Youth Camps: Scary Stuff!

April 17, 2013

Priority areas for managing risk

Ian McGregor, Ph.D.
President, Ian McGregor & Associates Inc.

Guess which Campus Recreation program has the highest risk profile? That’s right – Youth Camps!

Since your clients are MINORS, the standard of care is very high. The ‘reasonable parent test’ requires you to take care of minors as if they are your own children. That’s a pretty high standard!! Hence program planners need to pay extra attention and apply sound risk management principles when planning camps.

The recent ‘Freeh Report’ has brought into sharp focus the enormous duty universities accept when minors venture onto campus to participate in an amazing variety of programs and activities aimed specifically at minors. (How has your school reacted to the Freeh report? You may want to find out!)

Your planning list is long e.g. staffing, supervision, training, documentation, emergency response — to name only a few issues. This article focuses on what you MUST take care of as a top priority.
1. Criminal Background checks for staff (or Vulnerable Sector checks)

  • Who needs to be checked (contact HR for advice) and how often.
    – all staff or only part-time staff?
  • Process and lead time needed to carry out checks.

2. Supervision Ratios
Look at:

  • Type of activity (e.g. soccer game; crafts or science project)
  • Age group
  • Special needs situation
  • Environment (e.g. open vs. closed space; hazards?)
  • Transitions (getting from one place to another)
  • Breaks (lunch; snacks)
  • Pre and post camp activities
  • Day trips
  • Residence (overnight) camps

3. Lesson Plans with progressions

  • All programs to have lesson plans
  • Plans to include progressions (if teaching skills)

4. Staff Training Plan

  • Pre-camp training and orientation (what must you cover?)
  • Awareness training (i.e. why staff need to pay attention all the time!)
  • Emergency Response (First Aid/ CPR; heat and sun issues etc.)

5. Documentation

  • Parental Consent Forms
    – Consent for child to participate/ allow emergency care/ EpiPen administration/ taking photos etc.
  • Medical information
    – Allergies/ medical problems/ medications/ behavioral issues
  • Pick-up & drop-off procedures
    – Sign-in/ sign-out process (critical!); procedures for late pick-up
  • Emergency contact information

6. Emergency Response

  • Staff response procedures for different emergencies
  • Communications procedures (who gets called; how communicate)
  • Missing camper procedures (a biggie!)
  • Accident follow-up procedures

7. Employee Issues
Review requirements regarding:

  • Child abuse (Mandated Reporter requirements?)
  • Sexual misconduct and sexual harassment
  • ADA

Your situation may also require you to address other high-risk scenarios unique to your campus or program (e.g. day trips; residence camps). But you must address the key issues flagged above — irrespective of what your program looks like!

(Hint: make sure you seek help and advice on these issues e.g. from Risk Management and/or Human Resources. Their guidance will be invaluable.)

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