What Are You Going To Do, If You Don’t Know What To Do?

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For parents and kids summer means sun, beach, pool, camp, and lots of free unstructured time. Summer camps provide an ideal environment for a looser structure, but we still need to keep a careful watch on our children and be mindful about safety. The following recommendations are not meant to make you anxious, but rather are pointers that will allow and ensure both fun and safety throughout the summer.

1    Parents should screen camps to make sure they have policies and protocols in place to minimize the risk of abuse. It is important to inquire about, expect, and encourage, some of the following:

a)   Criminal background checks (including offenders’ registry) on all personnel including counselors, lifeguards, head staff, drivers, kitchen staff, etc.

b)   Three checked references for each staff member.

c)    Staff training explaining what constitutes abuse and how to respond if abuse is suspected.

d)   Campers should know who to talk to if they feel unsafe. This should be a responsible adult who will enforce camp rules and regulations.

e)   Enforced policy that no staff members should ever be alone with a camper.

f)    Older campers cannot be secluded with younger peers. These mixed age groups should always include adult supervision.

g)   At least two adult counselors should sleep in each cabin, and they are forbidden to ever sleep in the same bed as a camper.

h)   Follow state guidelines for reporting suspected abuse and have zero tolerance for abuse.

i)    Counselors should not be allowed to babysit or spend time with campers outside of camp.

2    Parents should educate their children to know:

a)   NO ONE is allowed to look at or touch their private parts (what is covered by a bathing suit) except for a pediatrician with a parent present. If someone does this, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way, they must tell you or some other adult, and keep telling until someone listens and takes action.

b)   Children should learn the difference between good secrets and bad secrets. A good secret always has an ending (for example, a surprise party). A bad secret is when children are asked not to tell their parents about something. This type of secret does not have an end.

c)    Never go into a secluded place or into a vehicle with an adult the parent has not authorized.

d)   Even if someone threatens or promises to hurt a child or their parents, let children know you will protect them, and they must come and tell you anyway. They will not get into trouble for reporting.

e)   Children are allowed to say, “No, get away”even to someone close to them, older than they are, or someone they respect, when they feel uncomfortable. Children should know this can even apply to those who are figures of authority.

f)    Children should know they can ask their parents about things thatmay seem confusing or strange.

g)   Familiarize children with the name of the responsible adult in camp in the event that they need to report any issues.

h)   Let your child know that you, the head counselor, and the camp director will always be supportive about any concerns they have, safety-related or not.

i)    A few days after camp begins, remind your child about the above.

Knowledge about personal safety parameters and having open communication with children are the key to prevention of abuse.