Keeping our Kids Safe: Duties of Adult Volunteers

A one-page summary of a volunteer’s duty of care

By Scouter Liam Morland, October 3, 2007

In its "Screening Level Chart" for adult volunteers, Scouts Canada lists "Duty of Care review" as part of the screening process for all volunteers and parents in attendance at activities (BP&P, Section 3001.2). Nowhere is it explained what this actually means.

BP&P, Section 7000, "Duty of Care", is eight pages long and includes details such as what a Council Executive Director is supposed to do upon hearing about an allegation of child abuse. Even if volunteers and parents were given a copy of this, they would probably not read a document that is so long and one that includes details irrelevant to their role. But volunteers and parents must be given some idea of what is expected of adults in Scouting. Otherwise, we run the risk of having to deal with beer at Beaver camp, inappropriate discipline, and other such problems.

Below is a one-page summary of the duty of care that all adults in Scouting have toward the young people in our charge. This can be printed and given to all adult volunteers. It is shown below in HTML format. As well, it is available here in several word processing formats so that you can customize it to the needs of your group. I advise adding of the contact information for your Group Committee Chair, Council Executive Director, and local Child Protection Authority (such as a Children's Aid Society).

Keeping our Kids Safe: Duties of Adult Volunteers

The primary responsibility of adults in the Scout Movement is the welfare and development of young people consistent with the Fundamental Principles of Scouting. Young people must be and feel safe at all times. Adults are expected to be positive role models of Scouting values. This page briefly summarizes the behaviour that is expected of all adults present at Scouting activities. If you have any questions, please speak to a Scouter (adult leader) or the Group Committee Chair (phone number below). For more information about Scouts Canada's expectations, see their Bylaw, Policies, and Procedures, Section 7000.

Discipline in Scouting is aimed at helping children to understand how their behaviour affects others and themselves. A particular child who is misbehaving is often dealt with by a timeout and/or talking with them. The following are not acceptable:

Be careful with physical contact. Respect everyone's personal space. An arm around the shoulder is an acceptable way to provide comfort if the child is OK with it. Be especially careful during games. Watch for and avoid overly physical attention-seeking behaviour by youth members.

Do not be alone with one youth member (one-on-one). If speaking privately with a child, be nearby and visible. Leave the door open. Use two-deep leadership: at least two adults at all events.

Respect everyone's privacy. Do not be present when youth members are changing. At a public pool, change away from the youth members. Skinny dipping is not permitted. Adults should not share tents with youth.

Foul language is not used in Scouting.

Alcohol or illegal drugs may not be possessed or used during or before Scouting activities.

Smoking may not be done in the presence of youth members.

Know own abilities and limits. To keep the children safe, you must be well within your comfort zone.

Be alert for dangerous situations and deal with them before harm occurs.

Child Abuse

Child abuse occurs when a child is being harmed or is not being properly cared for. Child abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or neglect. If you suspect that a child may be being abused, whether on a Scouting activity or elsewhere, you have a legal duty to report your suspicion to a Child Protection Authority. In case of abuse, inform all of:

If the case involves an adult member of Scouts Canada, also inform the Scouts Canada Council Executive Director your Scouts Canada office.

Reporting to Scouting officials does not fulfil your legal obligation to report.

If a child comes to you wanting to talk about abuse they may be suffering, listen carefully to what they say. Make no promises about secrecy since you can't legally keep them.