7 Tips for Safe Relationships at Camp

1.  Model healthy boundaries:

  • Do not engage in intimate or flirtatious interactions with campers or other staff. Consider how your behaviors may be perceived or misconstrued by others.
  • Be modest when changing clothes, in bathrooms, and in swimming areas.
  • Be aware of when you are tired, thirsty, or need a break, and take care of yourself. Make sure the campers do too. Most kids are not able to self-regulate well and may lose control of themselves when they become exhausted or overstimulated.
  • Children and youth who appear to lack boundaries are often the ones who need boundaries the most.

2. Two staff shall be present with any individual or group of campers always. This safeguards both the campers and the staff against inappropriate behavior and accusations.

3. Touch campers with their best interests in mind and only with their permission. Only touch when it is necessary. Ask before you touch, and make your actions public and visible to others. Intentions are irrelevant. Whether a touch is good, bad, or confusing is determined by how the receiver experiences it—NOT by the intentions of the person doing the touching.

4. Use language that is positive and builds up. Do not use sexual innuendo or coarse slang or swearing. It is not okay to comment on a camper’s body or his or her level of physical development. Limit self-disclosure about your own body or development, or intimate relationships.

5. Think ahead, consult with others, and make a plan. As best as you can, anticipate potentially compromising situations and make a plan for healthy alternatives. Problem solve with the camp director and other staff to come up with creative solutions. Talk to the camp director when a camper shows a pattern of inappropriate behavior that may put him or herself or others at risk. 

6. Consider technology and social media. Follow your camp’s policies. Limit one-on-one electronic communication. Communication should be “traceable,” which also protects you as a staff member.

7. Report. Tell the camp director if:

  • You observe any inappropriate activity with staff and/or campers.
  • You found yourself in a compromised situation. Report what led up to the situation and what you did.
  • A camper tells you about abuse he or she has experienced at camp.
  • A camper tells you about something that has happened in his or her life outside of camp that causes you to suspect child abuse or neglect.

Report suspected child abuse directly to child protective services or law enforcement:
1-800-4-A-CHILD, 1-800-422-4453

Thanks to Marlene Bogard and Jeanette Harder for this material.
Updated by Anna Groff: April 2018
For more camp materials, see https://dovesnest.net/camps.