Summer Safety – Arm Yourself

knowledge is power

As summer approaches, please arm yourself and your children with the tools needed to protect against anyone that may try to harm them. The resources you’ll find below were compiled by JCW and are intended for parents, children and camp staff.

Please share! You may save a child’s life.

For Parents 

By Pattie Fitzgerald, Prevention Education Advisor for Jewish Community Watch

Before you know it, summer camp season will be upon us once again. Our kids will be enrolled in day camps, sleep away camps, religious camps, and sports camps. These can and will be wonderful childhood experiences, as long as we can ensure that we’re doing all that we can to keep their experiences safe.

Straightforward conversations with our children and assertive dialog with the camp ahead of time are crucial. While most camps are fun and the staff safe and caring, we must take some prevention steps just to make sure.

If we don’t ensure that summer camp is a safe experience, no one else will. It is our job as parents!

TIP: Don’t be afraid to warn your children, according to their age, about “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” touches and tricky people who may give them an “uh-oh” feeling by acting, or touching them, inappropriately.

 

5 questions every parent should ask their child’s camp, regardless whether this is your child’s first year or not:

  1. Is your camp accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA)?

Although this is not a foolproof guarantee of anything, it does indicate that they’ve taken the necessary steps to meet health and safety standards, and also that the camp takes its responsibilities seriously.

  1. How do you screen and train your staff members?  

It’s essential to find out:

  • Who are the counselors (high school students, college students, hired hands)?
  • What are the camp’s training and supervision policies?
  • Who supervises the counselors and CIT’s (counselors in training)?
  • Is there staff training regarding physical boundaries, usage of certain language, or precautions concerning discipline?
  • Have all the employees been screened?
    • Doing background checks, fingerprinting, and checking the sex offender registry does not offer any guarantees, but many things can slip through the cracks if the camp administrators refrain from doing their due diligence. The camp administrator should be able to answer this question quickly and clearly. Don’t settle for excuses like: “We know everyone here.” “We’ve never had to worry about it.”
  1. Who’s sleeping where? Who’s changing where?

No supervisor, CIT, or counselor should ever be changing in front of the kids. Simply, counselors should never be unclothed when kids are around! This is for the kids’ safety as well as the reputation of the camp and the counselors. Older children should have separate sleeping and changing quarters than the younger children.

  1. Is the staff trained to recognize signs and intervene if there are indicators that someone is blurring the appropriate boundaries and should not be around kids?

Child molesters can be charming. They are notorious for finding ways to be around children and hide their “true selves” around unsuspecting or naïve employersTheir typical grooming techniques involve favoring one child, and then seeking out more “alone time”. They may try to take that child out of group activities to do something elsewhere. Let your camp administrator and counselor know that your child is to stay with the group at all times, unless there is a serious medical emergency. A child should not be alone with one adult or counselor in any sort of private environment (like the changing rooms, cabins, woods, etc.).

  1. Can I meet my child’s counselor?

Make sure to meet your child’s counselor on the first day of camp, letting them know that you and your child have set up certain rules and have had conversations about appropriate boundaries and behaviors.  By letting others know that you are an involved parent, you can significantly lower the risk of someone targeting your child.

Remember: Molesters seek out naïve parents, and children who are unable to speak up for themselves. An empowered, educated child is a safer child!

 

5 THINGS TO TELL YOUR CHILDREN AS THEY GO OFF TO CAMP:

  1. “You’re the boss of your own body! No one is allowed to touch you in any way that makes you feel yucky, confused, or uncomfortable. No one should try to play any kind of touching games with private parts, neither adults nor other campers.” This conversation is important for kids of all ages, whether they are 5 or 15 years old.
  2. “It’s OK to say, ‘Stop touching me!’ or, ‘Hands off my body!’ to anyone at camp, including other campers, a bigger kid, or even a grownup.” Give your child a couple of strong lines to help them be assertive if necessary.
  1. “It’s always good to tell. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or if you are having any kind of problem, tell your counselor right away. Don’t wait! Be honest with your counselor and let them know if you need them to help you.”
  2. “If your counselor doesn’t help or if he/she is part of what is making you feel uncomfortable, tell another safe grownup at camp – perhaps another counselor or the camp director.” Set up the ‘safe grownup list’ ahead of time with your child, making sure your child knows several different counselors or adults at camp that they can go to.
  3. “You are my number one priority and I will always stand by you and believe you if you are scared or sad about any experience! You can tell me anything and I’ll support you.” It is important to let our kids know ahead of time that we have their backs, no matter what!

Facebook Live seminar. 

Pattie delivered one hour of invaluable tips for parents preparing to send their children to camp.

Watch a replay here and find more safety resources on Pattie’s website, sefelyeverafter.com

A mother showed JCW’s summer safety video to her children and then reached out to Pattie Fitzgerald with the following question: 
 
I speak to my kids about body safety regularly and have been doing so for a number of years now. my nine year old watched the video and then said to me: “well if that happened, i guess i won’t be telling you because you’d come to camp. that means whoever did it will get in trouble, and maybe go to jail and i don’t want to put anyone in jail.”
 
They are under the impression that what we’re trying to teach them is that any kind of uncomfortable touch is an emergency, and they don’t understand the urgency of “telling” or having me come to camp. How exactly do I convey the urgency? 
 
I spoke to my 11 year old the other day and we made a pact that he would keep his cell phone shut and hidden, and would only turn it on and text/call me in case of an emergency. After watching the video he asked me if this is what I meant when I said we discussed emergencies I said of course, what else did you think i meant? he said “I thought you meant a real emergency”.
 
I’m kind of at a loss here…. and these are kids who I’ve been talking to about this for years….any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
 
Here is Pattie’s response:
 
it’s not uncommon for a child to “not want to share or disclose” any type of uncomfortable feeling with their parents.  There is fear, guilt, shame,  and mostly the concern that they or someone they care about will be in trouble.  A child often thinks “I don’t want to start some big thing, I can handle this so I’ll just keep quiet”.  This is why children remain silent even in the most disturbing cases of abuse.  
 
Knowing this mindset of a child, it’s important to speak to them in “their” language and with an approach that reassures them on many levels.  First, acknowledge what your child has said to you.  In other words, verbalize:  “I understand why you might worry about my coming to camp and or getting someone else in trouble.  That’s because you’re a compassionate kid, and we’re proud of who you are.”   The first step is to understand and agree on a certain level, not disagree or tell them this is so urgent that they don’t understand — that approach will keep them further away from you.  Building a communicative trust is key here.
 
Next, let your child know if if they had some kind of weird or uncomfortable feeling about someone, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to be pulled out of camp or that you are going to send someone to jail.  It simply means that maybe someone at the camp will be able to help you reinforce a boundary or make sure that you’re ok.  
 
Next part of the conversation:  let your child know firmly that most people are safe, but that once in a while, there are adults or older kids who break rules concerning private parts and uncomfortable touches.  You simply want your child to know what to do if they experience any kind of “thumbs down” privates parts touch at camp, because when it comes from someone you know, it can be confusing or even a little scary.  That’s why mom/dad want to make sure you have the right information and some good “exit strategies.”  Remind your child that you won’t freak out, lose control or make a huge scene.  This is why kids don’t tell
 
In this particular case, it sounds like the kids are not really clear about what constitutes an “uncomfortable touch” that they’d need to speak up about, so give clear examples.  For example, if someone pats you on the back too hard, it may be uncomfortable but it’s no cause for alarm, unless that person keeps doing it to try and hurt you in some way.  So, you wouldn’t have to start reporting to parents or anyone about something in that way.  But a thumbs down touch is more like uncomfortable stroking of the hair, back, arms, etc. and it goes on longer than beyond a simple touch or a pat of encouragement.  Another “thumbs down” touch is anyone who blatantly tries to engage in privates parts touches, either by making you feel guilty or telling you it’s a special secret.  Be clear about this!
 
Finish the conversation by saying something along the lines of most touches aren’t dangerous or urgent, but there are some touches that just mean a little intervention by the parent or director is needed.  It doesn’t mean jail, or that you’re some kind of “tattle-tale” that everyone will know about.    You can even use an “example from TV” as teachable moment.  Just say that you had heard a news story about a child that was touched inappropriately and didn’t know what to do about it.  He was sad and confused, and wasn’t sure what was the right thing to do.  The point of JCW’s videos and parent communication is just to give a little “safety net” to their kid and teach them how to be independent in the healthiest way.
 
The tone of the conversation must be positive, non judgmental, and without a sense that the parent is going to go off the deep end making the situation 10x worse!
 

Binyamin Murray and Michoel Nagel of Pioneers Camp in Vermont wrote that reviewing their staff list for problematic behavior helped them.

Dear Parents,

As camp directors, our goal is to ensure that your child has a safe, fun, exciting and memorable summer. As parents, you have entrusted your children into our care for a few weeks, assigning their safety to us. Thus, we have an obligation to protect them from any harm and we are responsible to ensure that no one physically, spiritually, or mentally harms your child.

Several weeks ago, we were asked to join Project E.M.E.S. (Educating Mosdos on Eradicating S. Abuse), a program endorsed by professionals and designed to ensure appropriate child abuse policies that are put in place in frum overnight camps.

Upon review of this project which began last year, it is evident that it was comprehensive and appropriate. Seeing that it can only assist us in our summer camp goals, we sent them a list of our potential staff members for review and to obtain the agreement for all of our future staff to sign.

Within 48 hours of providing our staff list, we were contacted by JCW and notified that a potential member of our staff was a confirmed child molester and that he had multiple victims.

We were shocked, to say the least. That potential staff member will obviously not be coming to our camp. As a result, we are enhancing our no-tolerance policy and requiring every staff member to sign the Project EMES agreement.

This letter’s purpose is to ask and beg parents to be extremely vigilant. Unfortunately, no community is immune to the issues of child abuse and therefore, it is our duty as the directors of Pioneers Camp to ensure the safety of all of our campers.

We urge every parent to review this project and make sure, if you have kids going to other summer camps or programs, that they have these policies in place. Do not just listen to the words of the director that they give a seminar discussing child abuse, because such seminars are often insufficient. 

Demand that each camp have a written CSA no-tolerance policy in place. Demand that every staff member be required to sign such an agreement. Demand that staff-lists are forwarded to appropriate organizations for review and background checks. 

As a parent you too have a duty to protect your children at all costs as do we. You too have to do your due diligence. Do not take no for an answer if another camp refuses to provide staff lists.

Thank you to Jewish Community Watch for your tireless effort on protecting our children and helping us make sure our camp is a safer place. I hope other camps will follow suit.

Best,
Binyamin Murray and Michoel Nagel
Directors of Pioneers Camp in Vermont

Play Video

FOR CHILDREN

FOR STAFF MEMBERS AND CAMP ADMINISTRATION 

Camp is one of the most fun and meaningful experiences for children, and can have a positive impact that can last a lifetime. However, the relaxed camp environment and lack of supervision and clear safety guidelines in camp have been sadly known to result in crossed boundaries, inappropriate affection, and molestation.

Training

Four short videos addressing the important and basic level of information camp counselors need in order to ensure the safety of their campers. Please take all the time you need to watch these videos and integrate the information. You can replay the videos as many times as you would like.

Video one – Introduction

Video Two – Boundaries

Video Three – Identify

Video Four – Respond

 

Get your certificate

This multiple choice test comprises 49 questions based directly on information presented in the videos. The real camp scenarios presented are geared to help you integrate the information learned in a real way.

You have 30 minutes to complete the test. Upon completion, your results and certificate will be emailed to you directly.

begin the test and get your official certificate! Hatzlocha Rabba!

Camp Directors are responsible for the safety of all campers in their care and the behavior of every staff member they entrust with their campers. As such, it is incumbent upon directors to take strong measures to reduce the risk of harm to campers. If a camp does not take measures to reduce the risk of harm, they may be legally accountable.


The responsibility of a Camp Director is to hire trustworthy staff, provide professional training, impose and supervise safety guidelines, and identify and respond to abuse or suspected abuse or molestation in a professional manner in accordance with the law. This guide will provide you with information to help you navigate the recruitment, hiring, training, and supervision of staff in order to keep your camp safe from abuse and molestation. Please keep in mind that these guidelines are intended to provide a general framework for each camp’s consideration. We strongly encourage each camp’s administration to review and discuss the proposed guidelines with their attorney to ensure that the Final, adopted version is consistent with applicable state law.

The guide includes:

  • Staff screening guidelines
  • Abuse-prevention protocol
  • Intervention protocol
  • Abuse Prevention Training for Counselors
  • Discussion guide for counselors
  • Safety guidelines for parents

Adult education is key to preventing child sexual abuse.

1 out of 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Chances are, someone you know has been impacted. Research shows that people who are sexually violated as children are far more likely to experience psychological problems often lasting into adulthood, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, suicide, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school dropout and relationship problems.

Darkness to Light understands that learning the facts about childhood sexual abuse helps prevent it. Talking about it helps prevent it. Getting involved helps prevent it. The truth is, if childhood sexual abuse can be prevented, it can be stopped.

That’s why we exist, to empower adults through awareness and educational programs to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

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