Caregivers for Scouts with Disabilities

Horseback riding at the Zia Experience

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Abilities Digest

We have youth members in BSA with medical conditions, disabilities, or special needs where they are not able to care for themselves in certain ways while they are alone in a private space.  For example, they may be unable to bathe themselves, dress themselves, use the toilet, etc. They require adult caregivers.  Under the general BSA Youth Protection policies, only a parent or legal guardian is allowed to do these things for their own child.  However, a parent/legal guardian is not always available when a Scout activity takes place. To allow full participation in the program, a caregiver is an acceptable alternative when approved by the local council and charter organization.

A caregiver in Scouting (CIS) is an adult, other than a parent or legal guardian, who has been delegated responsibility by the parents/guardians to provide personal assistance for an individual Scout, where that assistance requires touching, one-on-one contact, or presence in private spaces (sleeping quarters, bathing quarters, etc.) that would not ordinarily be allowed to a non-parent by standard BSA youth protection rules.  A CIS does not need to have professional qualifications or licenses for caregiving as long as they are trusted by the family.

Here are some examples of needs or situations where a disability could require a CIS:

  • Bathroom use (toileting)
  • Bathe/Shower
  • Get dressed/change clothes
  • Eat/Drink/Receive nutrition & fluids
  • Address Incontinence
  • Clean Teeth/Groom Hair (personal hygiene)
  • Move (transfer) between bed, chair, wheel chair, transport vehicles, etc.
  • Move from place to place
  • Receive required medications/treatments during outings
  • Receive care/supervision for behavior management
  • Sleep in a room/tent with a caregiver for medical monitoring through the night
  • Sleep apart from other Scouts to limit exposure to pathogens

The local council and charter organization approve a plan for certain individual(s) to provide care for a Scout.  Within the parameters of that plan, the caregiver is given the same status under youth protection policies as a parent would have at a Scout activity. Further, the plan can allow for deviations from restrictions that would ordinarily prevent parents from sharing a tent or sleeping quarters with their child.