Time for Camp

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

It’s camping season: time for marshmallows, campfires, and avoiding those pesky mosquitoes. In addition to the valuable skills young people are learning as they navigate the great outdoors, many are leaving home for the first time and sharing new experiences.

Off-site and overnight camping situations can create challenges and require a set of best practices and protection requirements for everyone working around young people.

Every camp should have policies that address behavior of adults working or volunteering around children and youth. Whether it is day camp or overnight camp, best practices include:

  • Make sure all staff and volunteers working with children and youth have completed background checks.
  • All staff and volunteers working with children and youth should be trained on your child-protection policies, as well as general knowledge about how to spot abuse, how to spot abusers, how to report abuse, etc. In addition, they should be trained about the policies specific to your church or camp.
  • The two-adult rule, or two-deep leadership, should be followed during all camping activities. No staff member or volunteer should be alone with a camper. When traveling to different areas of the camp, there must always be at least three people (two counselors and one camper, or two campers and one counselor).
  • When transporting children, there should always be more than one child or youth in a car with an adult. Counselors should not transport campers in personal vehicles, unless given permission by the campsite director.
  • Staff and volunteers should only touch campers in appropriate ways as determined by the campsite director. Appropriate touch can include side hugs, high fives, pats on the back, hand-holding for safety, and touches on the shoulder. Touching should be initiated by the child or youth.
  • Staff and volunteers should not request to add campers on any social network, or post pictures of campers on any social network, blog, or personal website.
  • Staff and volunteers should not talk about their personal lives with campers or ask too many details about a camper’s personal life. Staff and volunteers should not exchange personal information, such as phone numbers, email, etc., with campers.
  • All conversations with campers should be age- and language-appropriate.
  • On camping trips, male and female young people must sleep in separate tents.
  • For large rooms with many bunk beds or cots, such as cabins, male and female young people must sleep in separate cabins with adult leaders of the same gender, or separate sides of one large room with adult leaders between the two sides.
  • Youth should not enter the sleeping quarters of youth of the opposite gender.

It is essential to communicate these and other best practices to volunteers, staff, parents, and youth prior to camping activities taking place.