Safe Sanctuaries® Summer Camp
Giving youth a safe space to learn and grow is an important facet of church life. Interacting with and teaching children can be rewarding for adults, too.
Unfortunately, it is possible that some adults may wish to work with youth for nefarious reasons. United Methodists believe that children should be protected from “economic, physical, and sexual exploitation and abuse. (¶162.C, 2016 Book of Discipline)”
You can help to keep the children in your church safe by adopting Safe Sanctuaries® policies and procedures for working with youth and by providing training to those volunteers and employees who will be interacting with children.
These preparations will serve you well as you prepare for summer camp. Whether you host a day camp or overnight retreat, it is important that all people working with children understand and can identify the signs of abuse and know how to stop it by reporting its occurrence.
Here are some recommendations for church-affiliated summer camps to consider:
1) Perform rigorous background checks and screening.
It is imperative that all children’s ministries adopt policies and procedures to “help keep all children and the adults who care for and work with them safe” (¶256.2.a).
Included in those procedures should be the execution of background checks for all people who will be working with children. Through its partnership with United Methodist Insurance, Trak-1 offers discounted rates for background checks.
Make sure you check references for any potential staff and volunteers and ask probing questions to get to know applicants to determine that they are seeking this position for the right reasons.
2) Provide training to anyone who will be regularly interacting with children and youth.
Safe Sanctuaries® training is crucial for any volunteer or staff member who will be regularly interacting with children and youth. This is particularly true of those who will be serving in a camp environment.
Safe Sanctuaries® resources can act as your guide. For example, the webinar Safe Sanctuaries®: The Basics can act as a good starting point for training. Other resources include the book Safe Sanctuaries®: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in the Church for Children and Youth and its companion DVD.
3) Make certain all employees and volunteers understand your policies and protocols.
Keep policies top of mind with employees and volunteers by doing small exercises at meetings or refreshing training regularly. When employees and volunteers understand policies, they know why rules are in place, and they are more likely to follow those rules and to speak up when they see someone else deviating from protocol.
4) Have a clear reporting protocol in place.
If someone sees abuse – or behavior that could lead to abuse – occurring, they need to know what to do in order to stop it. Make sure that everyone who is acting as a staff member or volunteer for your summer camp knows to whom they should report suspicious activity. There should also be a system in place to follow up on such reports, so volunteers and staff know that their actions are taken seriously.
Summer camp can be a place where children make fond memories. Help them to stay safe by providing an environment that protects them – and allows them to have fun.