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The One Question You Need To Ask Before Sending Your Child to Summer Camp

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Whether it’s a sports camp, recreational, music or math, camp is supposed to a place where you generally pay a lot of money for your kids to go and have great experiences. Though when it comes to camp, that’s certainly not what we’ve been hearing about in the news lately.

Camp Good News on the Cape just lost its accreditation and shut down after allegations that molestation took place there. You can imagine it has parents asking questions, and they should.

The latest stories also rip open wounds that will never heal for a man I talked to 12 years ago during a series of reports I did on summer camps, including molestation problems and the fact many weren’t licensed.

His name is Dr. Rice. He sat in front of me all these years ago, telling me his son was molested by a camp counselor at a Berkshire Camp when he was just 3 years old. The years have done nothing to dull the pain for this dad.

“I sent him there. I asked about it, I checked out the camp, paid for it. My wife made his lunch. You know we’re involved before, during and after. So of course it still bothers me,” Rice said.

Dr. Rice made it his life’s mission to save other parents from the pain he went through. He lobbied the Department of Public Health to crack down on camps. He came to the media and bravely shared his story. “I have yet to find anything more important, what’s more important than that?”

He found, in the end, it’s the parents who really have to make sure they are asking the right questions. Dr. Rice says if there is a camp that actually says the words: “This could never happen at our camp,” stay away.

“That’s what they told me,” Dr Rice said. “’That’s impossible. Ricky could not have done this to your son, that’s impossible.’ But my son told the police what happened, he was brave enough to do that, and the police then went and talked to Ricky and Ricky said, ‘That’s true, word for word. I did it’.”

Here’s what you need to know:

There is a minimum qualification for anybody to be a camp councilor in Massachusetts
They all need 4 weeks experience in a supervisory role with children
They have to be at least 18 in an overnight camp, 16 in a day camp
They have to be at least 3 years older than the kids they are supervising
They have to have appropriate certification in the activity they are overseeing
You can ask to see proof that they are certified in a particular activity
A criminal background or CORI check must be done
The operator of the camp has to get a sex offender registry report from the sex offender registry board for anyone, including camp volunteers

Of course you need to talk to your child about what potentially could happen, things that make them uncomfortable, and who to turn to for help. But Dr. Rice says this is the one question you need to ask the director of any camp you are considering: “What programs do you have in place that are going to make sure my boy, or my girl come home in one piece?”

Dr. Rice goes on to say, “You say it to the director and you look into his eyes, or her eyes and you say ‘What are you doing? I know what you’re doing to make sure the water is pure of you know somebody knows something about first aid, but what are you doing to make sure that no one’s going to take advantage of my child, what are you doing?’ Because either you’re doing something to protect my child or you’re doing something to put my child at risk. There’s no zero, I’m not doing anything. If you’re not doing anything, that’s putting my child at risk.”

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WEB INFO:
Question and Answer Pamphlet for Parents:
http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dph/environmental/sanitation/recreational_camps_faqs_parents.pdf

MA State Regulations on Camps:
http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dph/regs/105cmr430.pdf

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