What are the guidelines regarding the working relationships between volunteers and paid workers in a Baby Café drop-in?

Detailed guidelines are available in the US government document VOLUNTEER PROTECTION ACT OF 1997:



The value of voluntary activity is recognised; in giving help directly or indirectly to others and in providing opportunities for volunteers to participate and find self-fulfilment.

In many settings, including Baby Café sites, relations between paid workers and volunteers are harmonious and mutually rewarding. They are enhanced by good procedures, clarity of respective roles, mutual trust and support.


1. Voluntary activity should complement the work of paid staff, not substitute for it.

As a general principle volunteers should not substitute for paid employees, nor intentionally or unintentionally undermine their terms and conditions of service. The practical implications of this statement, e.g. identifying areas of work and roles appropriate for paid staff and appropriate for volunteers, need to be discussed and agreed within your Baby Café.

The varying roles and responsibilities of trained/skilled volunteers, health professionals, facilitators, mother help and any paid breastfeeding counselors/peer supporters need to be clarified between all relevant parties.

Volunteers should not be used as a cheap source of labour to reduce costs, as this exploits and undermines both paid workers and volunteers.

In cases where an IBCLC is volunteering as a staff member, she may not have professional liability coverage by the funding organization. USLCA, in partnership with the insurance carrier CM&F Group, makes affordable professional liability coverage ($90/year) available to USLCA members (membership is $76/yr)


2. The work of volunteers should not threaten the livelihood of paid staff.

Voluntary activity, implemented without proper consultation, has the potential to threaten the jobs of paid staff and/or have repercussions on earning levels. However, there will be situations in which organisational changes, incorporating new notions of care, might involve the use of volunteers in ways that could affect the interests of groups of paid employees. Also the contracting out of local authority run services to organisations involving volunteers might have a detrimental effect on some local authority paid staff. In all such cases, including the provision of a Baby Café service, negotiations should take place between the relevant organisations with a view to reaching agreement to safeguard the existing terms and conditions of health care workers as well as the interests of volunteers.


3. Agreements on the nature and extent of voluntary activity should be made widely known among intended parties. Their roles, responsibilities and accountability also need to be agreed.

Any agreement on the use of volunteers needs to be communicated to all interested parties and at all levels of the various organisations.

All volunteers should have back-ground checks done by the funding organization.

Within your Baby Café site, agreement needs to be reached on the roles, rights and responsibilities of volunteers; reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses; provision of insurance; documentation procedures and confidentiality; training opportunities; access to decision making; access to supervision and support.

The varying roles and responsibilities of trained/skilled volunteers, health professionals, facilitators, mother helpers and paid breastfeeding counsellors/peer supporters need to be clarified between all relevant parties.


4. Volunteers should receive full out-of-pocket expenses.

It is important that volunteers should be offered full out-of-pocket expenses so that they are not deterred from offering their services on financial grounds.

Although volunteers are not rewarded financially, it is still important to recognise, value and show appreciation for their involvement, commitment, skills and efforts, e.g. by giving verbal or written thanks, and including them in training/update sessions where appropriate.


5. There should be a recognised procedure for the resolution of problems between staff and volunteers.

A named individual, within your Baby Café staff team, should be responsible for the co-ordination of voluntary activity within your Baby Café drop-in, to whom volunteers can refer in the first instance if difficulties arise. If resolution is not possible at this level the problem/complaint can be referred to the National Baby Café Coordinators. It is suggested a representative of the paid workforce be given responsibility for liasing with volunteer co-ordinators from the relevant organisations, i.e. the commissioning service, the charity the volunteer is representing and the national USA Baby Café Coordinator.

Volunteers are able to receive support and guidance from both the national Baby Café team and the charity they represent. Paid workers can receive support and guidance from their commissioning body/employers and the national Baby Café team.


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