by the University in 2013 to oversee compliance with University policies and procedures focused on the protection of children who participate in youth programs at Penn State. Weaver provides guidance and interpretation of applicable policies, and reviews and updates procedures based on current best practices, legal updates and policy compliance.

Weaver also is responsible for managing the inventory of registered youth activities at all Penn State campus locations and all off-campus, University-sponsored youth activities. A total of 1,185 programs were registered from January through August 2015; in addition, there were 1,931 year-round 4-H clubs that have been reported. About 188,000 children are served by these programs, combined.

"All of these programs must follow youth policies under the guidance of the compliance office," said Weaver. "We provide direction, answer questions and give out information."

As one of her first actions, Weaver established a University-wide Youth Programs Council (YPC), focused on developing resources and establishing standardized processes for all individuals involved with youth programming University-wide.

Weaver said the council embraces a culture of service that values teamwork and focuses on the needs of all youth programs including: a continual review/update of  University policy and procedures based on current law and national best practices; dissemination of updated policy and procedure information to all youth programs staff as well as to the University at large; sharing effective training options; and incorporating the monitoring of results into a continuous quality improvement process.

The YPC includes University staff members who have extensive experience managing youth programs, as well as representatives from the Commonwealth Campuses in continuing education and business services.

"Several special interest groups, such as childcare, research, and student and academic affairs are included because each of these groups interacts with minors, but are not necessarily considered 'traditional' youth programs. Each area has unique considerations when interacting with youth,” said Weaver.

"In addition, we consult with advisers across the University— input from the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being, for example, was valuable when reviewing and the updating the content for the 2015 version of the reporting child abuse training."

According to the University's policy AD72 (Reporting Suspected Child Abuse), which outlines responsibilities for reporting child abuse, all Penn State employees, volunteers and independent contractors, if they suspect child abuse, must report it not only to Childline, but also internally to AD72@psu.edu.  This triggers notification to Youth Compliance, Risk Management and Police Services. 

According to Weaver, a total of 53 calls were made to Childline, Pennsylvania’s hotline for reporting suspected child abuse, in the time period between January and August. The numbers, she noted, do not necessarily represent individual instances of reporting, as multiple reports from different sources could refer to the same incident, and reporting is confidential.

Weaver also reported that from January through August, a total of 19,321 individuals had participated in the "Building a Safe Penn State" training program, required of all University employees, volunteers and independent contractors who work with children. The program educates participants on current laws concerning the reporting of child abuse and trains them on how to report suspected abuse.

For the calendar year 2014, the program had more than 40,000 participants; more are expected this year, due to recent significant changes to state law, requiring all employees to complete the training in 2015.

Weaver ended her report with a review of some of the initiatives put in place over the past year to make sure Penn State is continually improving its youth programs compliance processes, including revisions to Policy AD72 and the training program to comply with new state laws; improvements to the Youth Program Inventory and Youth Program website; as well as hosting a statewide Youth Program Director meeting, with approximately 70 participants from across the state as well as additional participants who remotely dialed in. The program featured sessions on such topics as the new laws, medication management, background clearances and requirement compliances.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 17, 2015