Summer is here and many families are screening and reviewing options for children’s summer camps.
There are some critical guidelines every camp and summer youth program should adhere to in order to help protect the children in their care from abuse. Please take a look at our checklist below and make sure the summer camp or program you choose has these safeguards in place:
What are the summer camp/program’s policies and procedures around Child Protection?
- Does the summer camp/program have a stand-alone Child Protection Policy?
- Does the policy require all staff and volunteers have the following current checks: fingerprint background check, child protection registry, sex offender registry, and motor vehicle record checks?
- Have references been contacted?
- Does the camp/program provide children’s programming or training around predator awareness, Internet safety, and bullying?
- Is there training conducted for all staff and volunteers around recognizing abuse and neglect, are staff aware of their mandatory reporting of abuse obligations? Are staff trained to respond to disclosures?
What are the parameters for supervision and accountability?
- Are all counselor/staff /volunteer one-on-one interactions with children observable and interruptible?
- Are parents required to sign their children in and out of programs each day? If children are required to sign in and out, is this monitored by staff?
- Are children only released to pre-authorized individuals for pick-up?
- Is there an adequate staff-to-child ratio for the age and development of the children being served?
- How are private/vulnerable situations and settings handled (such as using the bathroom, application of sunscreen, overnight stays)?
Guidelines and Policies regarding staff interaction with children are necessary:
- Does the camp have a posted policy that requires all staff and campers to be treated equally regardless of race, gender, religion, national origin, and culture?
- Does the camp have a policy that campers should never receive individual gifts of any kind from staff or volunteers?
- Does the policy provide that ALL interactions with care providers are always interruptible and observable?
- Social Media Policy? Children and their summer camp counselors/teachers/volunteers should not “friend” or “follow” one another via any personal social media accounts. A child should never have one-on-one electronic communication, such as texting or direct messaging, with a staff member.
- Photographing children? Photos of children should only be taken where prior written authorization is permitted for marketing/advertising purposes of the organization. Photos should never be posted on personal social media accounts and should only be taken with an organization’s camera, never a personal device.
- Safe transportation? Children should always be transported in association-identified vehicles (or appropriately identified vendor-operated vehicles), never in a staff member’s personal vehicle, and never alone.
- Outside relationships with camp staff? Any relationship formed within the camp/program between an employee/volunteer and a child that continues outside of the camp/program is inappropriate.
- Do all parents receive a copy of the Policies, Rules, and Regulations?
Parents and caregivers can further protect children by talking to children about their day by using open-ended questions. If possible take some time to observe children with camp staff and volunteers, including online interactions. Watch with whom – and how – children interact. Encourage children to talk to a trusted adult if they feel uncomfortable or worried.
If you have reasonable suspicion of abuse, please click here to find the child abuse reporting line in your area and make the call.