In a 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 with children.
- 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.