Camp time is here, right? We are looking around trying to choose where to send our kids for the summer. Maybe a church camp here or a sports camp there. Many questions go through a parent’s mind when choosing a camp, so I thought it might be helpful to list some questions to ask that will help you discern if it is a “safer” camp for your kid. I choose the word “safer” because, in truth, no place is 100% safe since we live in a world where accidents happen, mean people exist, and we don’t control everything. But we can make “safer” choices, which means we can know what we don’t know and know what we do know.
What do you know about the camp?
- If a child is younger, how independent are they in going to the bathroom? Do they go one-on-one with an adult? Do they go as a group with kids who are older? If so, then who is keeping an eye on how long the child has been gone from view? Is the bathroom in a classroom, down a hall, upstairs? Is it an individual bathroom or a community restroom? Is there a roaming adult who is aware of all “hallway” activity?
These questions help you think through where the opportunity for isolated time with an older child or worker may occur.
- Are you familiar with the camp? Do you already go there for other activities so you feel good with the staff? Is the camp completely new to you? If so, do you have friends that can answer your questions? If you don’t have friends that have used this camp before, then you need to ask the camp director how they handle bathrooms.
These questions help you think through your assumptions. Maybe you feel comfortable for really good reasons, but maybe you feel unsure because there is important information missing.
- If the camp doesn’t have a bathroom plan, then they most likely haven’t thought through sexual abuse issues or body safety. Therefore, you may find they don’t know the answers to your questions. They may say that they have done background checks on everybody. Remember, only 10% of child abusers are registered sex offenders. So, we aren’t as concerned with background checks as we are that the camp has not thought through how they can avoid putting kids in situations where there isn’t ideal adult supervision.
What do you know about your child?
- Is your child independent in their needs to go the bathroom? Is your child aware of how to keep their body safe? Have you talked with your child about what to do if they feel uncomfortable in any way? Is body safety an untouched area for you and your kids?
Each kid is different. One 6-year-old may feel confident and comfortable with older kids but another may be easily drawn in to doing whatever is asked by an older child. You may be putting your child in camp because you want them to open up and try new things. Or you may send them to camp because they can’t sit still and need to get energy out. Just don’t forget that the more you know, the better you can set them up for a “safer” environment and a good, fun time.
My rule of thumb is always to find out what I do know, find out what I don’t know, and find out what I CAN’T know. Then, make the best “safer” choice for my child.