4-H Volunteers


Wisconsin 4-H Volunteers serve in a variety of educational and leadership roles that provide quality positive youth development programs such as:

  • Supporting 4-H educational youth programs, activities, and experiences
  • Leadership roles for club, county, or state level groups
  • Voting members of county/state level groups
  • Chaperones for 4-H educational experiences

4-H Volunteer Enrollment Process

Anyone who is at least 18 years old by September 1 can apply to become Wisconsin 4-H volunteer as long as they are not enrolled as a high school student.

Individuals cannot be enrolled as both a Wisconsin 4-H member and a Wisconsin 4-H volunteer. Once accepted as a Wisconsin 4-H volunteer, the individual is no longer eligible for Wisconsin 4-H membership.

All 4-H programs and activities must be supervised by a staff member or an approved 4-H volunteer, 18 years of age or older, who has completed all the following steps:

*A background records check for arrest and conviction records will be completed every four years for continuing 4-H volunteer leaders.

**Returning volunteers who have been absent for one to four years need a background records check, signed Volunteer Behavior Expectations form, and Assumption of Risk but are not required to attend the orientation to be reinstated as a volunteer. Returning volunteers who have been absent for over four years need to repeat the entire Youth Protection process.


Chaperones are required for all overnight 4-H programs, projects, and activities. Wisconsin 4-H Chaperones must be approved 4-H volunteers 21 years of age or older that have completed the Supporting Youth Mental Health Training.  Exceptions to the chaperone age requirement can be approved on a case-by-case basis by the 4-H Program Educator in consultation with a 4-H Regional Program Manager provided that the chaperone is at least 2 years older than the youth in the program or activity.

Supervision Ratios

All programs that are under the direction and control of 4-H staff or volunteers must meet or exceed the minimum standards for adult to minor supervision ratios as established by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Age GroupSituationRequired Ratios* (Adult:Minor)
Age 5-9Non-Residential Programming1:10
10 years and overNon-Residential Programming1:18
10 years and over

Non-Residential Programming:

All Water Activities, Recreational Sports, and Field Trips

7 years to 17 yearsResidential or Overnight Programming1:10

Rule of Three

There must be at least two authorized adults and one minor, or one authorized adult and two minors, present for all programs unless the situation qualifies for or is approved for an exception.

  • Some conversations may be most effective outside of the earshot of others (e.g., a child expressing concern for safety to a trusted adult). These conversations should take place in a location that is observable and/or interruptible, with other authorized adults aware of the interaction.
  • In situations where an individual must take care of personal needs in a location that is not observable (e.g., a restroom), authorized adults must minimize the length of time that the rule of three is not maintained (e.g., check on the wellbeing of minors if absent an extended period of time).

Exceptions to the rule of three may be made in the following situations:

  • Emergency situations  (e.g., taking youth to the hospital) and other medical reasons (e.g., visit to a camp nurse).
  • Ongoing training and mentoring programs where one-on-one interaction is justified by the educational value and permission has been granted through current university policy.
    • These interactions should take place in public places (e.g., coffee shop, library) whenever possible.
    • Educational materials highlighting the potential risks and benefits of unsupervised one-on-one interactions will be made available to parents/guardians.
  • Situations in which a one-time exception is made through Extension’s one-on-one exception procedure and agreed to in writing by the youth program participant’s parent/guardian.


Transportation to and from Extension activities is the responsibility of the participant and/or their parents/guardians. Individuals who choose to carpool to/from Extension programs assume any and all associated risks.

Driver Authorization for Volunteers

In situations where transportation for youth is provided as part of the Extension program, authorized adults who are 21 years of age or older and are approved to drive as part of their roles must complete the UW-Madison Driver Authorization.

  • Extension volunteers must complete the UW-Madison Driver Authorization process and maintain approval status in order to drive personally owned or rented vehicles on University business when acting in their volunteer roles. **Please allow at least three weeks for Volunteer Driver Authorization to be approved. 
  • When driving youth as part of an Extension role, individuals who are not the youth’s parent/guardian must adhere to the rule of three unless approved through Extension’s one-on-one exception procedure and agreed to in writing by the youth program participant’s parent/guardian in advance of the travel.
  • Authorized adults who are transporting youth as part of their roles must follow Wisconsin Department of Transportation Child Safety Seat Laws. It is recommended that all unrelated youth program participants sit in the back seat, assuming the youth are all of similar ages.

Please refer to Extension’s Handbook on the Protection of Vulnerable Populations for more information on the following topics:

  • Screening of Employees and Volunteers
  • Training for Employees and Volunteers
  • Program Approval Process (4-H Charter or Approval of Institute Director)
  • Employee and Volunteer Behavior Expectations
  • Staff and Volunteers’ Interactions with Youth
  • Staff and Volunteer Interactions with Vulnerable Adults
  • Appropriate Physical Contact with Vulnerable Populations
  • Responding to Incidents
  • Consequences for Non-Compliance

The Division of Extension (Extension) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) is committed to offering educational programs that are available in every community and to every person in Wisconsin, while maintaining effective protections for vulnerable populations, including youth and vulnerable adults. Effective protections are composed of a variety of elements including, but not limited to, screening adults who work with vulnerable populations, education about abuse and harassment, rules regarding appropriate interactions, and guidelines on interactions with youth and vulnerable adults. 

This page is optimized for printing
Support Extension