Preventing Sexual Abuse at Camp:
What We Do at Camp Granite Lake
[Note: Our focus on preventing child sexual abuse continues to stay front-of-mind for us, even as this letter is a few years old. – Tommy, January, 2021]
Dear Camp Families:
Last month (December 2018), CBS This Morning ran a report on cases of sexual abuse that took place at camps across the United States over the past 20 years. The story ends with the featured mother of the article saying that she still sends her kids to camps, she just does work to check that the camp is doing the right things to prevent sexual abuse of children.
I want tell you about what we at Camp Granite Lake do to keep kids safe from sexual abuse, and help you ask the right questions of camps and any childcare providers.
In March of 2011, when I was just running day camps in Denver and Boulder, I started getting calls from parents asking about how we work to protect kids from sexual abuse. An article in 5280 Magazine had revealed that a counselor in a daycare in Denver had been touching young kids during the afternoon rest time – and parents were understandably freaked out and upset.
At that time I didn’t really know the right answers. Camp has always been licensed by State of Colorado Childcare and Accredited by the American Camp Association, which both require background checks of staff, but I still felt like I didn’t have good preventative policies. I was very fortunate to connect with Feather Berkower of Parenting Safe Children (link below), an expert in training individuals and organizations in how to keep children safe from sexual assault. Over the years, Feather has taught us how to hire, train, and manage staff to really minimize the risks for kids. Feather regularly presents her workshops in the Denver/Boulder Metro area.
Before we hire: During the application and interview process, we repeatedly ask prospective staff about their understanding of how to keep kids safe from sexual abuse, and ask if they’ve had any relevant trainings. We signal to potential employees that this is something we pay close attention to, that we have a zero tolerance policy in this area, and that if they have bad intentions, Camp Granite Lake is not a place where they can get away with doing bad things to kids. What we’ve learned by really studying this issue and by working with Feather, is that this kind of pre-screening and intentional communication is the most effective way to prevent sexual abuse in our environment.
Before staff start working: We fingerprint and submit Colorado Bureau of Investigation and FBI background checks for all staff, in line with Childcare Licensing and American Camp Association Accreditation standards.
Once staff start working for the season: We train the staff that they are not be alone in one-on-one situations with campers, use anatomically correct language for body parts, and make sure everyone understands our clear policies about staff-camper interactions, among other things. Our directors actively supervise the staff throughout their time at camp, and keep educating staff about the ways to keep campers, and themselves, safe.
At the conclusion of their employment: We remind staff how being ‘alone’ with a child may also apply to connecting online. We ask our staff, for everyone’s protection, not to make online connections with campers without the permission of the parents.
Recommendations for you:
Here are just a few things to start with:
- Get more educated about this topic! It’s scary, and it’s manageable. With more knowledge, you can feel more confident about the steps to take.
- Ask any childcare provider about what they do to prevent sexual abuse of children. And keep asking until you feel comfortable with their answers.
- Ask us! We are happy to guide you or your friends with concerns through all of this. Give us a call!
This is not a fun topic. And we appreciate all of our camp families who trust us with their children each summer.
Please call us with any questions, thoughts, or concerns.
Tommy Feldman, Owner and Director, 720-249-2997 x7
- CBS News report & video: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hundreds-sexual-abuse-cases-childrens-camps-reported-across-us-cbs-this-morning
- Feather Berkower, Parenting Safe Children: parentingsafechildren.com