When evaluating a camp’s service, you should ask: During camp, what kind of contact will there be between me, my child, the camp staff, and the outside world? Here are the specific “Service” questions to know:
What sort of emergency contact do parents have with the camp?
- Emergency Contact. In an emergency, parents may need to contact the camp, or the camp may need to contact parents. Most camps have phones, but camps in remote locations may rely on two-way radios or cellular phones. Are you comfortable with the camp’s link to the outside world? Will the camp contact you if your child is seriously injured or ill?
- Person in Charge. It’s important to know who’s in charge at the camp. Every camp has one or two directors. We mentioned above how important it is to know the camp director’s background and experience. You must also know this person’s name. You don’t want to waste your time talking to a lower ranking staff person who doesn’t have the authority or knowledge to assist you in an emergency.
What sort of regular contact do parents have with their children?
- Phone. All families ought to know their camp’s phone policy. Some camps strictly forbid campers to use the phone, except in dire emergencies. These camps know that phone contact between parents and kids takes time away from activities and can amplify homesick feelings, at least temporarily. Other camps allow phone contact during certain hours of the day, or after campers have been at camp a certain number of days. These camps believe that phone conversations between parents and kids are sometimes encouraging. Not surprisingly, the “best” camp phone policy is an unsettled topic in the camping world. There are pros and cons to both policies, and we’ll talk more about this issue, as well as visitation and letters, in Chapter 13. However, we’ll say now that frequent phone contact defeats the “Gain Independence” goal of overnight camping (see Chapter 2). Given your camping goals, are you and your child comfortable with the phone policy?
- Visitation. Parents and kids also want to know about the camp’s visitation policy. Many camps have visiting days or a parents’ weekend. Other camps allow open visitation, but only after a certain portion of the camp session has elapsed. Are you and your child comfortable with the camp’s visitation policy?
- Letters / Faxes / E-mail. The traditional form of contact between parents and children at camp is letter writing. In addition, some camps make fax machines and E-mail available to campers. What kinds of written correspondence are possible at the camp?
What sort of regular contact do children have with the outside world?
- Contact. One of the goals of overnight camping is experiencing a new environment. Traditionally, this has meant traveling to an idyllic, rustic setting. These days, it may also mean traveling to a college campus or some other institution. Wherever the camp is, it’s good for kids to stay immersed in that environment. It’s part of their camping experience. We think it’s unnecessary for cabin leaders to bring their campers into a nearby town to go shopping, buy candy, or attend a movie. These sorts of out-of-camp trips introduce a commercialism that ruins the camp atmosphere. By contrast, out-of-camp trips to hike a mountain or play sports against another camp’s team are wonderful because they’re in the spirit of overnight camping. What sort of out-of-camp trips do campers take?
- Trips. Out-of-camp trips must be well supervised. When out-of-camp trips take children far from the camp’s health center, the staff member supervising the activity must have proper equipment and first aid training. Which staff lead out-of-camp trips? What are their qualifications?