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You want your Girl Scouts to have fun, be inspired, take risks, and learn about themselves and the world—that’s why you’re a Girl Scout troop leader or troop volunteer! Parents and caregivers want the same thing for their girls but getting families to pitch in and play an active role in the troop while also enhancing the experience for their girl and themselves can be tricky for many volunteers. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Kick the Year Off Right by Engaging Parents and Other Caregivers

When families step up and play an active part in troop life, your troop can shine its brightest! Plus, girls feel a special sense of pride when their families take part and show interest in the things they are doing. 

What Is a Parent and Caregiver Meeting?

It’s the first meeting you have to start each troop year—whether you are a new or returning troop, it’s valuable for all troops. 

Why Hold a Meeting? Kicking off each year with a parent and caregiver meeting sets the troop up for success. Outlining clear expectations, building a team, and engaging parents in the Girl Scout experience is a great way to start off on the right foot. When parents are involved, leaders have support, the troop has a plan, and girls’ benefit! The meeting helps:

  • Families understand what Girl Scouting can do for their girl. 

  • Families and leaders identify ways they will work as a team to support the troop.  

  • Families and leaders agree about what the troop pays for and what families pay for individually. 

  • You fill key troop positions—you never know which parent will make an awesome assistant leader or troop cookie manager. 

  • Families know how the troop will communicate things like upcoming events or schedule changes. 

  • Families learn about uniforms, books, and other important basics.  

For even more tips on working with troop families, check out Girl Scouts’ Tips for Troop Leaders hub. 

How to Keep Parents and Caregivers Engaged

Make the Ask(s). The main reason people don’t take action is because they were never asked to in the first place. That’s why hearing one out of three Girl Scout parents say no one had communicated expectations around involvement with their girl’s troop is so troubling. Parents may have many talents, but they’re certainly not mind readers. If you’re nervous about getting turned down, don’t be. Sure, a few parents might be unable to lend a hand, but the helpers you do get will be worth their weight in gold. And just because someone wasn’t available a month or two ago doesn’t mean they won’t be free to help now. Loop back, follow up, and ask again!

Make Sense of “Why.” Explain that not only does the whole troop benefit with extra help from parents and other caregivers, but also that girls feel a special sense of pride in seeing their own family member step up and take a leadership role. Getting involved can strengthen the caregiver/girl bond and is a meaningful way to show daughters that they are a priority in their parents’ lives. 

Make It Quick and Easy. Everybody’s got a full plate these days, so instead of starting conversations with a list of tasks or responsibilities that parents and other caregivers could take on (which can be intimidating), ask how much time each week they might be able to dedicate to the troop, then go from there. For instance, if a troop mom or dad has 15 minutes each week to spare, they could organize and manage the calendar for troop snacks and carpools. If a grandparent has one to two hours, they could assist with leading the troop through a specific badge on a topic they’re already comfortable with. 

Make Family Part of the Formula. While Girl Scout programming is always focused on the girls themselves, it’s important and helpful to open up a few events to their families throughout the year. Inviting the whole crew to celebrate her accomplishments in Girl Scouting—whether at a holiday open house, a bridging ceremony, or a fun “reverse meeting” where girls take the role of leaders and guide the adults, including caregivers, through an activity—will help parents better understand the value of Girl Scouts and they’ll be more likely to invest their time and talents to the troop.  

That said, there’s no need to wait for a special event to engage families in their girls’ Girl Scout life. Keep communication lines open throughout the year—whether it’s through your troop’s social media page, personal emails, or in-person chats—to keep parents in the loop on what the girls are doing and learning during each meeting and encourage them to let their daughters “be the experts” at home, explaining or teaching the new skills they’ve learned. You can get everyone in on the fun and keep Girl Scouts strong at home by sharing the family badge guides on the Volunteer Toolkit with parents and caregivers.

Use the following information to help decide how and when to return to troop activities.

Troop Meetings
Troops may begin to meet in person effective June 19, 2020, subject to the provisions set forth in this document. It is recommended that troop leaders take the COVID-19 training before meeting.

Troop Meeting Space
Outdoor spaces where social distancing can be maintained are recommended. When meeting indoors, the following considerations should be made: 

  • Is the space cleaned, and touch surfaces (i.e. tabletops, light switches, chairs, etc.) sanitized, at least daily?
  • Who else uses the space (how often, what size is the group)? Is the space cleaned between groups?
  • Is there access to spaces with handwashing spaces (i.e. rest rooms) available for troop use?

Then, consider whether you can supplement any practices that are less ideal. For example, if you will arrive after another user group, plan to bring sanitizing wipes to get the space ready for your troop. Another example: if faucets are manual, take some time to show girls how to shut them off with a paper towel. Use paper towels for doorknobs whenever possible.

Be mindful when determining meeting locations. Meetings should not access fitness centers or gyms, where a greater risk for contracting the virus may exist. Schools or churches may not permit outside groups on premises, so always check and confirm ahead of time. If you are experiencing issues with finding a meeting location, contact your local council support person for assistance and guidance.

Troop Meetings in the home
GSUSA and GSMW strongly suggests no meetings in the home out of concern that there would be greater risk of exposure to other family members and the personal liability of the homeowner. The recommendation is to avoid in-home meetings.

Troop Meeting Size 
The current suggested maximum is 25 people regardless of whether they are girls or adults, providing it is in accordance with the appropriate adult to girl ratios outlined in Volunteer Essentials. However, check your local restrictions for small gatherings. If more restrictive, follow the local restriction. Restrictions vary greatly from state to state, county to county, and even from town to town – and frequently change. If a state allows more than 50 people to gather, utilize all social distancing practices and follow all preventative guidance, such as face coverings. Get clearance from the council before planning any gatherings of more than 25 people, by emailing customercare@gsmw.org.

If you have a large troop, stay connected while you wait for a safe time for everyone to gather. Large troops are wondering what they can do to stay together, some ideas:

  • Host virtual troop meetings (see below).
  • Gather up in smaller groups – such as age-level groups or groups of girls with a particular badge they’d like to work on.

Transportation 
Individual parents drop off and pick up their own girls from meetings. Carpooling and public transportation should be avoided, where possible, to maintain social distancing.

Virtual meetings 
Meeting options may need to be flexible based on the fluid nature of COVID-19 risk. Troops that are able to run online meetings as needed or wanted should do so. GSUSA recommends maintain a virtual in-person ratio of at least 20/80, which means to maintain virtual troop meetings at least 20% of the time to keep tech skills and virtual meeting habits fresh. Use the Safety Activity Checkpoints for Virtual Meetings to guide your meeting plans: Virtual Troop Meetings.

View Online Meeting Resources

Day trips and activities 
In conjunction with Safety Activity Checkpoints, follow the same guidance as Troop Meetings and Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation guidance in this document. Call ahead to the facility or vendor to confirm that they are following CDC and state health department guidelines. If activity or sporting equipment is being provided, ask the provider if they wipe down equipment in between uses, similar to equipment at the gym. Make whatever appropriate accommodations that are necessary. For example, bring extra sanitizer if none will be provided for public use at the activity location.

Carpooling and public transportation should be avoided, where possible, to maintain social distancing.

Hygiene and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation
Follow the resources developed by credible public health sources such as CDC or your local public health department. Share these with girls and volunteers and ensure that they are practiced during meetings and activities. Place signs in the meeting or activity space to remind girls and volunteers to engage in everyday preventive actions  to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Signs should include:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and wash or sanitize your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Wash hands if you do touch.
  • Volunteers, girls, and parents should be reminded to make sure temperatures are taken prior to group interaction to confirm the individual is not running a fever and temperature is a normal 98.6 degrees. Members with fever or temperature higher than 98.6 should skip the in-person gathering until their temperature is normal.

Personal contact
Hugs, handshakes, “high-fives,” and even activities like the friendship circle or squeeze can transmit COVID-19 from person to person. Refrain from these gestures for the time being. Create a safe way for girls and volunteers to greet and end meetings instead, like tapping elbows.

First Aid Supplies 
Troop first-aid supplies should include COVID-19 prevention items, including hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), tissues, disposable facemasks, and disinfectants. Trash baskets or bags should be supplied for meeting and activity spaces, if not already available. Make sure that the trash baskets or bags are easily accessible for girls. Disposable or no-contact thermometers may be added to supplies if available and not cost prohibitive; however, parents should be checking temperatures and allowing their girl(s) to join group activities only when temperatures are normal.

Disinfectants and Disinfecting 
Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched (i.e., table tops, markers, scissors, etc.). Use a household cleaner, or see the EPA’s list of effective cleaners approved for use against COVID-19. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).

Household bleach is effective against COVID-19 for up to 24 hours when properly diluted. Check that the bleach is not expired and determine if it can be used on a given surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.

To prepare a bleach solution, mix:  

  • 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water OR 
  • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

See the CDC’s website for more on cleaning and disinfecting community facilities.

Face Coverings 
Volunteers should remind the girls that Girl Scouts wear face coverings (masks) not only to protect themselves, but to protect others. Face coverings are a civic responsibility and a sign of caring for the community. Girls can bring their own face covings. Have disposable masks on hand for those who need them. Volunteers can teach girls how to handle their face coverings so that the coverings are effective. Some girls or volunteers may not be able to wear masks, due to medical conditions such as asthma. Contact the council for guidance on how to best to handle these exceptional circumstances as they arise. 

Reporting and communicating a positive COVID 19 test 
In the event of a COVID-19 positive test result, DO NOT contact the other troop members or their parents/guardian. Promptly contact GSMW in this situation. At which point, in addition to state and local health department notification, a council staff member and NOT volunteers, will be responsible for:

  • Confirming and tracing the positive tester
  • Contacting the parents of anyone who may have been exposed (or other volunteers)
  • Notifying a facility where the troop has met

Let other volunteers know that council staff, NOT volunteers, will notify parents and others about a positive test result and that the tester’s identity is confidential. Remember that girl and volunteer health information is private and strictly confidential and should be only shared on a need to know basis with a council staff member.

Contacting Council
Contact Customer Care by phone at 800-736-5243 or email customercare@gsmw.org. If leaving a voice message, please be sure to provide your name, troop number, best phone number and time to contact you.

* * * GSMW GUIDELINES * * *

GSMW Return to In-Person Decision Guide for Volunteers

Interim Guidance

Safety is our top priority at Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming (GSMW). GSMW and GSUSA have assembled COVID-19 safety and health guidance to aid volunteers with decisions regarding in-person activities and meetings. These guidelines support awareness, preparedness, and health for all members and the communities served by GSMW.  In all that we do in the name of Girl Scouts, it is important to demonstrate the Girl Scout Promise and the Law.

Until the CDC, government, and health officials have canceled emergency orders and guidelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, GSMW asks girls and volunteers to adhere to the safest guidelines for their in-person Girl Scout activities.  Volunteers should take all reasonable precautions to limit potential exposure for girls, themselves, and families when making decisions.  

Please note that guidelines vary from state to state and even county to county, so remain aware of local guidance for your area.  Use GSMW’s guidance in conjunction with GSMW Safety Activity Checkpoints along with federal, state, and local COVID-19 regulations, advisories, and circumstances.  Understand that the pandemic is dynamic and, as a result, we must remain flexible and well informed of all changes related to COVID-19.  Continually monitor local, federal, and health department guidelines as well as information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). GSMW may modify this guidance from time to time, as needed.

GSUSA COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs for Parents and Volunteers

Re-opening Phases

GSMW will resume some in-person activities in areas considered Moderate Risk.  COVID-19 risk is fluid and the guidance provided does not supersede more recent government guidance or restrictions. Volunteers should regularly check GSMW’s Returning To In-Person Troop Meetings and Activities page.  Thoroughly read GSMW emails and newsletters, and review individual state and local COVID-19 information for changes that apply to the regions in which activities are proposed. 

Navigating the Guidance

  1. Review the "Hygiene/Safety/Health Risk Mitigation" section.
  2. Determine which phase your region is in.
  3. Review the “Troop and Service Unit Management” section for topics and phase-related guidance.
  4. Contact Customer Care at 1-800-736-5243 or customercare@gsmw.org with questions.
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Covid Phases
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