Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Camp Safety: Counselors Get Special Training

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Camp Safety: Counselors Get Special Training

Article excerpt

FAMILY THERAPIST Bob Ditter posed the question to 150 young camp counselors: "Does anybody know the three safe places to touch a child?"

"Anywhere they don't wear a bathing suit!" yelled several of the more experienced counselors from Harbor Hills Day Camp in Mount Freedom, N.J. They knew the rules by heart.

Ditter nodded approval as he stood by Sandi Arnold, a counselor. "On the shoulder," he said, touching hers. "Or in the middle of the back."

"With younger children," he said, "you can touch them on the hand." He held Arnold's hand, to show how he might comfort her if she were a frightened 6-year-old.

Then he reeled off other rules: "No lap sitting or tickling or wrestling matches, no sharing a bed or sleeping bag with a camper.

"I don't want you to be accused of something you didn't mean to do," he told the counselors.

Ditter, who lives in Newton Centre, Mass., specializes in training camp counselors. He has visited nearly 300 camps nationwide in the last few years, and he estimates that he has trained 24,000 counselors. Reacting to parental concern about child abuse and other issues that could provoke lawsuits, more camp directors are hiring consultants like Ditter to train their staffs.

About 5 million American children attended 8,500 day or resident camps in 1993, a large increase from the previous summer, said John Miller, executive vice president of the American Camping Association, a nonprofit organization in Martinsville, Ind., that accredits camps and offers staff training.

But extraordinary changes in counselor training are making the camp experience for children a very different one from that of several years ago. …

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