Child Protection is a Shared Responsibility

Nothing substitutes for the vigilance and care of parents in determining a safe situation for their children. While no institution--schools, churches, youth programs, camps, or families--can absolutely guarantee a child’s safety, parents should take an active role in determining that camps are fully committed to providing a summer of fun and growth in well supervised and nurturing camp environments.

This information can help guide parents entering into that special partnership with a day or resident camp. From childhood to adulthood, this vital partnership has allowed millions of children to experience the joys of exploration, discovery, and learning.

Ask the Director

Who are your staff and how are they screened?

LOOK FOR A CAMP DIRECTOR who addresses child protection and safety issues with knowledge and sensitivity. Camp directors have many resources available to determine that every staff member offers each camper caring supervision based on understanding and respect.

Background evaluations should include:

  • face-to-face interviews
  • character references from non-relatives
  • work history checks
  • criminal background checks (required in order to be an ACA accredited camp)
  • Returning staff checks are also an important part of the process of gathering the best staff to provide a healthy experience for each child

Please ask the camp director to explain his or her camp’s staff screening procedures and make sure these procedures are both reasonable and compatible with your expectations.

What training does your staff receive in the prevention of child abuse?

LOOK FOR A CAMP DIRECTOR who is informed about child abuse prevention, channels of reporting allegations to state authorities, has readily explainable policies in place to address any questions or concerns that parents or campers may raise.

Ask what staff is told about recognizing and reporting situations of concern. Ask what specific training staff receives to deal with such situations. Ask what staff rules govern overnight activities, being alone with campers, etc. Ask what directions campers are given about reporting any uncomfortable situations.

How is the staff itself supervised?

LOOK FOR A CAMP DIRECTOR with thoughtful policies about staff rotation, unannounced staff checks, counselor performance observations, and in-service training.

What are the policies for camp-parent communication?

LOOK FOR A CAMP DIRECTOR who best matches your own sense of when the camp should contact you (e.g. visits to camp nurse, running a fever, sustained expressions of unhappiness) and what communication avenues the camp has established for parents. Contacts with your child could include telephone calls, e-mail, letters, etc.

Camp directors should be able to explain the reasons for their policies regarding the frequency of contact between parents and children. Parents also should be sensitive to an important developmental feature of camp—the self-sufficiency and independence children develop in learning to live apart from parents for a short period of time.

Ask for references and contact other camp parents.

LOOK FOR A CAMP DIRECTOR who welcomes your request to contact other camp parents.

Once you make the call, ask parents if their children talked easily about their experiences at camp. Were the parents pleased with the way the camp communicated to them? Ask if their children will attend camp next summer? Ask parents for the names of other parents and children who have attended the camp.