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ISU Extension Child Protection and Safety Policy

ISU Extension is dedicated to children who are clientele of our programs and the child's parent(s)/ guardian(s). We aim to provide as safe and wholesome an environment as possible.


Beginning with the 1994-95 program year, all new staff and new volunteers involved with Youth and 4-H will have a background screen conducted before they are appointed to a paid or volunteer position. The background screen will be conducted in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Each County Agricultural Extension District in Iowa, the Iowa 4-H Education and Natural Resources Center, and the ISU Extension to Youth and 4-H State Office is required to implement and comply with this policy.

Purpose of Policy

  • To create and maintain the safest possible environment for Iowa youth participating in the Youth and 4-H Program conducted in the name of Iowa State University Extension.
  • To be one step in the process of selecting and placing qualified staff and volunteers for programs by ISU Extension to Youth and 4-H.


The method of covering the cost of the Iowa Department of Public Safety record screen is to be determined by each extension district.

This policy was developed by a representative ISU Extension to Youth and 4-H task force. It was adopted and approved on February 13, 1995, by the ISU Extension Administrative Group.

The following information is taken from Volunteer Leadership Through ISOTURE (4-H 2, April 1995).

Rationale for the Policy

4-H volunteers are one of the greatest resources available to Iowa State University Extension and the Youth and 4-H Program. Annually, thousands of individuals give countless hours to benefit Iowa's youth. Without these volunteers, the Youth and 4-H Program, as we know it, could not exist.

While the vast majority of 4-H volunteers are exemplary community servants, we cannot ignore the changing society around us. Families have changed, and communities have changed. In the early days of 4H, staff and leaders knew each person who volunteered for 4-H. Today, that often is not true. Our society has become too mobile to assume that we can know the personal background of each individual who volunteers. Furthermore, we cannot assume that people in our own communities are not child abusers. Child abuse occurs everywhere.

In 1990, the national extension director asked each state to review and develop plans for dealing with volunteer screening and liability. Iowa laws were investigated, and they revealed that officially recognized volunteers of Iowa State University Extension are covered by Iowa's Tort Claims Act. In a court of law, we must be able to demonstrate that we were not negligent in our responsibility to children. This means we must do what a "reasonable person" would do in similar circumstances.

Now, many agencies who serve youth, from schools to Scouts, require volunteers to apply and be screened. Failure to use processes similar to those used by other youth organizations could make you and ISU Extension to Youth and 4-H negligent. If a child were abused by a 4-H volunteer, liability for this negligence could fall on many persons within the ISU organization: the individual who recruited the abuser, the club leader who recommended the abuser, the staff member who submitted the abuser's enrollment form, the extension council as legal governing body, as well as the State Youth and 4-H staff who accepts the leader enrollment form.

The above conditions indicate the reasons for establishing the ISU Extension Child Protection and Safety Policy.