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Who does BSA allow to camp with Boy Scouts?

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Our troop has for years camped with a small group of leaders, not all of whom are also parents. This small corps of trained and experienced leaders, with maybe 2 campouts a year accompanied by a couple of parents. We have had a crossover group of Webelos who now expects that the parents should accompany their scouts on every campout.


I know every troop has its policies, and I accept that. But we need to first determine what is actual BSA policy on this before we begin looking at defining "formal" troop policies on this.


Yes, there is more to the story than just that, and I will get to it, but I want to get a little feed back from all of you so I can put it in perspective. Please hold off on stating your troop's policy; I want to discuss that also, but will form that into a separate thread once we establish a baseline here.

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AFAIK, there isn't a BSA policy which says "these people can camp with the troop". The Guide to Safe Scouting says: "All aspects of the Scouting program are open to observation by parents and leaders."


So what is "observation" - may they camp, or just visit to make sure their kids are O.K.?

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I think you would be hard pressed to keep parents/guardians away from a campout. You also have to be sure the attending parents/guardians know what the progrma is about and they need to allow the program to unfold. SOmetimes the food gets burnt, you have to clean the dishes, etc.


But it is great to have parents who are invovled in their kids life, ain't it?

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Keep it easy.... any adult camping when the Troop camps, is camping as either a registered leader and expected to be involved (normally) in some kind of Scout interaction as needed. Untrained parents/guardians camping are observers only, and should not be involved with Scout interaction.


As a ASM when we are at Troop functions or on a Patrol camping/event, I treat my son no different than any other Scout. Probably the only scouts who need much assistance anymore are the NSP.

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Everyone is correct in that parents are allowed. It's their kid, therie responsibility. However in my experience, I'd strongly discourage parents from atteding unless registered as a leader.


As you can guess I've had a few bad experiences with parents and camping.


Not to hijack, but if you are stuck with them, here is what I would do.


1 Organize them into patrols,w ith a few expereinced leaders to help

them. Make sure that they are told well in advance that they need to

A)Come up with their own menu for what they will be eating as everyone must play a part.

B)Come up with a duty rooster so that it is clear on who is doign what and when.


2 KEEP THEM AWAY FROM THEIR SONS AND BUSY ALL DAY (caps for MAJOR emphasis, not shouting.


#2 is critical b/c if you do not keep them away and occupied, they will follow their son around and interfer. I had that happen to me when my KP partner didn't do his share one time b/c " My dad said I don't have to clean up," have seen this start up with new parents in my old troop growing up (thank you Mr. Joe for gettign htem out of our hair), and have recently seen this with a troop in my district at camporee.


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All parents are encouraged to come and OBSERVE what is being done on an activity. Anything beyond that is not allowed. I make sure there is a coffee pot on at the SM campfire and all parents are expected to have as much coffee as they wish. Of course if they wish to eat, they are on their own but they cannot eat with the patrols unless prior arrangements are made and this is by invite from the patrol only. If they wish to stay overnight, they are responsible for their own tent/gear and is to be set up in the SM area, not the patrol areas.


If they have an issue with the activity, program, whatever, they are to address it to the SM first. They are to not have direct contact with the boys unless it is a safety issue.



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We let all our parents know that they are welcome on any Troop activity. But as others have said, not to be with him, but to be a very distance observer.


Several parents of newly crossed over Scouts have done this, and most do pretty well leaving their kid alone and hanging with the other adults.


However, some just can't help themselves and are absolutely compelled to help their son put up his tent, cook, clean up, or work on a skill. Worst is when they give him special treats that "he likes". Such behavior merits a Scoutmasters conference with both the parent and Scout.


As soon as they show interest in attending an outing, I put a volunteer application and pen in their hands and let them know we could use their help.


Some embrace this, other are just there to make sure their son is ok. As others have said, the transition from Cubs can be more difficult for the parents than the Scout!


What is best is a nice participatory balance between the drop-n-go parent and helicopter parent with full understanding of the ways and means of Scouting.


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Yah, Buff, I'm not sure quite what your question is, eh?


There's no particular BSA rules on who can go campin' with the lads; that's a unit program decision.


Adults who go camping with the boys should have submitted an appropriate medical form to the unit, and a liability waiver if required.


Adults should meet the "Sweet 16" requirements as participants for da outing:


* Know who the adult supervisor is, and obey him/her.

* Have appropriate physical fitness for the outing in question.

* Obey the buddy system and keep to the safe areas.

* Have proper gear for the outing and proper safety equipment.

* Follow the safety procedures and policies.

* Meet the minimum skill requirements for the outing and stay withing their skill limits.

* etc.


I reckon if a particular adult fails to meet any of those expectations - proper fitness, proper gear, proper skill level, proper behavior, then they shouldn't be on the outing, eh?


The Sweet 16 apply to all outings. After that, certain types of outings may have some additional specific requirements. Water outings, for example, may require a swim check or demonstrated paddling skill. Fail da swim check, no going on the canoe outing.


Biggest thing after that is what their role is on the outing. If at any point they are giving direction or supervision to boys, then they should be screened, vetted, trained, approved, and registered. Being a supervisor or giving direction to kids demands a higher level of experience and skill (Sweet 16 point #1). To my mind, that includes giving camping direction and assistance to their own son, since da average parent often doesn't understand the nature of risks outdoors.


Does that help, Buffalo Skipper?




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Thanks for the replies. Now a little more background. I have been operating in "HP avoidance mode" for some time. About 2 years ago, one of our recent 18yoASM/Eagle scouts was offered the opportunity to attend summer camp as an adult. He got this glazed look in his eyes, stared into space and replied almost dreamily "Wow. I could actually go to summer camp without my mom? That would be neat...."


Our troop has been small, and with the previously described core leaders, little additional parental support has been needed. Suddenly, we have (after years of groundwork) some significant growth in the troop. I really wanted to create an environment where these new scouts gained a real sense of independence, which is part of Boy Scouting. One particular group of parents has rejected the idea that their sons should be camping without them, something which was only conveyed to me last night, 2 hours before the troop meeting.


I have worked hard, especially the last year preparing our troop committee for this expected growth, but it was met with quite a bit of skepticism, and a "we'll see" attitude. In addition to our 10 crossovers last night, two more scouts were recruited, giving us 12 brand new scouts to camp this weekend. There was a committee meeting last night, and some of the new parents were there, discussing participation. The committee chair was not in the mood to deal with them, and the meeting adjorned in about 30 minutes, without the chance for me to even address the myriad of issues I need committee support to resolve regarding our sudden growth.


While the committee meeting was going on, the meeting was going OK, but certainly hectic. There were parents coming in and out (including my new ASM). I had been asked by the SPL to help with the training (for which I was prepared). While I was juggling all that, I was also trying to meet with and educate the 2 new dads. If I sound like the meeting was a little frantic, well it was; but thankfully it was never out of control.


This weekend's campout will be particularly challenging because all 3 PLs will miss the campout. Two are going to the NJ and this weekend is their first contingent troop campout; the other has a broken hand and has been told by his MD not to camp; 2 other experienced scouts also cannot attend. Experienced scouts include the SPL, Instructor (who has missed the last 3 meetings and has not met a one of the new scouts), a 1 year scout (APL) another APL who only has 2 campouts under his belt, and another 1 year scout who only camped one weekend with his old troop and never yet with us. And 9 crossovers and 3 green recruits.


We have temporarily an ASM "assigned" to each patrol. I don't like to do this, but our new scout ratio is pretty steep. Counting our "experienced" scouts who have 3 campouts between them as new, we have a 4:14 ratio of experienced to new. What I am realizing is that we really do need some of these parents to join as leaders. As Eagle92 says, it the borderline between helicopter/paratroop parents and leaders can sometimes be a fine line.


Obviously, our troop needs to establish a firm written expectation on who can attend (not observe, I do appreciate, understand and respect the difference) campouts. Our district training schedule will limit how and when we can expect in the immediate future on getting these through Scoutleader Essentials, but hopefully we can get 2 or 3 through IOLS next month. On the same lines, I am a district trainer, and maybe I can organize a special session for these new leaders we need to recruit.


Other troops in our area have specific guidelines. One very old troop has not had a mother camp with them in 80 years (and probably never will); that is not the direction we will be going. Another (one which "spun off" from our troop 20 years ago) requires that all camping leaders be registered and have completed ScoutLeader training and IOLS. I think this is the direction I want to take us, but under the circumstances, I believe we may need to grandfather in some leaders while we adjust.



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Wow, B.S. -- what an opportunity! As Eagle92 suggested, you have an opportunity to do things right, from the start, with your new crop of parents.


Sounds like you have the new youth, and existing patrols, covered for this outing with ASMs as backup.


Some random thoughts:


1. basic indoctrination prior to the outing -- there is no harm in observing that every parent interacting with the troop needs to go through YP. Also a basic explanation of the buddy system, since those are the "prime directives" for youth protection. You could even talk a little about the G2SS and the limits that it places on troops and patrols.


2. what better way of describing the patrol method to parents than to have them live it? So for that reason, I love Eagle92's suggestions. Have them form as a patrol, come up with a menu and duty roster, and follow it through.


3. you can have them also experience Totin' Chip and Fireman Chit basic safety training, so they aren't tempted to do anything that a Scout wouldn't be able to do (for example, use of an axe outside of an axe yard).


4. talk over some of the advancement requirements, T to 1C, with them so they understand it is a progressive building of skills?


The way I see it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with insisting that when it comes to "program" that the SM and ASMs are responsible for that, and that it takes special training.



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In the ideal world of the BSA, only qualified adult leaders are allowed to camp with a troop. Adults that agree to live by the Scout Oath and Law, are trained, are approved by the troops chartered organization, care about young people, are willing to teach boys how to be leaders and are willing to serve as role model for young people.


Now, we don't live in an ideal world and a Scoutmaster has to allow unregistered adults to go camping with the troop for various reasons. Sometimes because there are not enough qualified leaders. Other times the Scoutmaster is looking to recruit some new leaders and is allowing them to camp with the scouts to see if they will work out.


But, a Scoutmaster is taking a very small chance every time he allows an unregistered adult to camp with the troop - especially if he does not know this person well. It is very unlikely that this person will end up harming anyone - but it is more likely that this person will interfere with the program. I always tried to strike a careful balance between allowing unregistered adults to camp, knowing that they might interfere, but also knowing that they might become leaders one day.


I also had the problem parents who no matter what you told them, verbally or in writing, always interfered with the program at a campout. They were telling their son's what to do or even telling other boys what to do. You tried to keep them separate, with the adults on one side of the camp, but the son would always come over and to ask where something was in his pack or what he should do next.


These are the parents that don't get it - that you must allow the scouts to make their own decisions - even if they are the wrong ones! And, by interfering with their boys progress, they are defeating the very purpose of them being there.


When push comes to shove, a scoutmaster can and should not allow an unregistered adult to camp with the troop who they know will interfere with the program.

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The specific rule is parents are always allowed. My experience is that they often want to come on the first campout. Make sure it is not a campout where the can bring their RV or trailer and that they understand that they cannot sleep with the scouts. Keep them occupied and out of the scouts' hair, which means you have to keep them busy with other things. Most will not come again, the rest will sign up as scouters.

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Don't get wrapped around the axel on this issue - I think you are making it a bigger deal than it needs to be.


We invite any parent to go camping with us - the door is always open. We do ask (insist) that they complete YP and Haz. Weather training before attending a campout. I think you will find with the new Scouts, the parents may attend the first campout or two, but once they have trust in the leaders (I'm guessing you haven't known them for a long time?), most will back off. If you close the door to them, it will probably make them want to go even more.


We had the same issue last year - 14 new Scouts, first camping trip was the Camporee, where it always pours rain. Our older Scouts were pretty well outnumbered. The new Scouts acted a lot like Webelos, and spent a lot of time playing hide-n-seek or something similar in the woods. They had a blast, the older boys did the cooking, they taught the younger boys a few skills, and it all worked out.


We tell the adults that camp with us there are just a few rules to follow on camping trips. The adults camp separately from the boys. Adults are not allowed in the patrol areas, unless there is an emergency. There is a chain of command to follow - if your son comes and asks you a question, your response is "Go ask your patrol leader." We even practice that a few times so they have it down. A parent is not allowed to discipline his son on the trip. If he sees his son doing something he doesn't like, he needs to find the SM or ASM and address it. Otherwise, they are welcome to come hang out with the adult patrol.


You might want to invest in 3 or 4 SM HBs and take them on the trip. If the adults start interfering, give them one of the copies and ask them to read it. Maybe even give them some specific sections to read, and ask them to discuss it later. Use the event as an opportunity to train the parents. You might find a good ASM or two in the bunch.


I don't think it is unreasonable for a new parent to want to attend a trip or two in a new Troop. I would do the same, if I was just a parent. We are asking for a lot of trust on their end. Let them go and get comfortable with the Troop, the program and the process.

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Yah, Buff, let me try a different question, eh?


If every single patrol leader is out, and the boys are lookin' down the barrel of a ratio of experienced to inexperienced that's so extreme...


Why isn't your SPL canceling the outing?


Why are you as an adult leader tryin' to bail them out with (admittedly) weak adults or adults you don't have any experience with?


Seems like if you're teachin' your youth leaders responsibility, one of the important lessons is that if most of the guys with experience bail out, then proper good judgment is to cancel and have those that bailed out apologize to everyone.


First campouts like first impressions are important, eh? Yeh want those new parents to see your youth leaders in action, and be comfortable with how that works. Yeh don't want to start with the impression that the role of the adults is to be directin' and supporting the kids because the youth leaders are absent, or that unless they come as parents on outings their son may be left in a situation that's out of control.


Shoot the thing. Then debrief with your PLC on what went wrong with da scheduling that they let down their new guys. Reschedule promptly so the new fellows get what they need.


Otherwise your outing is going to feel more hectic than your meeting did, with you runnin' around tryin' to herd new adults and new youth and adults fillin' in as PLs and all that. I don't think yeh want that first impression. That hectic stuff is also when balls get dropped or kids get hurt.


Just a thought :).



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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We have had a crossover group of Webelos who now expects that the parents should accompany their scouts on every campout.Interesting. My son crossed over Sunday with 7 others from his den. Seven of them attened their first Troop meeting last night where we were informed that their first campout is near the end of April. Every one of us parents are looking forward to sending them camping without staying with them. :)

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