The Denver Post published a list of summer camps today – and many parents will spend time over the next month trying to determine what the best fit is for their kids. Will it be a summer for science, adventure, sports or drama? Will it be a day camp or a weeklong overnight camp?
Most have heard “the fish stinks from the head down” in reference to a group whose management has contributed to an overall state of deterioration. Well the reverse holds true, so when looking at options for camp, start by asking questions of the camp director. Begin by looking for a director who addresses child protection and safety issues with knowledge and sensitivity.
Ask about the staff and how they are screened. Background evaluations may include: face-to-face interviews, character references from non-relatives, work history checks, and maybe criminal background checks (many states bar or restrict access to such information.) Returning staff checks are also an important part of the process.
A camp director should be knowledgeable about child abuse prevention, channels of reporting allegations to state authorities, and has readily explainable policies in place to address any questions or concerns that parents or campers may raise.
Ask what specific training staff receives to deal with such situations. And inquire about what staff rules govern overnight activities, being alone with campers, etc. Campers should be given clear directions on how to report any uncomfortable situations.
Look for a camp with thoughtful policies about staff rotation, unannounced staff checks, counselor performance observations, and in-service training.
One of the best tools a parent may have is the opinions from parents of past campers. Ask the camp director to provide you with a way to contact other camp parents.