Appropriate Caring and Touching of Children
Ensuring everyone is and feels safe
This is an excerpt from Scout Leader's Handbook by Scouts Canada, 1995. Trainers at some Wood Badge courses at the time used this excerpt as a handout under the title "Appropriate Caring and Touching of Children".
It is important to show caring and encourage Scouts by being warm and affectionate, especially when the Scouts who come to your troop may do so to get away from their own troubled homes.
A Scout's extra effort deserves a friendly pat on the back or tousling of the hair. Being touched in positive and appropriate ways means "I like you" and "You belong here."
There are sensible ways for Scouters to show warmth to Scouts and protect their own integrity. Make a point of showing affection to all your Scouts in open places where others can see and share in the warmth. If you are comfortable with others watching what you are doing with Scouts, you are probably okay.
Touch children in safe places on their bodies: the back, head, and shoulders are acceptable; buttocks, breasts, thighs, and groin are not.
If a Scout is hurting or feeling ill and needs to be examined, ensure that another person of the same sex as the Scout is in the room while you are carrying out the examination. If possible, leave an examination of private parts to health professionals. Never force a Scout to remove clothing for an examination.
If a Scout is sad and needs to be comforted, show affection by placing your arm around a shoulder and giving a gentle hug or a good squeeze from the side.
If a Scout needs to have a private conversation with you, move away the necessary distance from the others but stay in view of the patrol or leave a door slightly ajar.
It may be impossible to avoid situations where you are alone with a Scout but, if that will be the case, be sure you have considered some safeguards and made parents and others Scouts aware of the nature of your activity.
When doing bed checks at camp, bring along a second Scouter. When travelling by car, take along a number of children or another adult. Respect Scouts Canada's policies on camping, propriety, and ratio of adults to Scouts.
Never alone and naked with the Scouts anywhere. If you must change at public swimming pools, use the usual kind of discretion appropriate for such places.
Be cautious about any conversations with Scouts that involve sex. Scouts will ask honest questions about sexuality and teenagers might seek advice. Listening with respect is appropriate. Joking with Scouts in ways that encourage promiscuity or the acceptance of sexually explicit material is dangerous for you and the Scouts.
In all things, respect the integrity of the child. Allow Scouts to back away from your well-intentioned affection if they wish. Ask them if they feel okay about being touched. Abused children are sometimes fearful or distrustful of any physical contact. Most of us sense the difference between positive and caring intentions and exploitative ones. Use your common sense and good judgment to guide you and protect the personal space of the Scouts in your care.