Policy for Minors as Volunteers

We are formalizing a policy on engaging with minor volunteers in the Code for America Network, which is as follows:

Code for America generally discourages engaging volunteers under the age of 18. However, there are circumstances in which it may be appropriate to work with minor volunteers. When Brigades do engage with volunteers under the age of 18, they should consider how the youth will participate in ways that are appropriate to their age.

Examples of instances where youth between the ages of 14 and 18 may appropriately volunteer:

  1. High school students volunteering as part of a program
  2. College students who are not yet over the age of 18
  3. Individual high school aged students volunteering to help with activities at a reasonable skill level and also will not harm the student’s health, safety or moral or material welfare and negatively affect attendance at school or capacity to benefit from instruction. The activities should also be relevant to the student’s study/professional development such that there is a clear benefit to the student.

All minor volunteers must have a volunteer form signed by their parent or legal guardian. In some cases, the volunteer form may come as part of the partnership between the minor’s school or group and the Brigade.

Code for America strongly discourages involving youth under the age of 14 in any volunteer activities.

Prompts for Discussion

:thought_balloon: Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • How do you feel about this policy?
  • What concerns do you have, if any?

Here’s what folks have shared to me directly and in the Participatory Governance area at Brigade Congress:

  • I love this! Reminds us of the potential contributions from youth + how we can go about it the right way.
  • Maybe a link to a sample parent permission form? Suggestions for engaging w/ school districts?
  • Youth voice could be super valuable on most-if not all-projects!
  • I’d like to see Code for America make a proactive statement that “volunteer activities are intended for U.S. residents 18 and older,” maybe on the website with links to Code for All and one or more recommended youth organization partners.
  • Strongly encourage partnerships w/ schools vs. recruiting students individually. Maybe teacher + student volunteer programs
  • Congressional App Challenge connection (esp winners who are older)
  • Code for Boston discourages “bootcamp volunteers” who haven’t yet finished from trying to do tech work as they use more energy than they contribute – similar concerns w/ young vols in general
  • Late high school - post high school would probably work best for our current structure at Code for Boston but maybe parents of teens in the network would have ideas about ways/activities for skilled younger volunteers to participate - Thad
  • A lot of the under 18 folks interested in volunteering with us are opportunities to interact with topics or skills not available to them in schools. Suggesting they engage through a program is a good idea, but may slow or restrict this chance.

Does this mean we have to now card our members to validate their age? For teen volunteers, how do we know they are a minor v. a college student if they do not otherwise self-identify? Who is responsible for maintaining the parental permission slips? How long will they be valid for?