Essential Communication Requirements of Caretakers

May 2015

Counselors, other camp staff, volunteers, parents, guardians, and friends of camps join camp directors as partners in the responsibility of caring for other people’s children. How many times have we heard camp directors complain, “I’m always the last one to hear about it?” Given the 21st century’s arsenal of personal electronics providing instant communication capabilities to many at camp, the communication responsibilities of “partners” have increased dramatically. If you are a camp-related caretaker — whether at home, in the community, or on camp grounds — understand the importance of communicating with camp administrators as soon as possible should any of the following issues arise with campers or other camp staff:

 
  1. Death or injury — the death or injury of a person who would have an effect on one or more of the children or staff at camp.
  2. Medical or psychiatric issue — child with a high fever, undefined or lingering illness, eating disorder, body image dysmorphia, cutting compulsion, and/or additional health-related concerns of medical, nursing, or clinical staff.
  3. Abuse allegation — any observed, suspected, or disclosed physical or sexual abuse allegation, including a child who describes parental abuse at home because, while the child informing staff of the abuse is essentially safe at camp, there could be siblings in danger at home.
  4. Facility or security issue — any facility problem that may negatively impact the program, such as loss of electricity, refrigeration, water contamination, fire, building collapse, or security breach.
  5. Public relations concern — any issue that could create media attention or that has already named the camp, employee, or camper (past or present) in connection with a negative report.
  6. National emergency or environmental concern — any issue that will create a predictable panic reaction on the part of family members, including dangerous weather conditions such as tornadoes or floods.
  7. Missing child — on or off campus, including during camp-related travel events.
  8. Suicide ideation or attempt — without exception, any child who talks about taking his/her life must be brought to the immediate attention of the director. Staff without proper medical training should be instructed not to engage the child about this serious issue.
  9. Group management issue — campers out of control or refusing direction of counselors or other staff either on or off campus.
  10. Personnel issues — any issue that could impact supervision of campers or a staff person’s inability to report for assignment. Staff interpersonal issues such as sexual harassment or a physical altercation are included.
 
What is critically important is that adults at camp have this information before campers, which suggests the additional recommendation that youngsters at camp should be on an “electronic vacation.”
 
In the past 15 years, Norman E. Friedman, M Ed, has visited more than 400 camps as a result of his professional relationship with AMSkier Insurance Agency. Norm is the dean of Gene Ezersky Camp Safety College in collaboration with Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania and advisory board chair for the MS Camp Administration and Leadership program at Touro University Nevada. For additional information, contact Norm at normanf@amskier.com.