Safety at Camp: The Questions You Should be Asking

Thursday, March 28th 2019

Our campers’ safety at Camp Huawni is everything.

As a parent of two energetic boys, I do my best to not be the helicopter parent. Shouldn’t I, the owner of a Summer Camp, who grew up at camp, be the most chill parent? After all, I’ve seen kids thrive away from home summer after summer.

The short answer is…this is not always the reality for me. It’s also certainly not the reality for the millions of other parents who send their children off to overnight camp each summer.

The purpose of this blog is to be a tested resource for our camp parents (especially our families looking at overnight camp for the first time). Even if your child doesn’t enroll into Huawni this Summer, my hope is that this blog will benefit you and your child as you pick a summer camp that is best for your child.

Questions every parent should ask

Here are 5 vital questions I’d recommend every parent to Camp Directors at prospective summer camps.

  1. What is your camper to Counselor ratio?
  2. What is your track record for camper safety?
  3. Are you accredited?
  4. What is your process for hiring staff?
  5. What are your camper policies when it comes to camper care?

Most overnight summer camps keep an 8:1 camper to counselor ratio. Anything 5:1 or better is really good. This is a good litmus test for general oversight of your child while at camp.

Also, have their been any major incidents at a camp that leave room for concern? I would want to know specifically what safety guidelines were put in place after the incident and what the track record looked like from that point on.

Accreditation is important because it requires summer camps to go above and behind on their safety guidelines. The American Camping Association is a reputable standard in the overnight summer camp world. ACA requires camps to adhere to 300 plus safety guidelines, many of which are above the state requirement.

What is the camp’s process for hiring staff? Staff hiring is a big deal — these are the role models and care takers of your children. What abuse prevention training is done by the camp to prevent the wrong people getting hired? How thorough is the process? A good rule of thumb is to ask the question, “How does the camp’s training and safety guidelines compare to my child’s school, church, sports team, etc.?” You may be surprised to find that some camps’ standards go well beyond the norm.

Our Staff go through an intensive Red Cross Lifeguard Certification Training during Orientation every Summer.

What are Camp Huawni’s Safety Guidelines?

I actually received a thorough list of fantastic questions from a prospective camp mom this week. And I had an opportunity to hit on all the big ones mentioned above. Our camper to counselor ratio is 4:1 and sometimes lower depending on the session (3:1). For us, this ensures campers get plenty of care, but more importantly, undivided attention. Further, by the grace of God, we have also had no major camper incidents. Even so, we continue to find ways to improve camper safety. Camp Huawni is ACA Accredited and this summer we’ll have our ACA on-campus inspection.

Our process for hiring staff is very detailed (including detailed background checks, reference checks, and adhering to high standards that we actually enforce), and I’d encourage you to call one of our Directors to hear the details. One of the biggest components is our partnering with Ministry Safe# , who specializes in abuse prevention. And finally, we are most serious about camper care.

In addition to thorough Staff training, we have three big things we do to ensure camper care. First is our rule of three. No campers or Staff are to be alone with just one other camper or staffer. We also daily perform random zone checks on campus that most folks at camp don’t even know about. And finally, we are big on giving immediate consequences when campers do things that are clearly wrong or inappropriate. Our goal is for campers to learn from mistakes and try again. This also ensures the well-being of everyone else in their cabin. There’s more I could share about camper care, and again, I’d encourage you to connect with the Men’s or Women’s Director to learn more.

Hopefully these questions are helpful as you navigate the summer camp world. It’s easy to think about all the bad things that can happen at camp and I do think it’s prudent and wise to ask the hard questions. Moreover, I have to remind myself that summer camp can provide growth for our kids that they can’t experience at home. And this growth is why so many kids return to Huawni summer after summer. If you have questions, we’d love to hear from you. You may also post any questions below!

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“Safety at Camp: The Questions You Should be Asking” posted by at 11:00am, March 28th, 2019. Copyright Camp Huawni.

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