Summer time means camp time for lots of children. And that’s good. Camp can be great fun and is often a rite of passage for many kids. Camps help our children experience new activities, make new friends, explore diversity, and help foster independence. Plus, it’s pretty great to get them outside and in nature instead of sitting behind a computer or video gaming screen. If you’re sending your child to camp this summer (day camp or sleepaway camp), it’s our job to make sure we’re choosing the safest environment we can. A little “due diligence” is all it takes to ensure your child’s summer camp experience will be all it should be. Here, then, are 6 questions a parent should ask when choosing a camp, and 6 things to talk to your child about as they go off.
6 Questions to Ask:
1. Are you ACA accredited? Not a foolproof guarantee, it does indicate they've taken the necessary steps to meet health and safety standards, and indicates that the camp takes its responsibilities seriously.
2. How do you screen staff? Background checks, fingerprinted, sex offender register? Again no guarantees, but you'd be surprised who or what can slip through the cracks if the camp administrators don't do their "due diligence" ahead of time.
3. Who's sleeping where / who's changing where? No supervisor, CIT, or counselor should EVER be changing WITH the kids they're in charge of. And there should be 2 adults in bunk quarters. This is for the kids' safety as well as the reputation of the camp and the counselors.
4. Is the staff trained to recognize signs of sexual abuse in children and/or signs in someone's behavior that indicate they should not be around kids? Child molesters are notorious for finding ways to be around children and hide their "true selves" around unsuspecting or naïve employers.
5. How do you handle emergencies such as: lost child, injuries, severe allergic reactions (food, insect bite, etc.) Staff should be CPR trained, and there should be some kind of medical staff, nurse, or medic available.
6. What's the ratio of staff to children? A good standard to go by: 2 staff members per 8-10 children, depending on age groups.
Don't be afraid to ask these questions. It's ok to ensure that your child's summer camp experience is both fun and safe!
6 Things to Tell Your Children as They Go Off to Camp:
1. You're the Boss of Your Body! No one is allowed to touch you in any way that makes you feel yucky, weird, or uncomfortable.
2. It's OK to say, "Stop Touching Me" to anyone at camp... including another camper, a bigger kid or even a grownup or counselor.
3. Stay with your group all the time, especially on field trips and outings. Even if you're bored or restless, it's not okay to go wandering off somewhere else.
4. If anyone makes your feel uncomfortable or you're having any kind of problem, tell your counselor right away. You don't have to wait to tell us first. Be honest with your counselor and let them know if you need them to help you with anything.
5. If you counselor doesn't help you or is part of what is making you feel uncomfortable, tell another safe grownup at camp-- maybe another counselor or the camp director. (Parents: be sure your child knows several different counselors or adults at camp ahead of time.)
6. If it's their first time at sleepaway camp, let your child know it's normal to feel a little homesick at first. That just means you love your family! In a few days, it will pass as you get involved with all the fun, new activites.