Parents FAQ

We get some great questions from parents about literally thousands of things "Scouting".
We keep trying to answer them, and welcome more questions, or points of clarification, but I think it's smarter if we try and capture some of them here.

Names have been changed/edited, to protect the source... but if you recognize your question, be proud!

(we'll use Jimmy/Janey/Mom/Dad, so if that's really your name, we're not talking about you!)

Q:    How to you handle/approach Risk Management?

A:    Scouts Canada's official risk management policy is contained (and well detailed out) in our BP&P. (Bylaws, Policies and Procedures)

In simpler terms, it's about having the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time, with the Right Equipment.
We use all of these factors TOGETHER to assess risk, and decide on an appropriate course of action. And, parents and youth are a part of this plan too.

We are an active and engaged movement, that seeks to challenge young people to reach their full potential. But, their safety all all times is paramount.

The Right People: This refers to leaders, adults, youth, resource people, and subject matter experts.

Leaders need appropriate training, experience, wisdom, to deal with the planned situation, and reasonable situations that may arise. Subject matter experts, need to have the correct training and certifications, etc.

Even youth maturity needs to be considered as well, if a particular adventure requires their active focus on the task at hand.

Similarly, age of the youth plays a large role in the decision making process.

The Right Place: Location, can be a key factor.

It can add risk, but can sweeten the reward of the adventure.
(practicing canoeing in a church basement is pretty safe, but isn't much fun)

The Right Time: Many factors effect an event, and change with time.

Day/Night, weather, season, endurance, restfulness, etc.

The Right Equipment: This can be anything from just making sure we have a first aid kit on hand, to buying good quality equipment for the youth to use.

It can mean making sure equipment that needs to be certified, has indeed been checked.

It can mean following provided equipment lists for personal gear, and then also thinking; "What else might I need to Be Prepared?"

Over the years, when incidents have happened (rare, but sometimes things do go wrong) there are always places from the above list, where the source of the problem can be seen. So, we try and use this as a common sense guide to manage our levels of risk.

Q:    How do you deal with the weather?

A:    Well, that depends on the weather.
We can't control the weather, but, we always try to "Be Prepared."  (I'm sure when someone does finally figure out how to control the weather, it will be a Scout!)

It depends on the activity planned, the age of the youth, resources available, mitigating circumstances, plus all of the risk management ideals mentioned above. So, being prepared also includes being prepared to move, postpone, or cancel an event entirely. We're outdoor adventurers, but we're not gluttons for punishment...

Age of the youth is a big factor, as well as their comfort level.
Sometimes in reverse to what one might think.

Beavers (for example) might be thought of as the first ones to have a camp cancelled because of a big rain storm -- but, Beavers are also the most likely to be staying in a building where choices can be made to simply stay indoors, and venture out for a small adventure in raincoats and rubber boots.
The same camp for Scouts, could be miserable, if the entire point of the weekend was to be outdoors and you're now stuck under tarps and tents for the whole time, soaked through even the best raincoat or poncho.

As Scouts, we train to be, and CAN be prepared to deal with just about anything, if we need to be - but that doesn't mean we must, unless that's the whole point of the activity.
(eg: winter survival camping in the snow)

We want everyone, at every age, to have a successful and challenging adventure, and come away with positive memories and experiences.
We may push the youth to stretch themselves a bit in this regard, but we always have their safety this reality in the back of our minds.

If conditions demand it, we have no hesitations in "calling home" for assistance in extracting ourselves from a bad situation.

Q:    How and When are events/meetings called off because of the weather?

A:    A meteorologist Scouter once told me, that when you live within 500km of the Great Lakes, you can't predict the weather with great accuracy more than 6 hours ahead of time. I'm sure we've all witnessed this too. It has to do with the moisture and cooling/warming effects of these large bodies of water.

So, we don't like to call anything off, until we get within a reasonable time ahead of any given event, because we've been burned before in cancelling something, only to be greeted by brilliant sunshine when the weather people said it was going to have a torrential downpour.

If the weather looks at all questionable, or you've heard something on the radio or TV, chances are, we have too.
We'll update the main page of the website, to include a small note with updates, including a GO or NO-GO message about the event.

You're always most welcome to call us too if you're not sure - never be afraid to call - but the website (and sometimes email) are the best way to let everyone check in at their own pace/time, en masse.

Our guideline for a "final yes/no call" has been at least 3 hours ahead of the start of the activity, as that seems to be a stable window for accuracy.

This applies to meeting nights too -- even if schools are closed, please check in.
We've had a number of times now, where schools get closed because of weather conditions at 5am, and by 3pm in the afternoon, the sun is out, the roads have been cleared, and all is well.

Q:    Just a few questions about the overnight hike/camp/event.
Since it is Janey's first time in Scouts, my husband and I were wondering how the overnights work.
Is there a women leader in the tent/cabin with the girls?

A:    Female leaders are present, and absolutely available if needed.
Similarly for male leaders in a parallel circumstance.
And, while we encourage the youth's independence, we're quite open to calling you, even if it's to ask how to deal with a specific issue. They also don't need to know we called either, if appropriate.

However, no adults sleep in the same tents as the youth, and if we're in a building together, the adults sleep in a separate area, whenever possible. It's part of our "two-deep" leadership model, where no adult is left alone with youth, except in exceptional circumstances.

At all ages appropriate propriety is maintained amongst the youth.
At Scout age, that usually means separate tents for the girls and boys, or if in a large shelter or common building, private changing areas. (usually they get good at changing in their sleeping bags, to be honest, as they don't want to wait for the change-room)

We encourage mutual respect for each other's privacy, and they really have been pretty good about that. Even going so far (on their own) as to grant each other private changing time, when guys don't like to change in front of other guys, and girls in front of other girls.

Q:    Can parents volunteer to go on the camping trips?

A:     Absolutely.
If you're just there as "Jimmy's Mom" or "Janey's Dad" on a trip, that's fine.
We have two extra sheets we'll need you to fill out for yourself. One is a legal release thing, accepting that you're not a member, and that you're not covered by the insurance we have. And the other is a basic medical form, in case anything were to happen to you. (we hope to never need either)

You would be allowed to share a tent with Jimmy, but only the two of you. (and, at the Scout age, it might look a tiny bit strange to some of the other kids)
But you're also most welcome to share with the other adults/leaders. We might even have fresh coffee for you in the morning. 

If you wanted to take on more of a helper role, participating in the group, then we'd ask for a PRC (police records check) and a few more details. We don't want to put any adult in a position of recognizable authority in front of the youth, without a proper screening, etc. (again, safety first)

Q:    Can a Scout participate in the overnight trips but have the parents pick them up at bedtime?

A:    Yes.
But, let's discuss it ahead of time, based on their age.
It's not common, but we have had some youth, even at 11-13, who are nervous about sleeping in the outdoors. Usually, we help them make a pre-determined quiet excuse for their departure amongst their peers (so as not to lose face), and they slip away after evening events or campfire. (945-10pm)
They are of course welcome to return for Breakfast in the morning and carry on.

Better that they experience most of the weekend, than none at all.

More Questions?