Safeguarding Campers & Staff Members

According to an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In modern American times, this proverb remains true, and the “village” takes on many different forms.

Teach your staff to recognize signs of child abuse.

Children spend much of their time at school, sports, religious institutions, camps and numerous extracurricular activities.

And just as child abuse can occur in the home, it can occur in any of the above settings.

As far as camp is considered, directors can do their best to ensure that children are in good hands when spending time out of the home. While many organizations serving children require background checks and sometimes even extensive training for staff, professionals often are not trained in how to identify, prevent, and report child abuse–especially child sexual abuse.

Child-abuse prevention involves three areas:

• Recognizing the signs that a child may be abused

• Preventing abuse while children are in their care

• Learning the laws and process of reporting child abuse.

The training module caters to the strengths of the individuals receiving the information, and the presentation is anecdotal, didactic and interactive. Following the presentation, staff members are given hard copies of all relevant information and then invited to participate in a question-and-answer forum. The principal, director or president of the organization should be present to ensure that policies discussed will, in fact, be appropriate for the setting.

Normality Vs. Warning Signs

The first part of training entails a complete overview of behaviors children normally exhibit. This includes a discussion of how kids can be challenging and defiant, and vary greatly in their mood swings.

This also includes a discussion of normal sexual behaviors for children or adolescents, covering the age-span served by the agency. Once these behaviors are identified, the presentation covers behaviors that may be considered “yellow flags” or potential warning signs, and then those that are “red flags” or certain warning signs.

It is important to recognize that some abused children will always display normal behavior, and some children who have not been abused will exhibit warning signs.

Much of the expected sexual behavior of children or adolescents also depends on the setting, and can often be interpreted in different ways. Staff members need to be aware of children’s tendencies to be impulsive and to become over-stimulated, as the members’ actions can lead to a loss of self-control on the part of a child.

Camp staff should know behavioral warning signs as well as physical ones, as they will be required to monitor the physical and psychological well-being of a child with each contact.

Child Abuse = Poor Care-Giving

Once common behaviors and warning signs are identified, the definitions for child abuse and the noting situations that can lead to abuse as well as allegations of abuse should be discussed.

Most institutional child abuse is seen as an extension of poor care-giving, often a result of poor impulse control and stress management. A caring, well-trained individual can be accused of being a child abuser through impulsive, irresponsible behavior. Discuss discipline practices in the setting:

• How are children punished?

• When is the most difficult time to be with children?

Some policies must be agreed to and enforced by the director or principal, as well as the staff:

• Forbidding an adult to hit a child

• Forbidding abusive language toward a child

• Leaving an open door for staff to ask for help with any situation involving a child.

Discuss discipline policies and use role-playing to demonstrate negative and positive ways to use discipline to limit the target behaviors.

Policies On Adult-Child Contact

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  1. Campers Vs. Staff Members
  2. Behavior Check
  3. Preparing Parents
  4. Signs of Life & Warning Signs
  5. Preparing Campers — A Checklist
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