Mississippi 4-H Youth Development Rules and Procedures
- Roles of the County Extension Staff, Program Associates, 4-H Volunteers, and Parents of Members
- Role of Extension Agents/Program Associates
- MSU Extension 4-H Volunteer Screening
- Role of 4-H Volunteers
- Volunteer Liability
- Volunteer Code of Conduct
- Consequences for Infractions
- Cause for Reassignment or Dismissal | Procedure for Dismissal
- Immediate Removal
- Role of Parents in 4-H
- Membership and Enrollment
- Membership and Enrollment
- Age Requirements
- Special Membership Offerings
- Other Membership Requirements
- Annual Enrollment
- Chartering 4-H Clubs
- Chartering County 4-H Groups and Organizations
- Membership and Enrollment
- Types of 4-H Membership Clubs
- 4-H Clubs
- Community Club
- Project Club
- School Club
- 4-H After-School Club
- Military 4-H Club
- Collegiate 4-H Club
- Virtual 4-H Club
- Special Interest Clubs
- Other Membership Units
- 4-H Clubs
- Curriculum, Projects, Recognition, and Awards
- Curriculum/Project Manuals/Leader Guides
- Project Opportunities
- Competitive Awards Programs
- Eligibility for Participation in Specific Events and Activities
- Eligibility for Participation in Competitive Events Beyond State Level
- Cooperation Between 4-H, FFA, and Other Organizations
- Discipline, Suspension, and Removal of 4-H Members
- Appropriate Behavior
- Mississippi Junior Livestock Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics, and Rules
- Guidelines for Handling 4-H Member Behavior Problems During 4-H Events and Activities
- Waiver and Release of Claims and Indemnification Agreement
- Financial Management
- Raising Funds for 4-H
- Membership Dues
- Exemption Certificates in Lieu of Sales Tax
- 4-H Club/Unit Bank Accounts
- 4-H Club Finances
- Additional Policy Considerations
- 4-H Name and Emblem
- 4-H and Advertising
- Legislative Contacts
- Unescorted Minors and Travel
- Other 4-H Guidelines
The provisions contained in these Rules and Procedures do not constitute a contract, express or implied, between volunteers and participants of this program and the United States Department of Agriculture, the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the county governments of the State of Mississippi, or the Mississippi State University 4-H Youth Development Program. Mississippi State University Extension reserves the right to change or alter any provision herein without prior notice.
Nothing in these Rules and Procedures should be interpreted as creating a constitutionally (state or federal) protected property or liberty interest to participate in the Mississippi 4-H Youth Development Program unless one already exists as law. 4-H is an extracurricular activity that is a privilege, not a right; participation is contingent upon eligibility for membership, compliance with program rules, and adherence to Mississippi State University Extension Service directives. The descriptions of disciplinary procedures set forth in this document are guidelines. The failure of the Mississippi State University Extension Service to strictly adhere to a particular process shall not be a basis for overturning the disciplinary action imposed.
I. Roles of the County Extension Staff, Program Associates, 4-H Volunteers, and Parents of Members in the 4-H Youth Development Program
A. Role of 4-H Extension Agents/Program Associates
4-H Extension agents/program associates have the responsibility for oversight of the 4-H Youth Development Program in their assigned counties. This includes the following responsibilities:
- Coordinate the chartering of 4-H membership units (clubs, groups, programs). Chartering includes permission to use the 4-H name and emblem.
- Coordinate the chartering of county 4-H organiza- tions (e.g., 4-H Council, volunteer/parent groups, committees, etc.) annually. Chartering includes use of the 4-H name and emblem.
- Provide opportunities for all young people who have reached the appropriate age to be participants and/or members in the 4-H Youth Development Program.
- Plan and coordinate the county 4-H program.
- Staff the 4-H clubs using volunteers with the assistance of the volunteer/parent leadership and youth leadership.
- Assist the volunteer/parent leadership and youth leadership by providing training and resources for all 4-H volunteers in the county.
- Explain and enforce 4-H Rules and Procedures.
- Train and supervise 4-H volunteers in conducting the county 4-H Youth Development Program.
- Ensure that a quality 4-H educational program is conducted in the county.
- Inform 4-H volunteers and members about opportunities at county, district, regional, state, national, and international levels.
- Appoint or dismiss 4-H members, 4-H volunteers, and 4-H parents.
Extension agents/program associates are expected to conduct themselves as good role models for 4-H’ers both in public and private. This includes appropriate dress, language, and moral conduct in accordance with acceptable standards of our society.
Extension agents/program associates have the responsibility for communicating the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s best financial management practice procedures to all clubs, groups, and programs operating under the name of 4-H. Clubs, groups, and programs are required annually to affirm committee review of accounts for best management practices.
B. MSU Extension 4-H Volunteer Screening
MSU Extension 4-H Volunteer Registration
Mississippi State University (MSU) and its affiliates are committed to providing and maintaining a safe and secure environment for all individuals. Because additional measures may be required to promote the safety of minors (4-H’ers), and because MSU sponsors and/or hosts numerous programs, camps, and activities involving minors (4-H’ers), the university has adopted a Minor Protection Policy. By developing and implementing this policy, MSU seeks to safeguard these minors (4-H’ers) and enhance educational opportunities for the entire university community.
Why does 4-H run background checks?
- To provide and maintain a safe and secure environment for 4-H’ers
- To promote safety for 4-H’ers
- To safeguard minors and enhance educational opportunities for the entire Extension and university community
- To use all reasonable efforts to protect all participants in the 4-H program
Requirements for adults to serve as volunteers interacting with 4-H’ers:
- Must have a background examination by TrueScreen or an approved agency
- After approval, must complete a volunteer packet to become a registered volunteer
- Must be entered in the 4-H county enrollment system
- Must complete the Risk Management Module
- Must send Risk Management Acknowledgement to the State 4-H Office after completing module
- Individuals with a Firearms Permit will meet the requirements for the background check should they present their valid concealed-carry permit card.
- Teachers who present a copy of their background check results will also meet the requirements of an official background check.
4-H Volunteer Screening Overview
A. Who is screened?
- All volunteers who work with participants and adults should be screened through the Youth Protection Standards Program.
- Initial screening of a volunteer is conducted when he/she applies for a volunteer role with the Mississippi State University Extension 4-H Youth Development program. Volunteers must be screened before fulfilling any volunteer roles.
- Rescreening of all Extension 4-H volunteers is conducted every 3 years from the volunteer’s most recent screening.
i. Note: 4-H Volunteers—The need for re-screening is determined on a 4-H year basis. For example, a volunteer screened any time prior to or during the 2014–16 4-H years (between September 1, 2014, and August 31, 2016) needs to be rescreened at the beginning of 4-H Year 2017 (September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017).
B. Who is a certified direct volunteer?
- A certified direct volunteer is any adult who meets the following criteria:
- Provides unpaid support for Extension through face-to-face contact;
- Provides a learning experience for adults or 4-H’ers within Extension;
- Has an individual volunteer application on file with the appropriate program area;
- Has a position description on file; and
- Has passed a criminal background check within the past 3 years.
Note: 4-H volunteers must complete required online Risk Management training before being accepted.
- Master volunteers are also considered to be direct volunteers.
C. Are overnight or driving chaperones screened?
- Individuals who are driving 4-H’ers or chaperoning 4-H’ers for overnight events are considered direct volunteers and must be screened and cleared through the Youth Protection Standards Program before serving as a volunteer.
D. What kind of criminal background check is conducted?
- A national criminal background check is conducted through TrueScreen. This is a private group, designated through the MSU Extension 4-H program, that conducts background searches.
- The criminal background check consists of TrueScreen records search, a national search, and a search of state and national sex offender lists.
E. What information is required for screening?
- Full, legal name (first, middle, and last)
- Address(es) lived in the past 7 years
- Date of birth
- Race/Ethnicity (although optional, this helps affirm the volunteer’s identity)
- First five digits of social security number
- Driver’s license number
• All information is a determining factor that helps confirm the volunteer’s identity when a background check is completed.
• For all volunteer applications (whether a paper application or online form), it is imperative that all requested information is provided to avoid any delays in the screening process.
F. When is screening conducted?
- Initial screening of a volunteer is conducted immediately after a volunteer expresses an interest in becoming a direct volunteer with the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H program.
Note: Volunteers must be screened before fulfilling any volunteer role as a direct volunteer.
- Rescreening through the TrueScreen program is conducted every 3 years from the volunteer’s most recent screening.
- No grandfathering of volunteers is allowed in the program.
G. Is screening conducted by other entities accepted by Extension?
- Volunteers may document a prior criminal background check from another entity on the volunteer application or when enrolling in the 4-H Enrollment System.
- Extension will only accept screening performed by entities that are approved.
Examples: School teachers’ hard copy background results; Concealed Weapon Carry Permit; or background results approved by the associate director for MSU Extension 4-H.
H. How are volunteer applications processed?
- Volunteer applications and information are reviewed by the associate director for 4-H, Extension volunteer specialist, and 4-H office associate, who completes the necessary filing.
- County Extension agents are not informed of the details of the criminal history record. Information obtained through the volunteer application and screening is completely confidential.
- All forms are kept confidential. All electronic files are password-protected at multiple levels.
I. How are screening results reviewed?
- Criminal records are reviewed for “red flags.” A red flag is a charge or a conviction on a criminal history record.
- All official criminal history records are shredded and not kept on file, unless the volunteer is pending due to a request for more information.
J. How is the status of volunteers determined?
- A volunteer’s status is based on the charge or conviction, frequency of offense, and the amount of time that has passed since the offense occured.
- All volunteer records are reviewed and handled on an individual basis.
- Volunteer applicants are identified with one of the following status categories:
i. Cleared: Approved to fulfill all duties of the volunteer role for which the volunteer is applying.
ii. Restricted: Restrictions may be imposed based on the charges or conviction record.
Example: A conviction of numerous bad checks would result in a restriction of not handling or managing any group funds.
Example: A DWI conviction in the last 10 years would result in a restriction of not driving 4-H’ers other than the volunteer’s own legal children.
iii. Pending: This determination is based on an incomplete criminal history report, no disposition of a case, or a question related to a charge. Additional information may be requested from a volunteer. Details regarding records are not shared with county or other program faculty.
iv. Dismissed/Denied: A volunteer is dismissed/denied based on certain convictions of the Mississippi Penal Code. Automatic dismissals result from indecency with a child, injury to a child, sexual assault, and murder or felony drug convictions. A volunteer may also be denied if he/she does not respond to requests for more information on a charge.
Examples: A conviction of embezzlement or mishandling group funds would result in dismissal. A registered sex offender would result in denial.
K. What warrants a volunteer to be rescreened or his/her status reviewed?
- The following conditions may warrant review of a volunteer’s status or rescreening:
i. Questionable situation
ii. A written complaint against a volunteer
iii. Knowledge and evidence of a volunteer being charged or arrested
iv. Knowledge and evidence of a volunteer making an improper advancement toward a 4-H’er
- County Extension agents should communicate with their respective regional coordinator immediately upon learning of an incident or questionable situation.
- Copies of correspondence sent to the volunteer (i.e., dismissal letter) should be sent to the Mississippi State University Extension 4-H Office and the Extension regional coordinator so it may be filed with the volunteer’s record.
C. Role of 4-H Volunteers
4-H is a non-formal educational program delivered by volunteers who are supervised by Extension agents/program associates. A 4-H volunteer leader is a person who is responsible for a group, activity, or event and the members and/or other volunteers involved.
There are two major roles adults may assume in 4-H:
- Direct Volunteer — As defined in Extension Service and Land Grant University Cooperating Extension Service, United States Department of Agriculture ES Form 237 (7/93): “Unpaid support for the 4-H program through face-to-face contact with youth, by a youth or adult, e.g.: project leader, club leader, camp counselor, teacher, activity leader, organizational leader, and teen leader.”
- Indirect Volunteer— As defined in Extension Service and Land Grant University Cooperating Extension Service, United States Department of Agriculture ES Form 237 (7/93): “Unpaid support for the 4-H program by a youth or adult which does not include face-to-face contact with youth, e.g.: boards, committees.”
It is the responsibility of the 4-H volunteer to carry out the assigned position responsibilities that he or she has accepted. 4-H volunteers are expected to conduct themselves as good examples for youth in both public and private life. This includes appropriate dress, language, and moral conduct in accordance with the generally recognized standards of our society. It should be understood by the volunteers that they are expected to participate in learning, training, and teaching opportunities provided for them.
In order for a volunteer to serve with the Mississippi State University 4-H Youth Development Program, all 4-H volunteers must be enrolled on the Volunteer Enrollment Form. This is an annual process.
Mississippi 4-H volunteer leaders are provided the same liability benefits as those provided to regular employees of the state under the Mississippi Immunity Act (SS11-46-1, et, seq., Mississippi Code of 1972). (Reference: University Counsel letter dated November 10, 1998, to Dr. Ronald A. Brown, MCES.)
Adult volunteer leaders are expected to act in good faith and without negligence in the performance of their duties in order to minimize any chance of creating a Mississippi State University Extension Service liability.
A person must be at least 21 years of age at the time of a 4-H event to serve as an adult overnight chaperone. In the case of out-of-state chaperoning, an adult must be 25 years of age or older.
Volunteer Code of Conduct
The following guidelines assist volunteers in understanding personal conduct expectations during the course and scope of their duties. 4-H volunteer leaders must abide by all applicable Mississippi State University Extension policies.
To be a 4-H volunteer, you must—
- Be at least 21 years of age as of January 1 of the current year.
- Complete a Mississippi 4-H Volunteer Leader Application Form annually.
- Complete a screening background check.
A 4-H volunteer is expected to—
- Respect the individual rights, safety, and property of others.
- Participate in routine volunteer training opportunities and activities pertinent to their duties.
- Be committed to the core values, educational goals, and standards of the 4-H Youth Development Program.
- Support the 4-H Youth Development Program and its Rules and Procedures.
- Recognize and support the responsibilities of the 4-H Youth Development Program staff in setting program standards, priorities, and direction.
- Support the nondiscrimination practices of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
- Make all reasonable efforts to provide access to 4-H-related information and equal opportunities to young people in their community, helping them to participate in project activities, awards programs, and other events and activities.
- Obey Mississippi laws on the use of motor vehicles.
- Not consume alcohol and/or illegal drugs (or to be under the influence thereof) while involved in or en route to any 4-H event, meeting, or activity.
- Maintain direct supervision of 4-H members. Volunteers should not leave their delegation unsupervised unless they have received approval from the individual in charge of the overall event or delegation.
- Not sign a lease agreement, use permit with schools or other public or private facilities, or grant or order contract on behalf of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. All such agreements must be forwarded to the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H office for review.
- Recognize Mississippi law requiring all adults to report suspected child abuse to the police or county child protective services.
- Safeguard and hold confidential any information gained through administrative duties involving supervision of personnel or other information identified by the program as being confidential.
- Not physically or verbally abuse a 4-H member, or use corporal punishment to reprimand a 4-H member for any reason.
- Understand that falsifying enrollment information, budgets, documents, or records is a breach of the Code of Ethics.
- Not engage in sexual activity with 4-H members.
- Adhere to fiscal responsibility and financial best management practices as outlined by the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
- Register as a volunteer in only one county.
- Not receive compensation for professional services provided in support of 4-H activities (excluding reimbursement for approved and receipted expenses).
- Not use tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs while supervising participants.
- Reference Mississippi State University Extension Form 807 4-H Parental Release and Code of Conduct Agreement and Information Sheet 1522 Guidelines for Supervising Youth.
Consequences for Infractions
Infractions of these requirements by volunteers must be reported to Extension regional coordinators and/or the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H office. Consequences may include the following:
- Discussion of the inappropriate actions with the 4-H leader; clarification of the policy.
- Release of the adult to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
- Termination as a 4-H volunteer.
- Notification of incident to legal authorities.
Cause for Reassignment or Dismissal of Volunteers
The purpose of the 4-H program is youth development, and agents and volunteers should spend the primary portion of their time in positive work that supports quality experiences for boys and girls. Volunteers should be provided with a written position description that they agree to and are required to sign. One copy should be kept on file in the county Extension office and one returned to the volunteer. Volunteers are expected to participate in training necessary to carry out their responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the adult 4-H volunteer to carry out the assigned responsibilities that he or she has accepted. 4-H volunteers are expected to conduct themselves in both public and private life as good examples for 4-H’ers. This includes appropriate dress, language, and moral conduct in accordance with the generally recognized standards of our society. It should be understood by the volunteer that he or she is expected to pursue avenues of learning, training, and teaching provided to them.
A volunteer may be reassigned or dismissed at the sole discretion of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Examples of conduct that could lead to disciplinary action include, but are not limited to, the following: illegal activity, behavior that compromises the health and safety of 4-H’ers, violating an Extension policy, violating 4-H Rules and Procedures, willfully violating or causing children to violate rules, being habitually disruptive to the overall program, being unwilling or unable to work amicably with agents and other leaders, engaging in conduct that is harmful to the 4-H program’s reputation, or failing to rotate the leadership role. The nature and seriousness of the infraction or violation will determine whether the option of reassignment or dismissal should be considered.
A volunteer who is unable to grasp the overall philosophy of youth development may be counseled toward other avenues of volunteering.
A child who has a parent dismissed as a 4-H volunteer is still eligible to participate in 4-H.
Procedure for Dismissal
Before any official action is taken, county professional staff and their immediate Extension supervisors should counsel volunteers about problems. Always keep written records of discussions concerning volunteer performance. Use the following steps for a volunteer’s removal only after extensive efforts have been made to help the volunteer improve his or her performance.
Step 1: County staff representatives should meet wit the volunteer to discuss problems with performance and/or any 4-H Rules and Procedures violations. Specific areas for improvement should be outlined and recorded. A written record of the meeting should be kept and copies provided to all participants, including immediate Extension supervisors.
Step 2: If problems continue, a second meeting may be held with the volunteer. The volunteer should be given a probationary period, during which performance must improve. If problems continue, the volunteer should be removed from service. Again, written records should be kept and copies provided as in Step 1. Prior to removing a volunteer from service, county Extension staff must contact their county Extension coordinator, Research and Extension Center head, Extension regional coordinator, and Extension associate director/FCS and 4-H.
Step 3: If removed, the volunteer must be notified in writing of his/her removal from service to 4-H. Provide copies as noted in Steps 1 and 2.
Step 4: If the volunteer wishes to appeal, a written request for review must be submitted within 30 days to the county Extension staff. A written reply should be provided to the volunteer with copies as previously noted.
Step 5: If the volunteer wishes to appeal the decision, a written request for review must be sent to the appropriate Research and Extension Center head and Extension regional coordinator. The review will be completed by a committee designated by the Research and Extension Center head, the Extension regional coordinator, and the associate director for 4-H. A written reply should be provided to the volunteer on the results of the review and the final decision on the appeal. Make copies as noted in Step 1.
Some actions by volunteers may warrant immediate removal or suspension without benefit of the step-by-step process. Extension reserves the right to impose, on a case-by-case basis, immediate removal or suspension for any infraction deemed by Extension to warrant such severe action. Conduct of this severity might include, but is not limited to, the following: arrest or conviction for child abuse, negligence, violent crime, drug use, or other felony violations (including state jail felonies) of the law. In some cases, a volunteer may be suspended until an investigation is completed. A decision for immediate removal must be made with input from the appropriate Extension supervisor and associate director for 4-H.
D. Role of Parents in 4-H
4-H is a youth development program that depends on and encourages the involvement of parents and other significant adults in supporting ongoing educational programs. Parents help members set and accomplish goals and serve as a communications link between their children and the Extension staff and 4-H volunteers.
Procedure for Dismissal of Parents
Parents who, despite having been advised of the appropriate procedure for lodging and resolving their complaints, become disruptive of the 4-H program may be barred from all 4-H functions. While the following process should be used to begin dismissal proceedings, Extension reserves the right to immediately remove parents from the 4-H program under other provisions contained in these Rules and Procedures. (A child who has a parent dismissed as a 4-H volunteer is still eligible to participate in 4-H.)
Step 1: Club leaders or project leaders should counsel with the individual regarding the disruption and discuss alternatives. Such parents need to be advised of ways to address their complaints using an appropriate complaint-resolution process. Written records of this discussion should be kept, and the Extension agent/program associate should receive a copy of such records.
Step 2: If the problem persists, the Extension agent/program associate should meet with the parent and review the expected behavior change and outline the specific behaviors that will not be accepted. The parent should sign a copy of the notes from the meeting as an acknowledgment of his/her attendance and participation in the conference. The parent should receive a written copy of the minutes with an outline of the specific behavior changes expected and a description of the behavior that will not be accepted. Copies of this letter should go to all people involved in the conference and to the Research and Extension Center head, the Extension regional coordinator, and the associate director for FCS and 4-H. Parents who have concerns that cannot be resolved at the county level may contact the appropriate Research and Extension Center head, the Extension regional coordinator, and the associate director for FCS and 4-H.
Step 3: If the problem persists, the Extension agent/program associate jointly with the Research and Extension Center head, the Extension regional coordinator, and the associate director for FCS and 4-H, should write a letter to the parent indicating that he or she will no longer be allowed to attend any 4-H function sponsored by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Such a letter should be sent in a manner that assures the individual receives the letter.
Step 4: Should the individual try to attend any event, the person in charge of that event should ask him or her to leave. If the individual will not leave, local law enforcement should be contacted and asked to remove the individual from the premises. Extension personnel or non-law enforcement volunteers should not attempt to physically remove the parent.
Note: Any adult may be required to immediately leave any 4-H function for using abusive language, threatening any individual, becoming violent, causing bodily harm to any minor (including their own child) or adult, or exhibiting signs of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A. Membership and Enrollment
It is the policy of the Mississippi State University Extension Service to extend equal opportunities for membership and participation in 4-H activities to all young Mississippians in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws.
Discrimination in the 4-H Youth Development Program because of socioeconomic level, race, color, religion, national origin, gender, or disability is contrary to the purposes and policies of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
All young people ages 5 to 18 may join the MSU Extension 4-H program. Age for 4-H membership is determined by the age of the individual as of January 1 of the current year. There are three age categories distinguished within the Mississippi 4-H program:
- Cloverbuds are all children ages 5 to 7. These 4-H’ers participate in special leader-directed program offerings and non-competitive events with a focus on activities.
- Members ages 8 to 18 may participate in a variety of programs that are project-centered, including self-study and individual- or leader-directed programs. For specific rules on projects and competitive participation by each group, refer to http://extension.msstate.edu/content/4-h-project-awards-recognition-handbook.
- Collegiate 4-H is open to all 4-H alumni or non-alumni as they enter institutes of higher education.
Special Membership Offerings
Special education 4-H’ers who are older than 19 and have not graduated from high school may participate in 4-H Youth Development programs as members, with approval by the Extension agent/program associate. Participation is limited to the club or county level. County Extension staff have the option, on a case-by-case basis, to allow special education members older than 19 to participate in competitive events at the club or county level.
Other Membership Requirements
A young person becomes a 4-H member when he/she either completes an individual enrollment form or is included in a group enrollment form. Membership cannot be held simultaneously in more than one county or state, but membership may change with residence, as long as the member competes in a given project in only one county or state.
A member of a 4-H club must participate in 4-H learning groups and other educational activities under the guidance of a 4-H volunteer who is enrolled in the county Extension office. A member of a 4-H club is expected to enroll in one or more 4-H projects and provide written evidence of project completion.
Marriage and parenthood are not barriers to 4-H membership, provided other requirements are met.
A person who is accepted as a 4-H member is entitled to all the rights and privileges of membership in connection with 4-H.
B. Annual 4-H Enrollment
The Mississippi 4-H year runs from October 1 to September 30. All 4-H members and volunteers must be enrolled annually. County Extension staff are expected to keep a record of all 4-H members and volunteers enrolled. In some situations, a 4-H’er may have to change his/her county of residence often. In such cases, county Extension staff are encouraged to help members remain actively involved. 4-H members transferring from one county to another should be accepted by that county and given full credit for their past 4-H work and achievements.
C. Chartering 4-H Clubs
All 4-H clubs must be chartered for authorization to use the 4-H name and emblem. A copy of the charter must be retained on file in the county Extension office. New clubs must be chartered as part of the organizational process.
When the charter is approved, it is presented to the club and allows the club the full benefits of the 4-H organization. This includes the use of the 4-H name and emblem, and the federal tax-exempt status of 4-H when all requirements are met.
A club must meet the following minimum requirements to receive a charter:
- One or more adult leaders
- Elected officers
- Each member enrolled in at least one 4-H project experience
- An approved club or group name
- Club by-laws
The county Extension office must maintain the following on file:
- Club charter
- Club by-laws
- If club has a bank account—IRS identification number for account, location (bank) of account, and names of individuals authorized to sign checks
- Member enrollment forms
- Volunteer leader enrollment packet
- Names of current club officers and club leaders
D. Chartering County 4-H Groups and Organizations
County 4-H groups or organizations (parent/leader association, 4-H council, county 4-H committee, etc.) and fund-raising groups must be chartered to use the 4-H name and emblem.
4-H groups and fund-raising groups wishing to use the 4-H name and emblem must provide the following:
- Membership/contact list
- Meeting locations
- Elected officers
- Group name and year group began
- Copy of most recent financial report
Members may participate in 4-H through several options, and flexibility is offered in each. Boys and girls become 4-H members by enrolling and participating in any of the following membership units.
A. 4-H Clubs
A 4-H club is an educational/learning unit consisting of youth members and managed by one or more volunteer leaders and elected youth officers. It meets regularly over a period of several months, with one or more regular club meetings.
Each member is enrolled in at least one 4-H project. Project groups are taught by project leaders, teen leaders, and/or junior leaders. Each 4-H member should meet the general requirements to complete a project. These include the following:
- Select a project area and record it on the 4-H enrollment form.
- Develop a set of project goals.
- Participate in at least six project-learning experiences, each 20 to 60 minutes in length.
- Regularly complete at least one project goal.
- Attend workshops that are available in your community or county on your particular project.
- Develop leadership by teaching others.
- Conduct citizenship activities related to your project.
- Find new and fun things to do in your project area.
There are seven basic types of 4-H clubs:
Community Club: A community 4-H club is identified by the following characteristics:
- Organization based upon proximity of the participants
- Enrollment of at least one adult club leader
- Enrollment of as many project and/or activity leaders as required
- Presence of elected youth officers such as president, vice president, treasurer, secretary
- Holds regular meetings
- Conducts project meetings as needed
- Enrolls and involves parents in the club program
- Conducts a community service project
Project Club: A 4-H project club has the same characteristics as a community club, but the original organization is based on a single project. Expansion after the original project organization into other project areas is accepted.
School Club: A school club has the same characteristics as a community club, but it is organized and conducted in school, and membership may be divided into several clubs of different ages.
4-H After-School Club: An after-school club is the same as a school club, but it is organized in an after-school setting.
Military 4-H Club: A military club has the same characteristics as a community club, but it is organized and conducted on a military installation.
Collegiate 4-H Club: Collegiate clubs are composed of members who are enrolled in a post-secondary educational program at a college or university. These clubs are recognized as constructive segments of the 4-H Youth Development Program. However, collegiate 4-H members are not considered 4-H members for the purpose of these guidelines. These clubs are service-focused.
Virtual 4-H Club: A Virtual 4-H Club operates in the same manner as any other 4-H club with the exception of meeting virtually. The virtual 4-H club allows a very diverse group of young people to be engaged in the 4-H club experience. This includes all students—home-schooled, public-schooled, private-schooled, and any others. The development of online virtual 4-H Clubs allows more young people access to the positive youth development and educational opportunities provided by the Mississippi State University Extension 4-H club program.
B. Special Interest/School Enrichment Groups
Special interest/school enrichment groups are organized as educational groups for audiences with a specific interest or audiences that do not have the time for involvement in the regular 4-H program. The special interest/school enrichment groups may attract those who would not otherwise participate in the 4-H program.
Special Interest Groups: Special interest clubs include the following characteristics:
- Organized or coordinated by Extension professionals
- Directed and taught by volunteer adults or youth leaders
- No elected officers
- Consist of 6 or more hours of learning experience
School Enrichment Groups: School enrichment clubs have the following characteristics:
- Involve learning activities that take place in a classroom setting
- Led by a school staff member or an Extension volunteer
- Consists of at least 6 or more hours of learning experiences (each in segments of 20 to 60 minutes in length).
- Uses the 4-H clover and promotes other ways members can participate
A curriculum enrichment unit is an individual classroom. Youth in 4-H school enrichment programs are counted only once per year as members, but they are reported individually for each school enrichment project.
C. Other Membership Units
Overnight camps—4-H’ers take part in an Extension outdoor group-living experience, which includes being away from home at least 1 night. Overnight camps are not restricted to members of organized 4-H clubs.
Day camps—4-H’ers take part in an Extension outdoor experience during a specific time period ranging from 1 day to 1 week. Day camps are not restricted to members of organized 4-H clubs.
A. Curriculum/Project Manuals/Leader Guides
The individual project is the basis of many learning experiences in the 4-H Youth Development Program. Each 4-H member is expected to participate in at least one 4-H project. The kind and number of 4-H projects available to 4-H members in a given community will be determined by the interests and needs of the members and by the availability of interested and qualified volunteer leaders. Extension agents/program associates, in cooperation with volunteers, have the opportunity to develop new educational experiences to meet the localized needs of youth that are not met in the present program. New projects and activities are made available to the entire state when it becomes clear they will serve a worthwhile purpose and when curriculum support materials have been prepared.
B. Project Opportunities
MSU Extension Publication 1447 Mississippi 4-H Project Enrollment Guide includes a summary of 4-H projects that are offered through the Mississippi 4-H Youth Development Program. These projects are endorsed at the state level and may include curricula support, achievement opportunities, and program learning strategies. Additionally, there is a list of self-determined projects that 4-H members may participate in and use locally.
Recognition in 4-H encourages and supports further learning. Recognition comes as a result of participation in educational experiences. 4-H uses recognition to acknowledge each person’s effort and to provide positive reinforcement to continue participating in learning activities. Appropriate recognition takes many forms and respects individual differences. A balanced recognition program, incorporating the five-phase recognition model, is preferred and recommended. 4-H’ers may be recognized for 1) participation, 2) progress toward personal goals, 3) achievement of standards of excellence, 4) success in peer competition, and 5) cooperative learning. (Reference: “National 4-H Recognition Model.”)
D. Competitive Awards Programs
Extension agents/program associates must not be involved in the selection process of any 4-H award recipient or other 4-H opportunity recipient, including both young people and adults, in the county in which they work. This includes award programs, record book winners, camps, labs, and state events with county quotas, and so on. Extension agents/program associates should make arrangements for the appointment of unbiased committees to select 4-H members and adults for awards and other 4-H opportunities. Criteria and guidelines should be made available to all families.
E. Eligibility for Participation in Specific Events and Activities
Specific events and activities may require that rules be established beyond normal 4-H rules and guidelines. When this is the case, the responsibility for establishing and monitoring such rules rests with the organizational group in charge of the event or activity. Such rules, once made, should be made known to all 4-H members and their families. The rules must not violate the rights or discriminate against the rights of any person and should be stated so as to be inclusive in nature.
F. Eligibility for Participation in Competitive Events Beyond State Level
The contestants or teams of contestants must be certified as the official state entry by the associate director for 4-H or by a person designated by the associate director. In order to represent the state in a national 4-H competition, the 4-H member must have qualified at the state-level competitive event.
G. Cooperation Between 4-H, FFA, and Other Organizations
The 4-H Youth Development Program and Future Farmers of America (FFA) work cooperatively. Exhibiting projects and participating in similar educational and competitive events offered by the two organizations should always emphasize maximizing educational opportunities for young people. Consistent with the rules and procedures of the specific events and contingent upon an agreement between the county Extension 4-H Youth Development Program staff member and the FFA program staff member, participants are allowed to use the same projects and/or activites to participate in FFA and 4-H programs.
4-H members are expected to maintain a high standard of socially appropriate behavior, which corresponds to the expectations outlined in the Code of Conduct.
A. Appropriate Behavior
The Mississippi State University Extension Service supports moral and ethical behavior on the part of its staff and all 4-H program participants, parents, and adult volunteers. Fairness, honesty, and good sportsmanship are expected and encouraged. Fraudulent, illegal, or deceptive practices while exhibiting individual projects or demonstrating knowledge and skills will not be tolerated.
B. Mississippi Junior Livestock Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics, and Rules
All 4-H’ers must abide by the Mississippi Junior Livestock Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics, and Rules.
C. Handling 4-H Member Behavior Problems During 4-H Events and Activities
Rules and guidelines ffor 4-H’ers participating in clubs, programs, and activities will be clearly stated and will be made available to all eligible young people. Consequences of violating rules will be clearly stated and enforced uniformly and fairly.
Prior to an event, managers responsible for 4-H activities and events must communicate expected standards of behavior. Standards of behavior and consequences should be reviewed with participants as part of the initial orientation. Violators may be required to explain actions to the professional Extension staff in charge. Behavior that is disruptive to the event will be documented, and a letter describing this behavior will be sent to the 4-H Extension agent/program associate, other appropriate Extension personnel, and parents/guardians of those involved. The three categories of offenses and examples of common conduct constituting an offense of that degree are listed below. Obviously, it is not practical to list every possible act that would constitute an offense of a certain degree; the items in each list are intended only to be examples of prohibited conduct. Extension staff have discretion to assign offense degrees to particular conduct given the case-specific facts and circumstances related to an incident.
- Habitually late to program activities
- Not in room at designated time for overnight events
- Not possessing good manners
- Using language that is offensive to others
- Not respecting the rights and privacy of roommates or others attending an activity
- A discipline problem that requires more than two reprimands is grounds for sending a 4-H member home at the parent’s/guardian’s expense.
- A discipline problem that requires more than four reprimands during one calendar year is grounds for the 4-H member not to be allowed in any county, district, or state activities for the remainder of the 4-H year.
- Inappropriate visitation (no male 4-H’ers visiting female 4-H’ers lodging area or vice versa).
- Leaving a 4-H activity without the permission of the staff member in charge
- Intentional damage to meeting site, sleeping quarters, person, or other person’s property
- Possession or use of tobacco products
- Lying or untruthfulness to chaperones, leaders, event organizers, or others in attendance
- A discipline problem that requires one or two reprimands is grounds for removing a 4-H member from the event or activity and/or sending a participant home at the parent’s/guardian’s expense.
- A discipline problem that requires three reprimands during one calendar year is grounds for the 4-H member not to be allowed in any county, district, or state activities for the remainder of the 4-H year.
- Possession or use of alcohol or drugs
- Possession or use of a weapon
- Threatening another person with a weapon or bodily harm
- Sexual activities
- Theft of any kind
- Acting in a manner considered by 4-H administration to be harmful or potentially harmful to the health or well-being of the 4-H member or others, whether such act occurred within or outside of the 4-H program
- Automatic removal from an event/activity and/or sending a participant home at the parent’s/guardian’s expense.
- One major offense during any 4-H year may lead to suspension of membership in all Mississippi 4-H Youth Development programs for the remainder of the 4-H year, along with the possibility of facing criminal charges.
- May lead to termination of 4-H membership.
At a minimum, for every offense, the 4-H member will receive a verbal reprimand and be required to write letters of apology to the appropriate people.
If the offense is severe enough to consider sending the member home, the event manager should follow these steps unless they are impractical given the particular circumstances of the incident:
- Obtain all the relevant facts.
- Brief the on-site adult responsible for the youth delegate (Extension staff member or 4-H volunteer).
- If not on-site but available via phone, brief the county Extension staff member and Research and Extension Center head, Extension regional coordinator, and associate director for 4-H.
- Review consequences of misbehavior.
The following steps should be taken when sending a 4-H member home:
- Extension staff member contacts parents.
- Parents are advised that their child is being sent home by safest, most direct means, and that parents are responsible for cost.
- Event manager decides if parents should be given the option of picking up the child.
Under no circumstance should the 4-H member be sent home without supervision (alone), even if that member has provided his or her own transportation (driven himself/herself) to the event. The parent/guardian of the member must come pick up the member, or an Extension staff member or 4-H adult volunteer must accompany that member to his or her parent/guardian.
Follow-up correspondence from the event’s manager should be sent to all appropriate Extension staff, the Research and Extension Center head, the Extension regional coordinator, the associate director for 4-H, the member, and the member’s parent/guardian for documentation. For all reprimands, a Summary Letter and Accident/Incident Report Form must be completed and mailed to the 4-H member, parent, Extension agent/program associate, Research and Extension Center head, the Extension regional coordinator, and the associate director of 4-H. Additionally, notification will be made to the Extension agent/program associate, Research and Extension Center head, the Extension coordinator, and the associate director for 4-H prior to mailing the letter and form.
D. Waiver, Indemnification, and Authorization for Medical Care
A Mississippi 4-H Health and Medical Emergency Form (F696) is now required for each event.
The county Extension staff is responsible for communicating best management practices as outlined by the Mississippi State University Extension Service for all 4-H club accounts and county 4-H program accounts. The county 4-H program must prepare an annual budget. A current county support fund report for each county 4-H Youth Development Program account should be kept on file in the county Extension office. County Extension staff, 4-H volunteers, and 4-H members should never use their personal Social Security numbers for 4-H accounts. County Extension staff should never have their signatures on file on a 4-H account. For more information about financial management, contact your Extension regional coordinator or the State 4-H Department.
A. Raising Funds for 4-H
The 4-H program is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit educational organization and is eligible to receive charitable gifts and conduct fund-raising events in keeping with IRS Regulation 501c3. Any 4-H group raising funds should do so in the most professional manner. Funds should be raised only for projects that will enhance the development of members and volunteers.
All 4-H clubs or groups raising and/or holding funds collected under the name of 4-H (in any form) must retain all accounting records and have them ready for public review upon request, ensure frequent audits are held, and ensure all funds collected are used specifically as stated when collected. ALL FUNDS held or collected under the name 4-H are PUBLIC FUNDS.
Administrative approval must be obtained from the Mississippi State University Extension associate director for 4-H for the following:
- Use of the 4-H name or emblem in connection with the sale of a commercial product or service
- Sale of any product that may be competitive with normal trade channels
B. Membership Dues
Charging membership dues is optional for each 4-H club. The Mississippi State University Extension Service charges no fees for 4-H club membership. A person cannot be denied membership to any 4-H club, nor participation in an event or activity, as a result of non-payment of dues alone.
C. Exemption Certificates in Lieu of Sales Tax
There is no state sales tax exempt number for 4-H clubs. 4-H clubs are not automatically state sales tax exempt. Individual activities may be declared exempt from sales tax. Items obtained or made for sale by 4-H clubs may be subject to sales tax collection.
4-H clubs, members, and/or volunteers are NOT state (Mississippi) sales tax exempt. Tax exemption of 4-H references FEDERAL income tax.
D. 4-H Club/Unit Bank Accounts
Local 4-H clubs and support groups that maintain separate bank accounts should obtain an IRS employer identification number. The EIN will be assigned by the IRS after completion of IRS Form SS-4. 4-H members, volunteers, or Extension staff members should never use their Social Security numbers for 4-H bank accounts. All checks should be signed by two individuals (for example, the club treasurer and an adult leader), but NOT AN MSU EXTENSION EMPLOYEE. Two people from the same family must not sign checks.
Clubs and support groups authorized to use the 4-H name and emblem must follow Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H best management practices concerning financial matters.
E. 4-H Club Finances
(Reference: Form 1019 Mississippi 4-H Club Treasurer’s Manual and Record Book)
The treasurer of a 4-H club should receive all money secured by the club and deposit it into a bank account. Disbursements of club money should be made by check with the signature of the club treasurer, or of both the club treasurer and an adult volunteer upon approval by the club membership.
The club should develop a budget at the beginning of the year, secure resources to meet the budget requirements, and prepare a financial statement at the end of the year. In case the club disbands, all money and property become the property of the county 4-H Youth Development Program.
Every 4-H club must submit an annual financial statement to the county Extension staff. Failure to submit these reports can result in the 4-H club’s charter not being renewed.
A. 4-H Name and Emblem
(Reference: Using the 4-H Name and Emblem, http://nifa.usda.gov/4-h-name-and-emblem)
Use of the 4-H name and emblem is protected under 18 U.S.C.707. The 4-H name and emblem is a highly valued mark within our country’s history. As such, it was granted a very unique and special status; it is in a category similar to the Presidential seal and the Olympic emblem. The care of this name and emblem is the responsibility of all Mississippi State University Extension Service employees.
Mississippi 4-H clubs and affiliate groups are permitted to use the name and emblem once they are chartered through Mississippi 4-H. Use on a multi-county or state basis should be approved by the Mississippi State University Extension Service associate director for 4-H. Any commercial vendor, private organization, or other entity must request permission and guidelines through the MSU Extension 4-H state department for using the 4-H name and emblem. Any request to use the 4-H name and emblem in a way that does not specify a local or state program must pass through national 4-H headquarters at USDA in Washington, D.C. In all instances, such use shall conform to state and national policy and be for the furtherance of the 4-H educational program rather than for the benefit of private individuals, commercial vendors, donors, or others.
It is important that 4-H members and adults participating in county, district, regional, and state events are appropriately dressed for the occasion. Members and adults giving leadership to the event should be notified by Extension personnel of appropriate dress for the occasion.
C. 4-H and Advertising
In any advertisement, display, exhibit, film, news release, publication, web page, radio program, or television representation, the 4-H message must be distinctly set apart from commercial reference. Advertisements, public releases, or displays done by 4-H clubs or groups, 4-H members, volunteer leaders, Extension, or its employees cannot include actual or implied testimonials or endorsements of business firms or their products or services.
Participants in 4-H events should be insured for illness and accident under a policy taken out by the sponsoring group. Participants should be advised that the insurance used by 4-H will not cover preexisting conditions and may not pay all medical costs. The insurance that is obtained is a secondary coverage unless the individual does not have any coverage at all. There are two ways to have your participants covered. One is to secure a policy that would cover the members the entire year for all activities/events; the other way is to obtain coverage per event/activity the member participates in. Contact your local county Extension office to receive more information about coverage.
E. Legislative Contacts
All contacts initiated by Extension staff with members of the Senate and House of Representatives in Mississippi and in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the 4-H Youth Development Program, must be approved by Mississippi State University Extension, with approval requested through the staff member’s immediate supervisor.
F. Unescorted Minors and Travel
If a minor 4-H member travels unescorted in a personal vehicle to a 4-H event beyond the county level and lodging is required on-site, the member will be expected to turn in the keys upon arrival to the adult in charge.
Minors traveling to and from 4-H events beyond the county level are expected to have written permission from a custodial parent/guardian to travel alone or leave the group outside the posted schedule.
G. Other 4-H Guidelines
- 4-H members can be members of only one county 4-H program in one state.
- All 4-H members must participate in a county qualifying 4-H competition to be eligible for district, state, regional, and/or national 4-H competitions. In the event there is no team participation, team(s) to represent the county will be decided based on the highest-scoring individuals competing in the qualifying event.
- 4-H Shooting Sports members wishing to participate in one of the four district events must participate in the district event in which their 4-H membership resides.
- Any individual or team qualifying for regional and/or national 4-H competitions must receive final approval by the associate director for 4-H.
- For competitive events, the agent in charge of 4-H in the county must send an official delegate list to the State 4-H Office at least 5 business days before departure.
Publication 2431 (POD-10-17)Revised by Larry Alexander, Extension Professor, 4-H Youth Development.
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