Monday, July 25, 2011

Coaching Minor Youth – What about the parents?

Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011 by International Coach Federation

Coaching youth, especially minor youth who live at home with involved parents, can be a challenge. It’s important for the coach to have strongly defined boundaries and a firm policy on confidentiality. It is also important for the coach to bring parents into the coaching relationship enough to support the youth being coached, while maintaining confidentiality. It is also imperative for the coach to be clear that it is the youth (their child) that is your client.

Maintaining confidentiality of the youth client is key to the success of the coaching. Whether the parents, the school or another organization hires you, the youth themselves are the client.

ICF Code of Ethics in section 4 includes Confidentiality/Privacy:
“I will maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information. I will have a clear agreement or contract before releasing information to another person, unless required by law.” (22)

“I will have a clear agreement upon how coaching information will be exchanged among coach, client and sponsor.” (23)

Although it is not specific to youth, my interpretation is that the parent hiring you would be the ‘sponsor’ and the youth your client. In the U.S. you would need written parental permission to coach a minor. Sometimes, parents believe that since they are the parent and are paying for the coaching, they can be privy to the coaching sessions. Parents often want to be involved, and want to support their child. This is good, but can be a challenge for some coaches to handle.

Coaches need to be clear prior to the beginning of the coaching what the parameters are going to be related to confidentiality. This conversation should happen at some point with both parent and child present, so they each know the other also has the same information.

The ‘Ethics FAQs’ on the ICF website gives an example of this:
Q: I am coaching a 12-year-old boy and his father calls me to ask how it is going. May I speak with him in generalities?
A: Only if your client agrees, or has agreed already in the contract that all three of you have signed.

Youth coaches differ on their levels of parental involvement. Currently there is no agreed upon guideline on how to do this. Here are my recommendations of what to do when coaching minor youth:
  • Obtain written parental permission to work with minor youth.
  • Youth (regardless of age) should also sign the agreement.
  • Prior to this permission, a clear agreement that is understood by both youth and parent explains the limits of confidentiality.
  • Include the parent in the intake session.
  • Have part of the intake session be without the parent present.
  • Include in the agreement how the parent can support their child being coached, and how important information will be shared. (If possible it is best for the youth to do this. If not, I would encourage this sharing to be done with the youth present).
  • Follow all legal, moral and ethical expectations of you as a coach as well as any other professional codes (e.g.: social workers, counselors, psychologists, educators, etc.) related to breaking confidentiality (e.g.: mandatory reporting, duty to warn, subpoenas, etc.).
  • If the parent is having difficulty, consider finding a parent coach to support the parent with the process, as the child is coached.
If you coach youth and would like more support, or would like to connect with other youth coaches, please contact me for information on how to join the ICF Teen Coaching SIG.

If you're interested in receiving News & Information to support your work with teens and young adults, sign up here.

Sandi Lindgren, LICSW, PCC

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