There has been a lot of news lately about summer camp. It sounds like a pretty dangerous place. Kids get hurt or coerced. No one ever tells until they write their memoir. What is a parent to do? Quit you job and stay home for the summer?
These stories have stirred up so much pain. Pain for any victims. Pain for caregivers who have loved spending their summers making opportunities for kids to feel safe enough to explore new worlds with abandon are now stung with suspicion of their motives. One camp is closed for the summer and has disappointed a number of expectant participants.
What has not been in the stories is what to do. Should I presume my child has been victimized and just not told me? Maybe I should grill them until they do. I should get the names of every counselor and see if any of them are on offender lists. I should just get a babysitter and forget the whole thing. You can go on and on.
How about this? How about doing what Victor Vieth one of our most important leaders in advancing effective training for professionals who respond to child maltreatment did? Mr. Vieth contacted the camp that his son wanted to attend. He asked about the policies that the camp had to keep children safe. He inquired into how the policies were monitored and enforced. He explicitly asked how the camp would ensure that children were never alone with only one adult. He wanted to know the steps the camp went through to ensure that counselors were screened and trained to maintain a non-abusive and non-coercive environment. Then, Mr. Vieth said once the camp had put in place policies and procedures that assured safety for children we would send his son and let everyone know what a great program they were running.
One more bit of advice. Don’t grill your kids. When there is an opportunity, remind your child that you always want to know if they have been hurt or frighted by anyone. No one is allowed to ask them to keep a secret from you ever. If they want to surprise you then they must check that out with _____ (fill in the blank with the appropriate person). If your child has reported something, please call the child protective service in your area. They are trained in interviewing and really invested in making your community safe for children. If something has happened, the authorities need to talk with your child and not through you. If you are frightened you can contact your pediatrician and that individual can talk with your child and assess their current health.
Use your voice, not your fear. Teach for Life .