Schools out! This means vacations, overnight camps, day camps and lots of activities for your little ones. As a parent or caregiver, you want your kids to have a fun and rewarding vacation – but how do you ensure they are in a safe environment?
Summer camp can be an amazing experience for children, and serve as some relief for working parents. However they can also be held in places where individuals who might want to do harm. So it is important ask a number of questions and ensure policies are in place.
If you are booking or have booked a summer camp, make sure you ask these five safety questions….
- Beyond background checks, what is the screening process for councillors?
- What kind of awareness and prevention training do you offer staff and volunteers?
- What policies are in place at the camp to minimize the risk of child sexual abuse ?
- How do you monitor adults or older kids mentoring/spending time with younger kids?
- What are the situations where a counselor might be alone with a child?
At a bare minimum the camp leaders should be able to answer these questions. If they can’t, ask why!
1) Select a camp with strong policies in place and a solid reputation.
The camp should have clear policies for prevention of any form of abuse. It is important you feel confident to freely ask questions about the camp’s reputation and their policies. This includes making there is a rule for adults spending time alone with children; appropriate and inappropriate touch of children by adults – and by other children. For overnight or sleep-away camps, inquire about showering policies and sleeping arrangements.
Additionally just because a camp has a long history that does not mean it has not had issues in the past and you cannot assume it is a safe places for children. Check to see if there has been serious complaints made against the camp, it’s workers and or of any past incidents of sexual abuse.
2) Ensure the camp is fully accredited and licensed.
There are over 300 different health and safety tests required for accreditation by the American Camp Association (ACA). As a result many camps do not have this and a few are unlicensed.
Accreditation means the camp takes a strong responsibility on activities, facilities and the care and safety of your child.
3) Investigate the child safety protocol of the camp.
Background checks are just one element of having child safety protocol. All employees of the camp should be trained on how to recognize signs of sexual or physical abuse; understand how to talk to children about it; and know when and how to report suspected abuse.
Be frank in asking camp administrators and leaders whether their staff can recognize abuse and if they know how to report correctly.
4) Ensure a plan is in place for you to communicate with your child.
No phone or digital device camps are becoming a thing. When your child is away, it is important that they know that they can contact you when needed. Communication between you, your child and the camp is vital.
5) Ask for references.
Look online for reviews and ask other parents about the camp and why they chose it. Camp with good reputations will likely provide these references upon request.
6) Ask if all staff members have certifications.
Staff member should have Red Cross CPR/AED/O2 certifications. Make sure to ask if staff have Red Cross or equivalent certifications and are up to date on them. A camp should be able to ensure that every staff member is prepared to protect each child while they are at camp; this includes keeping them safe from abuse and injury. If you don’t feel 100% confident in the camp’s safety standards and training, cross it off the list.