Case Studies from the 2018 Crisis Hotline Annual Review

November 2018

All of the following case studies were actual calls to the ACA Camp Crisis Hotline that the Hotline team has identified for a more in-depth look. These cases serve as examples for other camps to use in staff training and the development of their own risk and crisis management plans. Our hope is that by understanding the actual crisis events encountered by other camps, your camp can learn and prepare. As a reminder, the Hotline is completely confidential, and consequently, some identifying facts about the camps in the case studies may be slightly changed to protect their identity.

Case Study 1
Camper Injured and Unsupervised — Parent Demands the Incident Report

A camper was alone near their cabin when they fell down a slope and injured their leg. The area was out of sight to other counselors and campers who were busy preparing to head to the next program activity. As the group gathered, they realized the camper was missing, but assumed the camper went to the health center. They proceeded to the program activity without checking in with the health center. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, a counselor heard calls for help and tracked the calls to the camper who had fallen and couldn’t walk due to their injury. After the parents were notified and medical attention was provided, the parents made a request to see a copy of the camp’s policies, staff manual, training, incident report, and documentation. The parents also asked for a full refund and that the counselors be terminated.

Questions and Considerations

  • What supervision policies and practices need to be developed, clarified, or retrained? When is a camper considered missing? What missing camper policies and practices need to be developed, clarified, or retrained? 
  • Do your incident reports include confidential information? What type of incident information do you share with parents?
  • Do you have access to consult with your insurance company and/or legal counsel?
  • How do you communicate your policies to your parents/customers?
  • How does your camp respond to a parent who demands you terminate an employee or volunteer?
  • If your camp were to experience this situation, would you have a clear employee discipline policy that would guide your decision making?
  • Does your refund policy give you the guidelines needed to make this decision?

Resources

Case Study 2 
#MeToo and Camp: Navigating Accusations of Sexual Assault among Staff at Camp

During a break between sessions, a female staff member told the camp director about a nonconsensual sexual encounter between her and a male staff member. The director and the leadership team contacted law enforcement immediately, and then decided based on the details of the situation to let the male staff member go, but they were concerned about the effects of that decision on the victim (the female staff member) and the rest of the staff. The director called the Crisis Hotline to discuss strategies for supporting their staff through this difficult situation, especially because their staff happened to be on a mid-summer break and were engaged in on-site staff development activities.

In a follow-up call, the director shared that the male staff member left without incident, but immediately sent a text message to the rest of the staff to tell them that he had been wrongly accused. The female staff member is now especially upset because she did not want anyone else to know.

Questions and Considerations

  • What does consent mean to you as a staff? What is sexual assault?
  • What can you do now, during staff training, to ensure a culture of consent amongst your staff? Do each of you feel safe reporting anything nonconsensual that you see or hear to the camp director?
  • What is the process if a staff member accuses another staff member of sexual assault? Do you have policies in place to address the situation and document it appropriately? What outside resources might you need if a situation like this arises (i.e., law enforcement, legal counsel, mental health professionals)?
  • What resources do you have available to support the mental and emotional well-being of all staff in a situation that involves accusations of sexual assault? Do you have access to mental health professionals, clergy, or representatives from a sexual assault response organization?
  • What is the nature of privacy at your camp? How do you know what information is safe to share, and what is the process if you have concerns about an issue but don’t want to impose on a person’s privacy?

Resources

Case Study 3
Parental Custody Comes to Camp

The father of a camper signed the child up for camp, filled out all the camp paperwork, and dropped the camper off on opening day. The camper’s mother asked the camp to release (share) the medical paperwork and plans to pick the camper up at the end of the week. While her name is not on the form listing adults having permission to pick up or drop off the camper, she has a lawyer and argues that since she is a legal guardian of the child, she has legal permission to pick up the camper. Compounding the matter is that the mother, according to the father, is due to appear in court mid-week and possibly have her parental rights removed by the state. The father has warned the camp that the child’s mother might, in anger from the court outcome, come to pick the camper up mid-week.

Questions and Considerations

  • What information does the camp share with non-custodial parents?
  • May the camp release the camper to the non-custodial parent?
  • How can the camp support the camper and make camp a safe place while the custody battle looms?
  • If both parents have legal custody of the camper, what information collected from one parent may be shared with the other?

Resources

Case Study 4
Service Animals at Camp

A camp director of a camp that primarily serves campers with special needs had a parent requesting to have her ten-year-old daughter’s service animal attend camp. This was the first request of this sort for this camp, and while the camp director was fully aware that the American with Disabilities Act required the camp to allow for the service animal, she was wondering what all needed to be considered. She also shared that as necessary, they have a 1:1 camper/ counselor ratio, and she questioned the need for the service animal. The director expressed concern about establishing a policy that would be in line with ADA yet would not “open the door” for requests for emotional support animals to attend camp.

Questions and Considerations

  • Who will provide the care and feeding of the animal?
  • Where will the animal sleep?
  • s the animal with the child at school?
  • What if the animal were to become sick/injured?
  • Where is the animal allowed to be?
  • What is the necessary and proper language to be used regarding what types of animals are allowed at camp (service vs. emotional support)?
  • What additional staff training would be required for this situation?

Resources

Case Study 5
Termination for Failure to Fulfill Mandatory Reporter Responsibilities

A camp had just discovered that a longtime staff person who has had a progression of leadership responsibilities, and is well-liked by the administration, campers, and their peers, failed to report an incident of child abuse the previous summer between a male counselor and a minor (junior counselor). The caller had already taken care of notifying CPS, the sheriff, and the parents of the junior counselor, the male counselor in the incident, and had made the decision to terminate the employment of the staffer who failed to report. The caller wanted to talk through dealing with the logistics of the imminent termination and anticipated fallout from staff and campers.

Questions and Considerations

  • Does your camp have a plan for the logistics for the actual termination and physical exit from camp (packing belongings, moving out, etc.)?
  • Does the camp have a key message that is succinct, respectful of the dignity of the staff person, and will protect the camp from any defamation regarding the termination of a staffer?
  • Has the camp trained all administrative staff about adhering to the key message(s) and to anticipate some upset and even angry reactions?
  • Has the camp run the specifics of the termination past an HR professional or legal counsel?
  • Has camp staff been trained on the implications for failure to report an incident of child abuse?

Resources

Contributed by Tori Barnes, Kim Brosnan, Laurie Browne, Abby Burbank, and Rhonda Mickelson.