It feels like this school year has gone on forever with all those February snow days to contend with, but ready or not, summer in the Pacific Northwest is *almost* upon us! For many parents, summer creates new challenges in terms of childcare and the juggling act of where our kids will be and who will be caring for them on any given day. Day camps have become a summer-time staple for many families, and some (like mine) also still send their children to sleep-way camps. But with new routines, new surroundings, and new adults (and older children) in your children’s lives, a renewed emphasis on safety is important. Before sending your child off to a camp, here are some things to investigate and questions to ask:
• What is the camp’s policy on training and screening volunteers and staff? Do they run background checks? Do they train staff to recognize red flags in other adults and children?
• Are the counselors and staff trained in CPR and basic first aid?
• Does the camp have a nurse or doctor on staff for emergencies?
• What is the reporting system for employees if something happens (abuse, suspicion, or injury?)
• What is the policy for how children are dropped off and picked up? How do they ensure the correct person is picking them up?
• Do they have a policy on prohibiting alone (or closed door) one-on-one time between an adult and a child?
• Who specifically will be caring for your child? Take the time to meet with the counselors and staff who will be watching your child.
• If transportation is provided, make sure the vehicle is properly outfitted with safety belts and up-to-date car seats. All children under 4’9” should be in a booster seat, and children under 13 years should ride in the back. (Note: a new law requiring this goes into effect in January 2020 but why wait until then for safety?)
In addition to this, before signing your child up for a camp, you should ask to tour the facility and check camp references. The internet can be a wonderful tool—Google the camp to see if there have been any complaints or write-ups about the facility. When you visit the camp, look for signs of filth or disrepair, and listen to your gut if you or your child has a sense that it is just “not right.” Any reputable camp will happily show you their safety policies and/or discuss them with you. If the camp is defensive or does not have a policy in place, you may want to consider another alternative; secrecy and defensiveness is not a great way to start off the summer.
I have the fondest of memories from my sleep-away summer camp days, and my daughter (who attends the same camp I did) is creating wonderful memories as well. I’m so grateful that so many wonderful opportunities abound for our children, especially in the Northwest. But handing our children off to others to care for them requires a certain level of trust. Taking the time to ask a few basic questions to ensure your child’s safety as best you can is well worth the time and effort it takes.