It’s the time of year that parents are looking to sign children up for summer camp or summer sports programs. These are great for exercise, developing problem-solving skills, learning how to get along with others and build self-confidence and self-reliance, but it’s wise for parents to do their homework before handing their children over to people they do not know.
Chances are, the camps and sports programs have done their due diligence, and employ proven trustworthy people, but the risk of a single child hurt or exploited is too great to ignore. Especially considering that one in 10 boys and girls will be sexually abused by the time they are 18. And that people who seek to abuse kids intentionally pursue roles that place them close to children.
So as you consider the options, consider the steps taken to safeguard your child.
Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association, which has stringent, exacting standards? What does supervision look like? What are the ratios between counselors and campers? How about the age differences between counselors and campers? Whether older or younger, all camp counselors should be held to the same standard of behavior and propriety.
Do they have a policy about at least two adults at all times? If it’s a sleepaway camp, who is sleeping in what cabin? Who supervises the showers? Are parents/caregivers allowed to drop in unannounced? Are kids allowed to call home anytime they feel the need to? These are important questions, and if you run into a camp that gets defensive when you ask questions such as these, run away as far and fast as you can.
The same is true for sports programs. Who supervises the kids? Are there always at least two adults? Are parents invited to practices and games or allowed to drop in unannounced? And in both cases, ask about background checks, and what kinds of checks were done. A background check that only looks at a sex offender registry may catch those who have already offended, but it isn’t enough when it comes to the safety of children.
A national background check and Child Protective Services check are the gold standard in child protection. And verify whether staff have been trained to recognize and report child abuse and if there is a specific code of conduct that makes clear how employees are expected to act around children.
Sports and camps are great programs for young boys and girls, but only if protections are in place that ensure their safety along with the fun.