By Natale, Colorado Mom
My soon to be 10-year-old son will be attending a week long overnight camp this summer – for the first time – with a friend. While he is excited, I am of course very nervous. We have talked a lot about body safety in our house, and I feel my son is very aware, but I won't be there to help or protect him.
The camp's website provides a lot of very detailed information about the camp, but it doesn't really address safety (some generalities maybe, but certainly nothing about body safety, child abuse or sexual abuse prevention). I consulted Feather on how to approach the camp director about my concerns, and also I got some good ideas from her book and website.
I traded voicemails with the director and he ended up calling me back while I was driving, but we had a very good conversation nonetheless. I started off my conversation with "Have you heard of Feather Berkower and her work with Parenting Safe Children?" I felt this would be a good ice breaker, especially if he had heard of her and would then know where I was headed. He stated that he was familiar with her which was comforting for me.
I can't recall all the specific questions I asked, but I know that we discussed if there was a buddy system (actually the camp requires not two, but 3 campers/counselors together at all times), how showering is monitored, what the sleeping arrangements are like (where do the counselors sleep, how many of them are in the cabin?), how does the camp screen new hires, what type of training do the counselors receive (they have mandatory reporting), etc.
I was pleased during the conversation that the director was not taken off guard and was not offended by my questions. I didn't have to pry the info out of him; he was able to tell me exactly what I needed to know (and more). He was open to meeting with me, invited our family to come see the camp, and to the open houses. I had a sense of relief after the call, and I am really happy to have found the courage to contact the camp director, but of course, a parent will never feel 100% assured that their child will be safe when they are away.
For now, I know that I am doing what I can to help keep my child safe by making the camp aware that parents will question what they do to keep children free from abuse; as well as talking to my child on an on-going and transparent basis so that he knows how to keep himself safe when at camp.