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Summer Camp Safety

Is your child's summer camp provider focused on safety?

Summer camp is a rite of passage for many children and a source of fond memories for many adults! Whether it's a day camp, a bible camp or a sleepaway camp, your child's safety should be top of mind for the provider. Here are some tips as you make your selections:

FACT: Sexual predators gravitate to youth-serving organizations, especially those that don't have strong child safety policies and protocols.

Is your child's camp concerned about this? Put them to the test! Give them one point for each "yes" answer.

1. Do you see anything on the camp's website about child safety?

2. Has the camp earned accreditation/certification from the American Camp Association?

3. Does the camp conduct background screens on all employees AND volunteers, including sex offender registry screening?

4. Do employees and volunteers participate in mandatory child safety training and does it include sexual abuse prevention training and mandated reporter training?

5. Does the camp have a thorough process for handling reports of abuse and does it comply with the law?

6. Do employees and volunteers sign a child safety code of conduct?

7. Does the child safety code of conduct include rules about how staff and volunteers use technology to interact with the campers?

8. Does the camp have a written policy that prohibits one-on-one interactions between staff members and campers?

9. Does the camp have security cameras that record the activities on their premises?

10. Are the small groups of campers supervised by at least two staff members at all times?

11. Are the restroom doors propped open?

12. Does the camp have rules for the campers about their conduct with each other (i.e. personal boundaries, no unwanted physical contact, no bullying, etc.) and are these rules clearly communicated with all of the campers and the parents? BONUS POINT: Has the camp modified its "buddy system" to include at least three campers to a group? (CDC data shows that as much as 2/3 of sexual abuse is peer-to-peer!).

13. Does the camp have a formal process for check-in and check-out?

14. Does the camp ask for a written list of people with permission to pick up your child?

15. Does the camp make their child safety policies and protocols available in writing upon request, or include them in the participant registration materials?

16. Does the camp's space "feel" safe, clean and comfortable to you?

How does your activity provider stack up?

16 points = this organization is doing everything they can to keep your child safe

11 - 15 points = this organization is making strides, look at where they're missing the mark and decide how much of a concern it is for you before enrolling your child

6 - 10 points = this organization is behind the curve and needs to do a better job, your child's safety may be compromised in this environment

0 - 5 points = this organization should not be serving children

If your camp has a great program but lacks strong safety policy and protocol, we'd love to help them create a safer environment for your child, please connect us (phone: 678.526.3335 | email: admin2@revvedupkids.org)

The why behind the questions:

Having thorough child safety policy and procedure is one of the best ways to deter sexual predators from seeking employment or volunteer opportunities; predators need environments where no one takes notice of their interactions with the children.

Strong youth-serving organizations are up front about their child safety policies and procedures. They recognize the importance of protecting the children entrusted to them and they want families to know what they're doing. They will typically post their policies and procedures somewhere on their website, or in writing in other places. If you don't see anything, ask an administrator at the organization if they can share a copy of their child safety procedures. They should be able to easily produce it for you, and if they cannot, it's an enormous red flag.

Child safety procedures should always include background screening of prospective volunteers and employees. Most youth-serving organizations conduct cursory screens, typically a local search by the police department, because of the cost to conduct a more comprehensive screening. Do background screens identify sexual predators? Almost never. Do they serve a purpose? Yes! They serve as one more layer in a multi-layer process for child safety, and for that reason they are important.

Child safety procedures should include safe environments. Safe environments "feel" good when you're in them, the staff and the kids seem happy, there is structure, things seem organized and well-run. Always trust your gut when you're selecting any activity providers. Safe environments keep children from separating from their group and prohibit children from being alone with employees or volunteers. Safe environments have rules about how children engage with each other. Safe environments have open doors (including multi-stall restrooms) that allow interactions and activities to be openly viewed. Safe environments have video cameras that allow for reviewing of any questionable interactions or incidents. Safe environments have structure during drop off and pick up.

Child safety procedures should include well-trained staff (employees and volunteers). It's everyone's responsibility to create a protective system that not only keeps children safer, but recognizes and responds to child sexual abuse if it is suspected. Staff should be trained about the importance of never being alone with a child; staff should be trained to interact appropriately with the children in their care; staff should sign a code of conduct that includes policies for interacting with children in person and online (many sexual predators use texting and social media to groom their victims; any online interaction between the activity provider staff and your children should ALWAYS include you). Finally, staff should be trained to recognize predatory behavior and be emboldened to report it, even if they are reporting a co-worker. The reporting process for a disclosure from a child or a suspicion from a staff member should be clear and should comply with the law (many organizations do not train their staff on mandated reporting laws). Did you know that in many states a youth-serving employee or volunteer can face criminal charges if they don't appropriately report a disclosure or a suspicion?

Revved Up Kids has trained tens of thousands of children to recognize dangerous people, avoid unsafe situations, and escape attackers. Our training programs are available for boys and girls in K-12th grade, for parents, and for youth serving organizations. Contact us to discuss protecting the children you love from predators and violence, 678.526.3335.

Questions? Contact us today!