Volunteer Code of Conduct
As caring and responsible individuals and as Circle members, we believe that community safety is paramount and that most people can live a law-abiding life if they are assisted and motivated. In the diversity of our backgrounds and experience, the Circle is enriched. Nonetheless, in accordance with COSA philosophy, the following are expectations to which all volunteers must comply.
- Always speak/act with community and personal safety as the first priority.
- Take reasonable precautions with the Core Member while establishing initial contact and trust (e.g. meet in a public, not a remote area).
- Volunteers have a right and responsibility to call an emergency meeting if they have concerns about the Core Member’s risk to the community or to himself (e.g. breach, relapse, threat of suicide) or if they want to discuss circle functioning or any other issues pertaining to the circle.
- Circles have a right and responsibility to call the coordinator if they have concerns about the Core Member’s risk to the community or to himself (e.g. breach, relapse, threat of suicide).
- Circles work on a foundation of openness and honesty with each other and the Core Member; therefore, circle members do not keep secrets from one another. Relevant issues discussed in 1-on-1 meetings must be brought back to group meetings.
- Maintain confidentiality and respect privacy without compromising the safety of the community. Information shared by and about the Core Member is done on a need-to-know basis only.
- The Coordinator is the official liaison with the public, media, police, parole officer, etc. Except in situations of imminent danger to the community or the Core Member, volunteers do not contact such agencies about a concern relating to a Core Member or the COSA program. Any requests to speak about or on behalf of COSA must be forwarded to the Coordinator, who has final discretion over how to proceed.
Working with your Core Member
- Be non-judgmental and objective with regard to a Core Member’s criminal history, physical and mental limitations, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, etc.
- COSA respects the role of professional supports. Do not speak in derogatory terms about the criminal justice system (e.g. CSC, police) and other professionals to the Core Member or with other volunteers.
- While sharing personal information with the Core Member is good for establishing rapport, keep Circle meetings focused on the Core Member and his issues.
- Meet challenges together with the group, rather than individually.
- Actively and consistently take part in regular and special COSA meetings. If a member must be absent, s/he is to notify the Lead Volunteer prior to the meeting.
- Respect your Core Member’s legal restrictions at all times and do not disregard or encourage them to disregard the conditions of their release.
- Consult the Coordinator about any out-of-the-ordinary plans or arrangements with your Core Member (e.g. holding a group or 1-on-1 meeting in a private home, providing access to personal property, employing a core member, planning a camping trip together, and taking special outings).
- Establish and maintain boundaries to ensure self-care and maintain friendly support.
- Do not ‘friend’ your Core Member on social networking sites such as Facebook. This is for your Core Member’s safety and to respect the boundaries of other volunteers in your circle.
- Do not use, or discuss your use of, mind-altering substances or pornography with a Core Member.
- Do not give/loan your Core Member money or give him/her large gifts. Any gifts should be given by the Circle as a whole in consultation with the Coordinator.
- Be familiar with all training information provided. If you miss a training session, it is imperative that you get the handouts and talk to COSA staff about what you missed.
- If you are having difficulties, or just want to talk about your experiences as a volunteer, the coordinator is available.
- All volunteers are expected to report to the Coordinator and their Lead Volunteer any changes of their availability to attend Circle meetings and 1-on-1 meetings with their Core Member.