Most of the time, I am smiling while sharing with you about the incredible impact camp has on young people, encouraging you to get outside to enjoy the outdoors and talking about signing up for next summer with Leadership Academy Camps. Today, however, we need to respond to something serious.
CBS News ran a report this morning (December 7, 2018) about sexual abuse at summer camps. As I viewed the report, it was frightening; however, I want to assure you that Leadership Academy takes this concern very seriously. We are accredited by the American Camp Association at Camp Warner Park since 2016 and seeking accreditation at Nashville Sail Camp and Camp Bells Bend Beaman in 2019. The ACA Accreditation uses rigid standards for adult/camper contact and staff screening procedures. We have been using these standards as the Best Practices for our hiring and operations since we opened in 2014.
I take the role of staff hiring very seriously. We hear from parents all the time about how we have the best counselors, and we are so proud of this. We screen our staff with background checks, national sex offender registry check, three reference checks, and two interviews prior to hiring. We also train all of our staff and volunteers specifically on preventing and recognizing child abuse and how to report it, even telling the staff that predators look for opportunities to access children and that if you see a co-worker breaking any rules to report it right away. We know that it takes all of us having our eyes open to keep campers safe. Our code of conduct specifically states that at no time shall a staff member be alone with a camper and we cover this extensively during staff training. In addition, we teach the campers to also use the “rule of 3” so that they are never alone, one-on-one, with another camper or staff member. In addition we monitor staff contact with campers, and have a plan to follow up with any reports should there be any, informing parents always and law enforcement if necessary, following the mandatory reporter guidelines.
To put this report in perspective, CBS reported there were 578 reports of abuse over the last 50+ years. They also stated that the reports were certainly under-reported, which is likely true as this is the trend in all areas of sexual abuse risk. However, the report also states that 14,000,000 children attend camp each year. When the safety of your child is in question, statistics mean very little. We know that, and that is why we do everything we can to make certain your child is safe. I encourage you to be always vigilant and do what you can to protect your children. We will do the same.
If you have any concerns or questions, please call me at the camp office 615-856-4772.