How the Camp Crisis Hotline Can Help You

June 12, 2017
Kim Brosnan

Sometimes, despite best efforts to be prepared in case of emergencies and expect the unexpected, crises occur.

For just over thirty years, the American Camp Association (ACA) has been helping camps in crisis with a year-round, 24-hours-a-day confidential camp crisis hotline. The purpose of the hotline is to support camps who want help in a crisis. The hotline is not a medical, insurance, or legal advice hotline, but it does serve as an “ear” to help talk through a crisis. The hotline staff help camps think through issues and questions, and identify resources that may assist.

A crisis is characteristically a difficult or dangerous time in which a solution is needed; a crucial stage or turning point in the course of something. Camps in crisis situations are typically experiencing a breakdown or disruption of their usual or normal routines and functions. The situations are very stressful, and camp staff find themselves struggling to cope with the situation and/or find a solution.

Health and medical issues warrant the most calls to the camp crisis hotline. Calls in this category typically relate to topics from the treatment of common childhood illnesses (e.g., chicken pox) and infestations (e.g., bedbugs), to questions about procedures (e.g. how to perform a lice check), to looking for ways to support a variety of mental health issues from self-harm to depression, or medication management (i.e. mismanagement).

The second most popular type of hotline call typically relates to child abuse. We know the safety and security of the camp experience may be a catalyst for a child to disclose an abusive situation from home. While camps know they are mandated reporters, they may never have had to make “the call” to CPS, so they call the ACA Crisis Hotline seeking reassurance that they are doing what is right — or they may just need to know what number to call. The crisis hotline staff also frequently handle calls regarding campers abusing one another and sometimes staff-to-camper abuse.

Other calls that have come in to the hotline over the years have related to issues with the following: lice, scabies, bedbugs, serious injuries, lost campers, bat infestation at camp; a bear and mountain lion in a camp, forest fires, floods, fallen trees on buildings, death of a camper/staff/volunteer, a flu pandemic, LGBTQ issues, ADA issues, international staff issues, Homeland Security issues, employment issues, custody issues, rental group issues, and so many more.

No matter the crisis, from difficult parents to misbehaving campers and/or staff, from natural disasters to kitchen disasters, from sex, drugs, and misconduct to emerging societal issues creeping into camp, we’re here for you and are committed to helping you get through by listening, talking, and sharing resources.

If your camp is dealing with a crisis and you would like to talk it through, you can reach the Camp Crisis Hotline at 800-573-9019.

Kim Brosnan is the director of knowledge systems at American Camp Association.