Case Studies from the 2014 Crisis Hotline Annual Review

October 2014

Each year, the Camp Crisis Hotline team identifies a select number of case studies for a more in-depth look, and to serve as examples for other camps to use in staff training and the development of their own risk management plans. It is our hope that by understanding the real crisis situations of other camps, your camp can learn and anticipate for the future.

Case Study 1

Camper Video Discovered with Dangerous Content

Camp staff confiscated a number of cell phones from a group of teenage girls to be returned at the end of the camp session. Before putting the phones away for safekeeping, the staff inventoried and labeled them. Labeling the phones required the staff to power up the phone to identify the owner. One phone showed a picture of their camper lying down in the camp health center with a caption about having "just snorted some oxy." The staff quickly investigated this matter and it turned out that even though the camper had been to the health center, she had no access to any medications and even if she had there was no oxy or anything similar at camp. Staff was reassured that she just posed for the photo and embellished the caption. But it made them wonder if she had any other photos – especially ones taken at camp that they should know about – so they visited the media gallery on her phone. Right away they found a disturbing video.

In the video, their camper and another girl (not a camper) were in a bedroom (not at camp) clearly snorting a white powdery substance and there was a plastic baggie in the frame with more white powder. The camp called the Hotline to discuss what to do – especially since it didn't happen at camp or while the camper was in their care.

Questions and Considerations – Case Study 1

  • Should the camp notify the parents and share what they found?
  • If so, over the phone or have them come to camp and do so face–to–face?
  • If so, should the camper be part of the conversation with the parents?
  • If not, what if something later happened to this child because of drug use, the camp had said nothing, and parents then discovered what the camp had known and neglected to share?
  • Should the camp notify the police?
  • Should the camp consider searching the camper's belongings? What if she brought drugs to camp and that photo and caption on her wallpaper were true?
  • If so, what considerations or procedures should be followed?

Case Study 2

Camper or Staff?

The director called and indicated they were having "second thoughts" on an offer they made to a 14-year-old former camper. The camper (and his mom) felt he had "outgrown" the day camp program even though he was still eligible to attend camp as a camper. In an effort to continue to serve this young man, the camp agreed to have the camper attend and serve in the role of photographer's assistant.

As the season got closer, the camp realized they had set up a situation they wanted to avoid: Having a camper with a tendency to hang out with older campers and/or staff in a role where he will be primarily associating with staff. The director also shared that this camper and a 20-year-old female staff member have been in communication with each other outside of the camp season. The director was recently made aware that this communication was going on last summer as well. A photo of the two individuals (camper and staff) was posted on Facebook this spring. While the camp has a policy stating no communication between campers and staff during the camp season, their policy does not extend to outside the camp season. Apparently the camper's mother was aware of this communication and felt that as it was outside the camp season, there should be no issue.

Realizing all of this, the directors felt it is in the best interest of the camp to withdraw the offer made to the 14-year-old and provide him the opportunity to attend as a camper or not at all. The camp has a full refund policy. They are concerned about repercussions from the mother.

Questions and Considerations – Case Study 2

  • As directors try to accommodate camper and parent wishes, it is important to think through all the potential issues and ramifications. Consider the big picture as well as the specifics. In this situation, what originally seemed like a good idea and way to serve the camper, turned into something more difficult to manage.
  • Should camper-aged individuals ever be able to serve in non-camper roles? If so, in what roles? How is that decided and what criteria should be met?
  • What are the legal and labor implications? Make sure you are aware of what is considered an employee vs. a camper "helping out". Talk with a human resources specialist and/or legal counsel.
  • What are/should be the consequences of a staff member violating a camp policy? (In this situation, the camp director learned about the violation months later – should there be consequences?) Use of social media has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. Camp policies should be evaluated and updated on an annual basis.

Case Study 3

Trips and Medication

The director shared that a parent had just let them know that her son had not taken his medication consistently during the camp's two-week tripping program. Despite the staff training in this area (counselors are trained to keep all medication in their possession, administer according to directions, and to log when it is administered), the staff member gave each camper his or her own medication to carry and administer. In a discussion with the staff member, he confirmed he had done this and indicated he would appreciate being paired with a more experienced staff member should he go on any other trips. The directors have other staff members who will be taking out the next trip and are trying to determine if this counselor's actions rise to the level that the staff member should be terminated. They feel they have invested a great deal in him and are hoping to "make the best of a bad decision."

Questions and Considerations – Case Study 3

  • While the camp includes training on medication administration for trips, do they have any 'test' to verify that the camp staff fully understands the critical significance of this task?
  • What are the state regulations regarding who can administer medication? It varies from state to state and, at times, requires completion of a medication administration course. Has the law been violated in addition to the camp policy?
  • What resources are provided to camp staff to assist them in this specific role of administering medication?
  • Do you provide the opportunity for camp staff to share their concerns with you? In this situation, the counselor indicated that he felt he needed additional training – after the fact. Consider setting up a system and opportunities for staff to "check–in" and let you know how things are going BEFORE issues arise.
  • What message regarding the administration of medication is shared with parents? Is this exact message and expectations shared with your staff? Camp staff needs to know what the camp director is communicating to parents about camp policies and procedures. This holds true for all issues, not just medications.

Case Study 4

Inquiry by the Department of Child Labor Regarding a Camp with Young-Adult Kitchen Staff

The director shared that a staff person from the state's Child Labor Department called because someone had given them a tip that the camp employed underage kitchen help. The director said she was surprised, because they are very careful with their young kitchen help and check to see that: (1) they all have their work permits from their schools, (2) they are all at least 17 years old, and (3) they have very clear set hours that they are expected to be in the kitchen (they are also assigned a cabin group the rest of the time so they become a part of the staff team). The director thinks all of this inquiry stems from her firing an 18-year-old male kitchen staff member for not doing his job. The parents of this staff member (who had already graduated from high school) were irate when he was fired, so they called a TV station that subsequently did a story about the staff working at this camp. However, the story was so biased that nothing came of it. She believes the parents may have been the ones who gave the "tip" to the Department of Labor. At this point there is no official investigation but the director wanted to make sure she was clear and had met all requirements for employing young staff.

Questions and Considerations – Case Study 4

  • The camp had worked hard to have clear policies and procedures for their staff under 18 years of age that included getting work permits from their schools. The camp was familiar with their state's child labor laws, which was reflected in their policies. Applicable state laws even had an "exception for scout and religious camps" with the exceptions often more lenient, so it's important to know the specifics. If a camp regularly employs young staff, having a labor attorney (or someone familiar with the state's labor laws) review your materials is critical. • The camp had laid out quite specific work performance duties with clear expectations in the contracts with these young staff, including specific hours in the kitchen and times when they would help in other program areas. While they kept basic records, they were going to tighten up their record keeping to better capture all required information. These specific expectations were instrumental in documenting performance behaviors that supported their decision to fire the employee. • The camp found it challenging to work with parents who were so involved in their adult (18 and older) child's life. The camp experienced few problems with the young employee, who seemed to accept responsibility for his poor performance. However, the parents were more demanding of "proof". Camps need to anticipate areas where they may encounter this societal shift of overly-involved parents in their adult children's lives.

Case Study 5

What Do I Do with Someone Who Is HIV Positive? (Two Perspectives)

Perspective 1: Returning Staff Person Recently Diagnosed HIV-Positive
A camp director called to ask if we had any resources to help her decide whether or not to rehire an employee that had recently been diagnosed HIV-positive. The director learned of this diagnosis from a third party – not from the potential returning staff person. Without confirmation, the director shared this development with some of her key board members. One, in particular, was very concerned about the safety of everyone at camp and pushed not to rehire. Prior to learning about this recent diagnosis the director was considering the past employee for rehire this summer – but in a different position than last year. The director called to discuss his options and to be directed to resources on HIV and managing it in a camp setting.

Perspective 2: Camper Registered to Come to Camp
A camp director discovered that a child attending camp in two weeks is HIV-positive. He was concerned about all the implications of letting this camper attend, including what he would need to do to ensure the health and safety, not only of the camper in question, but also the staff and other campers attending his program. Just as the director above, this director was seeking help in making a decision and also seeking resources on HIV and managing it at a camp program.

Questions and Considerations – Case Study 5

  • Persons who are HIV-positive are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • If reasonable accommodations need to be made for this person, how will the camp protect this person's confidentiality rights?
  • Regardless of this situation, is the camp taking sufficient measures to train all staff to use universal precautions? Is the camp's healthcare team prepared to accommodate the needs of the camper or the staff person?

Case Study 6

Parent Does Not Want to Abide by Pickup Time Frame

A camp director was dealing with a parent who did not want to pick his camper up at the camp- designated time. The camp materials sent to the parent/guardian prior to camp clearly stated the end-of-session pickup time frame. However, during drop-off, the parent made it clear that he would not be able to abide by the specified pickup time. The camp director expressed to the father that this was unacceptable and yet the father refused to budge. The discussion with the parent was tense and the father almost pulled his child from the session. The director and the father eventually found a way to accept the child into the session but after a day into the weeklong camp, it became clear there was no obvious resolution to the situation. The camp director called the Hotline to discuss care options for the camper after the session ended and also how to deal with this parent.

Questions and Considerations – Case Study 6

  • What are the obligations of care after the specified duration of the camp session? Are they different if the camper was mistakenly or intentionally not picked up? Are these obligations the same for a day camp?
  • If the camp cannot meet the after-session care needs, what are the alternatives?
  • How do you work with a disgruntled parent who is not willing to work with you as a partner to resolve disagreement?

Case Study 7

Divorced Parents Disagreeing About Camper Enrollment

The mother of a camper enrolled him in camp and paid the registration fee. Prior to the opening of camp, the director received a letter from the attorney for the father of the child demanding that the child not be accepted at camp because the father had not given his consent. The attorney wrote that the father said that the child could not attend camp if his grades did not improve. The grades did not improve so now the father says that the child cannot attend. The father's attorney threatened a lawsuit if the child is allowed to attend and enclosed a copy of the divorce decree granting joint custody. The same day, the camp also received a letter from the attorney of the mother of the child. This letter demanded that the child be allowed to attend camp as he was duly registered and the fees were paid. This letter threatened a lawsuit against the camp if the child was not allowed to attend. The camp director called the Hotline to discuss options, as the camper is due to arrive in one week.

Questions and Considerations – Case Study 7

  • These parents have placed the camp is in a position it cannot possibly resolve. Only the legal system can determine which parent is "right". State law determines custody issues. Unfortunately, that means a potentially lengthy process in family court – which most likely will not be resolved until after the child is due to arrive at camp.
  • Does your camp have an attorney on-call who can assist you in delivering the message to both parents that you don't have the ability to adjudicate their dispute?
  • What will do you if the mother arrives at camp with the camper as scheduled?
  • What can you learn from this scenario that could apply to other similar scenarios regarding divorced parents and your campers?
  • Should you reconsider the questions and permissions you require on your enrollment forms, such as "are you the custodial adult" or "does another person have joint custody of this child", etc.? If you did ask these questions, what would you do with the answers? As with all legal matters, the advice of an attorney is important.

Contributed by the ACA Camp Crisis Hotline Team: Deb Bialeschki, Kim Brosnan, Tom Holland, Rhonda Mickelson, and Susan E. Yoder.