5 Tips for a Safe & Successful Camp
Summer camp has many benefits for kids and youth. Personal growth, increased learning, development, and making memories that last a lifetime. As camp counselors, directors, and administrators begin to welcome kids back this summer; safety is always on the radar.
Those working at a camp understand that questionable or dangerous situations involving adults and kids can occur because much of the environment naturally compromises safety. Often the barriers to abuse prevention may include costly changes to the structural setup of the camp, facilities, and organizational processes, which for many haven’t evolved over the years.
Camp is a positive, enriching experience for kids and youth; but it’s crucial for organizations to proactively do what they can to increase the protection of children.
Here are five tips that increase child safety, prevent abuse, and eliminate potentially harmful situations.
- Proactively Share Your Camp Safety Policies and Procedures
The policy and procedures are referred to as the Child Protection Policy, and operating without one is never a good idea. Sharing the guidelines can be done when a family registers a child or multiple children to participate in a day, overnight or multi-week camp. It doesn’t matter if a school sponsors the camp, is church-related or publicly funded, or a Boy or Girl Scout camp. Sharing the safety policies can help parents have the needed safety conversations with their kids.
If you prefer not to publish your child protection policies online, you can mail a hard copy or set them up behind the firewall on your website and give families private access to review at their convenience.
- Be Prepared to Answer the Key Safety Questions from Families
While policies and procedures must be in place, it’s even more critical for volunteers, staff, and leadership to be able to answer the questions such as:
- Are criminal background checks completed on all personnel?
- How many professional or personal references does the camp require, and who follows up on them?
- What type of safety training do volunteers and staff receive?
- Are staff members ever allowed to be alone with a camper? (Hint, the answer should be NEVER!)
- Who enforces the camp rules and regulations?
- Are at least two non-related adult counselors assigned to each group?
- Create a Speak Up Culture
A “Speak Up” culture is a proven standard of care that reduces risk and increases accountability. It encourages volunteers, staff, and families to raise concerns about policy violations without fear of getting in trouble, experiencing retaliation, or a child being singled out. A “Speak Up” culture allows organizations to address any issues that decrease safety immediately. It fosters transparency, encourages open dialogue, and demonstrates a commitment to being proactive.
- Predator Proof Your Camp
According to Lauren’s Kids, child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions, and at all levels of education; but 95% of abuse is preventable through education and awareness. In addition, current CDC research indicates that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys are sexually assaulted before 18. A final point many don’t realize is that one-third of sexually abused children are victimized by an older child.
While these numbers are shocking, they build the case for creating policy that focuses on the 95% that is avoidable. Your camp must have policies that reduce isolation and increase accountability by calling out how much contact is permitted between different age groups and how well each age group is supervised.
- Use a Secure Check-In and Out Process
A check-in and out system provides enhanced security and is vital to child safety. Whether you are using an electronic solution or other methods, you must have accurate records of children coming and going. It’s important to know who is authorized and who isn’t to pick up a child.
Check-In options include touchless Express Check-In, where parents check kids in using their mobile device so there’s no need to use a check-in station or stand in line, and Roster Check-In which use roster lists you create to check kids in with the touch of a button.
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