Safeguarding Campers & Staff Members

Similarly, policies for adult-child contact should be established, focusing more on the prevention of sexual abuse or sexual-abuse allegations. Some examples are:

• Touch a child only on the hand, shoulder or upper back

• Never touch a child against his or her will, unless the child is in physical danger

• Only touch a child when in the presence of other adults

• Never be alone with a child when changing clothes or going to the bathroom

• Never touch a child for personal gratification.

These rules, if followed, make it very difficult for children to be sexually abused on-site, or for an accusation to be credible.

However, a small number of individuals may intend to sexually abuse children in their care. This training accounts for this possibility and teaches how staff can recognize and respond to signs that an individual has the potential to abuse. This list has a sub-set of indicators of potential sexual abusers, such as:

• Standing apart from children and watching or interacting on a rather immature level with children

• Relating poorly to adults and preferring the company of children

• Seeking out time to be alone with a particular child

• Showing no respect for a child’s privacy or personal space.

These policies do not prohibit all touching and affection directed towards children in our care. The policies do limit the chances that a staff member will be accused and provide some defense to prove that no abuse occurred.

Reporting Laws

Employees must be informed of their role as mandated reporters, meaning any suspected abuse must be reported, whether it may have occurred at camp or in another setting. It is essential that the director/principal has a clear understanding of what to do when such a situation arises.

These policies must be clear and follow the chain of command. The front-line staff member must have a direct, accessible supervisor to report to, and then that person should know where the information is to be directed.

Any administrator in this setting must be aware of local reporting laws and agencies. Make it clear that a reporter does not need hard evidence that abuse has occurred, and that reasonable suspicion is reportable.

Additionally, stress that, merely because a report is made, the local child-welfare agency will not necessarily take the children away from the family immediately, and that such reports are essential in case other suspicions are identified elsewhere.

Effective training not only teaches staff members how to identify potentially abused children as well as potential abusers, but helps members to identify their own concerns and vulnerabilities in dealing with children.

Addressing these issues through training discussions and clear guidelines builds confidence that camp officials are prepared and support is available to help staff members care for the children–and do their job–the best they can.

Works cited:

Ditter, Bob. Tips for Talking with Staff about Child Abuse. Boston, 2002.

Caflun, Ephram. Child-Abuse Prevention Workshop for Camps. 2010.

Missouri Division of Family Services. “Understanding and Responding to the Sexual

Behaviors of Children and Adolescents.” 2000.

Sandfort, T. and Rademakers, J. Childhood Sexuality. New York: Haworth Press, 2000.

Van Dam, Carla. Identifying Child Molesters. New York: Haworth Press, 2001.

Ephram A. Caflun is the owner and director of Camp Wekeela in Hartford, Maine. Caflun, his wife Lori, and their children have been at Wekeela since 1997. He has been working professionally with children since 1992. During the camp “off-season,” he is a coach for each of his boys’ sports teams. He can be reached via e-mail at


There are behaviors and attitudes that serve as “yellow flags” indicating an adult may be more likely to abuse a child:

• Yelling, screaming, grabbing, or punching at campers is a definite sign that the counselor should be removed from the situation.

• Overly controlling adults, such as those who speak over campers and who show satisfaction when winning a power struggle, are likely to display abusive behavior.

• Counselors who infringe on the campers’ rights to privacy, especially at times of changing clothes or showering, may also exhibit abusive tendencies.

• Staff members should not initiate discussions of sexuality with or around campers, unless it is camp-sanctioned and addresses particular concerns.

Two good rules to follow:

1. No child should be touched in an area normally covered by a bathing suit.

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Related posts:

  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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