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New requirement for licensed camps in Maine

Licensed camps in Maine have a new requirement under the Child and Family Services and Child Protection Act. MRS Title 22, §4010-A. Child Abuse Policies requires filing abuse prevention policies that must include specific components and sharing them widely with staff, families and the public.

To help your camp fulfill this requirement, take the following steps to ensure your current policies are meeting each point required.

  1. Description of Abuse Prevention Management

    Camps and youth programs should outline specific strategies and procedures they employ to prevent abuse or neglect. This may include:

    • Screening and background checks: Implement thorough background checks for all staff and volunteers to screen for any history of abuse or neglect. The American Camp Association outlines standards (AD.24, AD.25, AD.26, AD.27) that support these requirements, and additional information provided by your HR expert may also be relevant.

    • Staff training: Ensure all staff members are trained to recognize signs of abuse; types of abuse, including peer-to-peer abuse; and grooming behaviors; and understand proper behavior management techniques, their responsibilities in communication and reporting, and the camp’s code of conduct.

    • Supervision policies: Establish clear guidelines for ratios and supervision practices, ensuring no child is left alone with an adult. Identify high-risk areas (where youth cannot be seen or less supervision is in place) and provide specific training and expectations on managing these areas.

    • Communication expectations: Establish open lines of communication between staff, youth and parents to encourage reporting any concerns or suspicions. Consider adding several ways to communicate and create a culture where concerns are discussed openly and without remand.

    • Code of conduct: Develop a comprehensive code of conduct that outlines appropriate behavior for staff, volunteers, campers and youth with clear consequences for violation.


  1. Reporting Abuse of Neglect

Camps and youth programs should have clear procedures for reporting suspected abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities. This may include:

    • Designated authorities: Identify specific agencies or individuals within the camp and external authorities responsible for receiving and reporting abuse allegations.

    • Reporting requirements: Train staff on their legal obligations to report suspected abuse or neglect, including the timeline and methods for making reports. Staff must also understand the criminal ramifications for failure to report.

    • Confidentiality: Ensure all reports are handled confidentially and in accordance to state privacy laws.

    • Handling a report of abuse: Staff training should also include and prepare them for how to handle a report. It is critical that staff listen and respond calmly, believe the reports, don’t ask shaming questions, share with supervisors immediately, and gather facts but do not investigate.


  1. Agency’s Response to Allegations

Camps and youth programs should have protocols in place for responding to allegations of abuse or neglect against the camp, staff, a fellow camper or from someone outside the camp setting. This may include:

    • Internal investigation: Establish procedures for conducting thorough and impartial investigations into any allegations, involving appropriate authorities as necessary.

    • Suspension, termination or removal: Outline the camp’s steps if allegations are substantiated, including potential disciplinary action against staff or volunteers. Also, outline a plan for removing campers who may have caused harm.

    • Cooperation with authorities: Commit to full cooperation with law enforcement and child protection agencies throughout the investigation process.


  1. Grievance Procedures

Camps and youth programs should have clear grievance procedures in place for both staff and participants regarding alleged abuse or neglect. This may include:

    • Multiple avenues for reporting: Provide multiple channels for staff and participants to report concerns, such as through anonymous hotlines or forms, a variety of designated safe staff to report to, small group verbal check-ins, etc.

    • Supportive culture and environment: Ensure individuals feel safe and supported when reporting concerns, with protections against retaliation.

    • Timely resolution: Establish timelines for addressing grievances and communicating outcomes to all parties involved.


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