In July 1998, parents Robert and Jodi Scheinfeld lost their oldest child Jeremy at age 10. Jeremy drowned in a river outside the summer sleep- away camp grounds. In an attempt to raise awareness regarding safety at summer camps, the Scheinfelds offer parents guidelines to evaluate whether or not to send a child to a camp. The guidelines encourage parents to take a more active role in evaluating camp safety, and also think that by doing so camps will take greater precautions. Although the American Camping Association provides accreditation to camps for meeting certain industry standards, the following check list is from a parent’s only perspective.
• Do not take for granted that a camp is safe. Even if you attended or worked at the camp before or your child went there last summer, safety standards can always be re-evaluated.
• Does the camp have ACC accreditation? Although accreditation does not assure safety, it does evaluate many industry standards concerning safety, health, program and camp operations, and it does provide helpful operational and education support to over thousands of camps.
• Review the camp’s written plan for safety.
• Check the camp’s history of code compliance with state regulations governing the camp’s operation.
• Learn about staff training or counselor orientation programs to understand what the counselors are taught and by whom.
• Understand that your child’s safety and well-being depends directly on the type of counselors the camp hires.
• Ask about the camp’s supervision of water-related activities.
• Review the camp’s program or activity schedule.
Despite their son’s death almost eight years ago, the Scheinfelds still believe in camping. Last summer, two of their children attended day camp, two attended sleep-away camp and their oldest was a counselor. But at each of those camps, safety was and will remain the number one priority. For more information on this topic and to view the complete list of safety guidelines, see Jeremy’s camp safety guide for parents.