Perhaps no issue receives more attention in today’s society than child protection. Since ACA began providing a crisis hotline, calls regarding sexual abuse allegations have dominated requests for information.
Wise camp directors place a strong training emphasis on this topic. Discussions are specific about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors of staff and campers. Camps are using videos, discussions by police or social workers, consultants or psychologists to alert staff to many related topics.
What is appropriate touch? What is the law concerning child abuse reporting in the camp’s state? What are the penalties for breaking that law? What behaviors are inappropriate and will not be tolerated in camp? What topics of conversation are inappropriate in camp?
An affidavit developed by Bob Ditter as part of the training package, including video, entitled “Maintaining an Envelope of Safety: Guidelines for Camper Counselor Contact" is below. Ditter recommends that each staff member be required to sign this form following training. Not only does this affidavit make responsibilities clear to the counselor, it also provides protection to the camp. The director can document what training was received, the fact that the counselor was present for the training and agreed to behave according to the guidelines established in that training.
Affidavit Regarding Counselor Conduct and Camper-Counselor Contact
Guidelines for the Discipline of Children
I understand and accept the following:
- Counselors may NOT, under any circumstances, hit a child.
- Counselors may not use abusive or derogatory language with campers.
- Counselors need to ask for help.
- A staff member who encounters a particularly difficult child will seek the assistance of supervisory or administrative staff.
- In all dealings with campers, counselors should strive to respond as opposed
to react to children.
Guidelines for Camper-Counselor Contact
I understand and accept that when touching campers, the following guidelines should be followed:
- on the hand, shoulder, or upper back;
- never against a child’s will (unless in the case of clear and present danger of the child);
- never against a child’s discomfort, whether expressed verbally or non-verbally;
- in the company of other adults;
- never when it would have the effect of over-stimulating the child;
- never in a place on a child’s body that is normally covered by a bathing suit, unless for a clear medical necessity, and then only with supervision from another adult.
I understand and accept that I am a caretaker of children.
I understand that there is a clear power difference between myself and campers (money, mobility, authority, experience, knowledge, different set of rules).
I understand that inappropriate sexual contact with or physical abuse of a camper can have severe emotional and psychological effects on that camper that can last a lifetime. These reactions can be so severe, they can require intensive professional intervention which can be disruptive to the victim’s life as well as time-consuming and expensive.
State Laws Concerning Child Abuse
I am aware of the following:
- definition of a “mandated reporter”
- purpose of child protection laws
- clarification that a report is based on suspicion of abuse, not proven abuse
- summary of the reporting procedures (time frame, reporting agency, information requested)
- penalty for not reporting
Guidelines for Staff
I understand and accept the following:
- there is no “hazing” of campers by campers or counselors
- campers will not be subjected to “initiation” rites that are abusive in any manner
- there will be double coverage of campers by adults during changing times;
- younger children should be encouraged to change their own clothes as much as possible
- campers will not be alone with a counselor in his or her quarters
- a staff member will under no circumstances share a bed or sleeping bag with a camper
- counselors will set limits with children who “cling” or hang on them
- counselors will not give back rubs unless another adult is present, and then only with clothes on
- tickling or teasing a camper to the point where that camper is out of control is unacceptable
- pillow fights or wrestling matches and the like can become over-stimulating in short order and need to be limited and carefully supervised
- overnights need a minimum of two adult leaders and there needs to be at least one counselor present of the same gender as the campers
- counselors sleeping together on overnights is grounds for dismissal
- romantic lives of counselors cannot, under any circumstances, be shared with campers
- counselors should stay out of cabins other than their own after lights out at night unless on specific camp business
- male staff working with adolescent females need to be aware of the tendency for this group to develop hidden or secret romantic fantasies
- whatever is done with campers should be done in broad daylight, with company!
I agree to the following:
- to watch for signs of stress in myself and others as a way of maintaining a safe environment at camp
- to help other staff who seem at risk for hurting or abusing campers
- to alert senior or supervisory personnel as for more careful supervision, intervention or support
- to seek help myself if I feel at risk for hurting, overstimulating or abusing a camper
By signing this document I am attesting to the fact that I have seen the video tape entitled “Maintaining an Envelope of Safety: Guidelines for Camper Counselor Contact.”
Furthermore, I am attesting to the fact that I have read over, understand and accept the rules, guidelines and standards of conduct outlined in this document.
Originally published in the 2001 Spring issue of The CampLine.