By: Allan M. Siegel
previous blog, we discussed some important information for parents when selecting a
camp or program for their children this summer. This includes how to ensure
that a camp employs trained staff and counselors, provides requisite safety
equipment, and knows how to respond in the event of an emergency. In addition
to these concerns, advocates also recommend that parents understand a
few recommended practices to ensure children are kept safe from the threat of abuse.
While no parent wants to think about child abuse, it is a realistic concern
that should be addressed –by parents themselves and in conversations
with their children. Like school, summer camps and programs are led by
adults, and in some cases teens, who hold a position of authority. Because
this dynamic can lead to situations of abuse, proper precautions should
be taken, especially during the initial selection phase:
Background checks – When selecting a summer program, it is always important to find
out whether the program or camp conducts thorough background checks on
all employees, counselors, and volunteers. Known offenders or employees
with a violent criminal history are not suitable for caring for children.
All staff members should have proper identification visible when working
Policies – When reviewing policies of a program or camp for your child, check
their policies regarding drop-off and pick-up. Children should sign into
and out of these programs each day, if it is a day program, and should
only be released to parents or authorized individuals. You should also
check into whether there are policies regarding children and staff members.
Specifically, staff members should never be alone with a child, although
they may be separate, yet still in full view of others.
In addition to vetting the camp or program for its staff and policies,
parents should also be aware of other safety measures, and should discuss
some of these issues with their children:
- Children should never be contacted personally by counselors or staff members
for issues outside of ongoing camp or program activities. These include
personal phone calls, visits outside of camp, non-program excursions,
text messaging, or e-mails.
- Children should not receive special gifts from individual staff members.
- Transportation of children should only take place in a program-operated
and identified vehicle, and never in the personal vehicle of a staff member.
- Parents who suspect or become aware that their child or another child may
be the victim of bullying, hazing, or other similar conduct should report
the incident to program administrators.
- Children should be treated equally and with respect by counselors, staff,
and other campers or program members. This should be a policy at any camp.
- Parents should encourage children to discuss their activities at camp or
the program they attend, and should feel comfortable speaking about any
issues, activities, or behavior that may have made them uncomfortable.
Not only should camp staff take precautionary steps to reduce risks of
child abuse, they should also take appropriate measures when signs of
abuse present themselves. This is because adults, including staff members
of camps and summer programs, all have a legal obligation to report suspected
child abuse to authorities.
When camps fail in either of these obligations, victims and their families
may have the right to seek justice and a recovery of their damages by
taking legal action. Our attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata &
Siegel, P.C. have over 90 years of collective experience, and are passionate
about advocating for those who have been injured and wronged through no
fault of their own. We are available to discuss your situation personally
during a free and confidential consultation, during which we can inform
you of your rights and what we can do to help.
Contact us to speak with an attorney.