Takeaways from Sacred Spaces Webinar March 1, 2023

It’s on Us: An introduction to Youth Safeguarding Practices for Lay Leaders

On March 1, 2023, JCamp 180 welcomed Sacred Spaces to lead an online session called It’s on Us: An introduction to Youth Safeguarding Practices for Lay Leaders. The session focused on the critical role Jewish camp lay leaders play in helping to promote safety and respect and being prepared to respond to abuses when they occur. You can find the informative slides from the session here.

Attendees learned:
  • The unique vulnerabilities of a camp setting and the primary types of abuse that can occur in camp settings.
  • The role of boards and camp committees in camp-based prevention and response policies and protocols.
  • 10 best practices for youth safeguarding.
Some key takeaways from the session include:
  1. A core responsibility of camp is to keep children as safe as possible and free from all forms of maltreatment.
  2. Maltreatment of children is a widespread problem. For example, the CDC reports that 1 in 4 adults report having been physically abused as children.
  3. Camps have unique vulnerabilities to youth maltreatment including unsupervised spaces; hiring crunch may change standards for choosing staff; situations where campers may be alone with staff; etc.
What should camps do?
  1. Be proactive. Camp staff should document and train everyone at camp on appropriate protocols for safeguarding children, as well as procedures for dealing with issues that arise (reports of abuse).
  2. Implement a child safety committee with responsibility to ensure appropriate protocols are defined and staff is thoroughly trained.
  3. Implement guidelines for interacting with youth in potentially vulnerable situations. For example: when a camper must be transported for medical attention; shower time; when a camper wants to return to their bunk on their own to grab something; etc.
  4. Put in place robust screening procedures for hiring staff. Camps are facing growing difficulties recruiting and retaining quality staff, but this can’t be an excuse to ignore potential red flags during the hiring process. Screen all potential staff thoroughly and trust your gut. Ask direct questions about experience and interactions with youth, offer scenarios to gauge response, and follow up with reference checks. Follow up on any potential red flags.
  5. Assess camp spaces for vulnerabilities. For example, consider for every space: Who has access to this space? Is the space observable? Ask counselors and youth what spaces are the riskiest - start there.
  6. Review organizational resources for safeguarding children from Aleinu (a program of Sacred Spaces): https://www.aleinucampaign.org/organization-resources/
What can lay leaders do?
  1. As part of their duty of care, board members share a responsibility to protect all youth at camp.
  2. Lay leaders are not responsible for the creation of youth safeguarding protocols and guidelines but must ensure the camp has created appropriate protocols and adheres to procedures to best ensure child safety.
  3. Lay leaders must ensure the camp has created robust procedures, including defining the board’s own role in dealing with reports of abuse.
  4. Lay leaders can sign up for the follow-up intensive 2-part series with Sacred Spaces, scheduled for March 15 and 29, 2023 (7 – 8:30 PM Eastern). You can learn more and register here – space is limited.
Have more questions about what this means for your camp? Contact JCamp 180 or learn more from Sacred Spaces.