Child Safety Policies
CHILD SAFETY AND PROTECTION AT CAMP RAMAH IN THE POCONOS
MISSION AND POLICY STATEMENT
Camp Ramah in the Poconos (hereby known as “Camp”) is a vibrant summer camp community, where children learn and grow in an intentional setting, surrounded by life-long friends and nurtured by spirited role models. Across all of our programs, Camp is infused with the traditions and values of Conservative Judaism: love of mitzvot, Hebrew language, and the land and people of Israel; commitment to inclusion and Tikun Olam; and the joy of learning and prayer.
Camp aims to provide children with a positive and enriching Jewish camp experience. We are deeply committed to protecting the young people in our community so they feel safe at all times and we strive for the highest standards towards protecting them from abuse. With that goal in mind, we have created “Shomrei Yeladim - שומרי ילדים“ Guarding our Children, a child safety policy. This policy applies to all members of the community: all campers, staff, board members, parents, volunteers, and guests.
This policy is a fluid and evolving document. As we learn from our collective experiences, observe the practicality of the policy’s implementation, and collaborate with experts in the field, its parameters may need to be altered. Such change is a healthy process that enables those charged with safeguarding our children to be responsive to altered circumstances and to the practical needs of our community.
Policies regarding Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Abuse, and Mandated reporting
The following includes content from our Staff and Parent Handbooks regarding our policies related to sexual harassment, discrimination, abuse, and mandated reporting. Please note that the policies are subject to change based on best practices and state and local regulations.
Additionally, the laws of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' Office of Children, Youth, and Families of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are particularly stringent regarding mandating reporting. Our senior leadership team, as well as every seasonal employee, is given specific training and instructions at the start of every season as to how best to follow our obligations to State and Local Authorities regarding these matters.
ABUSE AND NEGLECT POLICY OF CAMP
It is the goal of Camp to promote a camp that is free of child abuse and neglect. To achieve our goal, the conduct described in this policy will not be tolerated.
Camp has stated procedures by which inappropriate conduct will be dealt with if experienced or reported by campers and staff.
Because Camp takes allegations of child abuse and neglect seriously, we will respond promptly to reports of child abuse and neglect. Where it is determined that such inappropriate conduct has occurred, Camp will act promptly to eliminate the conduct and impose such corrective action as is necessary, including disciplinary action where appropriate.
ADDENDUM DEFINITION OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
The following are some examples of conduct that may constitute child abuse and neglect:
Sexual abuse and exploitation
Any of the above conduct is grounds for immediate dismissal from camp and termination of employment.
REPORTS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
If a camper reports that they have been subjected to child abuse and neglect by staff or another camper, the camper has the right to file a complaint with our organization. This may be done in writing or verbally to any mandatory reporter who will report the information to a member of the senior team.
State laws mandate that certain persons report suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect to civil authorities. Camp policy requires all Camp staff to report any reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or maltreated.
Staff members must follow protocol to directly and immediately notify camp leadership of any suspected incident of child abuse. The Executive Director, Camp Director or another member of the senior team will work with the reporting individual to make the report of abuse or neglect to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.(See Appendix for more information on reporting protocols to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.)
All reports facilitated by Camp leadership will be held in the strictest of confidence protecting the confidentiality of the information and the individuals involved. Additionally, this policy encourages reporting suspected historical events that are suspicious for child abuse or neglect.
If a child reports, or the Camp suspects, abuse or neglect at home, state law mandates that the Executive Director, Day Camp Director, or their designee, would contact the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to determine our reporting responsibilities, and if necessary, the staff member to whom the report was made may have to serve as the official reporter, with proper support from our senior staff. (See Appendix for more information on reporting protocols to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.)
INFORMATION ON REPORTING ABUSE CONTAINED IN STAFF HANDBOOK RESPONDING TO SUSPICIONS OF CHILD ABUSE
Adapted from “What to Do When a Child Discloses Possible Abuse,” prepared for Camp Ramah in California by Miriam Wolf, MSW)
Because of the trusted relationship that campers often develop with staff at camp, there is a potential for campers to disclose information about possible abuse. Information of this nature will require additional follow-up by the camp administration and may also trigger a report to the appropriate authorities as required by law. Whether the alleged abuse occurred in or out of camp, if a camper discloses possible child abuse, a staff member should keep the following in mind and adhere to these steps:
“Thank you for telling me. I believe you. You did nothing wrong. I will get you help.”
Practice “active listening,” letting the camper do most of the talking and you do mostly supportive listening. Do not overreact or respond with condemning language. Children may not disclose due to fear of upsetting adults or being viewed as scarred in some way. A response of this nature can trigger negative behaviors and lead to the camper shutting down the conversation. If the camper asks you to promise to keep the information to yourself you may say, “Most things you tell me I can keep to myself. But if you tell me something that makes me worry about your safety or the safety of someone else, I may not be able to keep that to myself.” NEVER promise that you won’t tell anyone else.
Tell the camper that you are glad they told you. Support the camper’s decision by praising the courage it took to share. Do not investigate or ask detailed questions - this is not your job. Assure the camper that you believe them and that they did nothing wrong.. While it is difficult to hear information of this kind, try to remain supportive and neutral.
Tell the camper that you are going to help them. Then, follow the protocol set by the camp: Tell your rosh edah (unit leader) or yoetzet (camper care liaison) immediately, who will arrange for you to speak with the director or their designee. Ramah policy requires all Ramah staff to report to their camp director or another senior camp leader any reasonable suspicion that a camper is being abused or maltreated (whether this is a past occurrence or a present situation).
A camper may initially be angry with you that you cannot keep the information to yourself. It is important to remember that campers often choose to tell someone when they want help. Helping campers does not mean keeping secrets; it means getting them appropriate assistance while at camp and when they return home. Be sure to speak with a yoetzet about your feelings and involvement in this situation.
POLICY AGAINST UNLAWFUL HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION
Camp Ramah is committed to ensuring that our community is free of harassment and discrimination, whether prohibited by law or by Jewish ethical standards. Camp Ramah prohibits discrimination and harassment of any kind, including on the basis of race, religious belief, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, medical condition, disability, national origin, or any other category protected by applicable state or federal law.
Camp Ramah’s policy against harassment and discrimination applies to all members of and visitors to the Ramah community including employees, campers, family members, vendors, suppliers, independent contractors, and others doing business with Camp Ramah. Any such harassment will subject an employee to disciplinary action, up to and including reporting to appropriate authorities (if the victim is a minor and the behavior falls under definition of abuse) and immediate termination.
Examples of Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment (which can also constitute abuse or assault) can include a broad spectrum of conduct including, but not limited to:
Unwanted sexual advances;
Offering an employment benefit (such as a raise, promotion, or career advancement) in exchange for sexual favors or engaging in an intimate relationship,
Employment detriment (such as termination or demotion) for an employee’s failure to engage in sexual activity or an intimate relationship;
Visual conduct, such as leering or making sexual gestures;
Verbal sexual advances, propositions, requests, or comments;
Sending or posting sexually-related messages, videos, or photos on social media;
Verbal abuse of a sexual nature; graphic verbal comments about an individual’s body or attire; sexually degrading words used to describe an individual; and suggestive or obscene letters, notes, or invitations;
Physical conduct, such as touching, groping, assault, or blocking movement;
Physical or verbal abuse concerning an individual’s gender, transgender status, gender identity, or gender expression;
Verbal abuse concerning a person’s characteristics such as pitch of voice, facial hair, or the size or shape of a person’s body, including remarks that a male is too feminine or a woman is too masculine; and exposure of one’s sexual body parts except as necessary for changing or bathing;
Engaging in any sexually explicit conversation or behavior in front of co-workers or campers which can create an offensive or hostile environment.
- Other Examples of Prohibited Harassment: In addition to the above listed conduct, Camp Ramah strictly prohibits harassment including:
Racial or ethnic slurs, epithets, and any other offensive remarks;
Jokes about sex or about body image, whether written, verbal, or electronic;
Threats, intimidation, and other menacing behavior;
Inappropriate verbal, graphic, or physical conduct;
Sending or posting harassing messages, videos, or photos on social media;
If you have any questions about what constitutes harassing behavior, ask your supervisor or another member of camp leadership.
Prohibition Against Retaliation: Camp Ramah prohibits retaliation against those who report, oppose, or participate in an investigation of alleged harassment, discrimination, or other wrongdoing in the workplace. By way of example only, participating in such an investigation includes:
Filing a complaint with a federal or state enforcement or administrative agency;
Participating in or cooperating with a federal or state enforcement agency conducting an
investigation of Camp Ramah regarding alleged unlawful activity;
Testifying as a party, witness, or accused regarding alleged unlawful activity;
Making an internal complaint with Camp Ramah regarding alleged unlawful activity;
Assisting another employee who is engaged in any of these activities.
All employees are required to cooperate fully in the event of any such investigation.
Camp Ramah is further committed to prohibiting retaliation against employees who request a reasonable accommodation for any known physical or mental disability and employees who request a reasonable accommodation of their religious beliefs and observances.
WHERE CAN I TURN FOR HELP IF I FEEL I AM BEING OR HAVE BEEN HARASSED, DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, OR RETALIATED AGAINST?
If you believe that you are being or have been harassed or discriminated against, you are encouraged to immediately seek support from a senior camp leader (e.g. rashei edah, yoatzim, executive director, program director, medical professional, business manager, etc.) or someone whom you trust and with whom you are comfortable speaking.
These senior camp leaders have been trained in supporting victims of harassment and assault, and will help you determine how best to handle the situation, presenting you with various options, including the filing of a complaint with the camp.
You may always feel free to speak with any of the following individuals, based on your level of comfort:
Miryam Seid, Executive Director, email@example.com
Rachael Abrams, Interim Camp Director, Overnight Camp, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sofy Maxman, Interim Camp Director, Ramah Day Camp, email@example.com
National Ramah Commission, Inc. (212-678-8881): Amy Skopp Cooper, National Ramah Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or to any member of our lay leadership team.
You may choose to file a written complaint, either providing your own description of the incident(s) or by using the form provided in the Appendix. All written complaints should include details of the incident(s), names of the individual(s) involved, and the names of any witnesses.
Bystander: If you observe harassment of any person at camp, please report the incident immediately to one of the individuals listed above.
Supervisors who receive any complaint of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation must promptly report such complaint to one of the individuals listed above.
Camp Ramah takes all complaints of harassment seriously and will not penalize you or retaliate against you in any way for reporting potential harassment or discrimination in good faith.
Violation of this policy will subject an employee to disciplinary action, up to and including immediate termination as well as removal from the premises and prohibition from returning. Moreover, any employee, supervisor, or manager who condones or ignores potential violations of this policy will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Additionally, under state law, employees may be held personally liable for harassing conduct or allowing harassing conduct that violates the state employment statutes. All employees and individuals performing services for Camp Ramah are expected to comply with this policy and to cooperate with investigations of complaints of harassment.
Our policies regarding Child Safety and Protection at Camp Ramah in the Poconos have been reviewed and updated for Summer 2023 as a result of a year-long project with our child safety committee and Aleinu, Sacred Spaces. We will continue to enhance and improve our policies over the course of the coming year in a process that includes working with outside consultants and legal counsel.
REPORTING CHILD ABUSE IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Mandated reporters may report 24/7 by telephone (800.932.0313 or TDD 866.872.1677) or electronically through the Child Welfare Portal.
Each report is handled by a trained specialist who determines the most appropriate course of action. Actions include forwarding the report to:
County children and youth agencies or the Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) Regional Offices for investigation or assessment;
Law enforcement officials for investigation; and
Department of Human Services program offices for review and possible licensing action.
When making a report of suspected child abuse or general child well-being concerns, it is important to provide as much information as possible. The below list will give you a general idea of what information our trained specialists will ask you for:
Name and physical description of the child
Age or approximate age range of the child
Name, home address, and telephone number of legal guardian or parent of the child
Name or physical description of suspected child abuse perpetrator
Home address and telephone number of suspected child abuse perpetrator
Suspected perpetrator's relationship to the child
Description of the suspected injury to the child
Where the incident took place
Any concern for the child's immediate safety
Your relationship to the child
Your contact information, although you may report anonymously if you are a permissive reporter (individuals who are encouraged to report suspected child abuse, although not required by law.)