Family Camp Guidance During COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and as many camps are reimagining what camp may look like this summer, some are choosing to do family camp programming. Below are some considerations your camp may want to implement if you are running family camp:

Understanding the Strengths and Challenges of Family Camp

Strengths

  • During COVID-19, family camp is an ideal situation because families are coming to camp having already been socially distancing together. Therefore, it allows families to stay together in their own cohort.
  • Family camp is a great opportunity to share the magic of camp with parents and families beyond your core camper group.
  • Family camp is an opportunity to generate revenue for camp, especially when you aren’t operating traditional camp this summer.

Challenges

  • Camp settings are typically designed with kids in mind, not adults. Therefore, adding adults in to a child-focused setting will look different.
  • Families (adults and children) are often not used to the amount of physical activity at camp. It is important to be ready to address the challenges that arise from this (for example, adults wanting to drive from activity to activity.)
  • Supervision looks different at family camp. Children are under the supervision of their parents while at your camp. When enforcing the rules at camp, you will need to partner with the parents.

Communicating with Families

  • Provide families with information regarding rules, expectations and what to bring/not bring to camp in advance of their experience.
  • Follow-up with an on-site orientation for families.
  • Reiterate expectations throughout the family camp session.
  • Post relevant information throughout camp.
  • Provide a camp map to families to explain where their cabin will be located with respect to other amenities (restrooms, shower house, dining hall, etc.)
  • Evaluate your current camp rules and guidelines and determine what is the same and what may need to be adjusted. Specifically, determine the rules and expectations your camp will implement regarding the following:
    • Rules regarding alcohol, vaping, smoking or use of marijuana
      • Will your camp allow this?
      • If so, what are the parameters?
    • Will you allow families to bring pets?
    • Will you allow families to bring personal equipment, such as bringing their own archery bow, rifle, fishing pole, canoe or golf cart?
    • Can families bring cookstoves or other camping gear?

Waivers & Signage

  • All family members should sign an adult waiver or minor waiver. Include specific language regarding COVID-19.
    • Check with your camp’s Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier before asking staff to sign a waiver. Redwoods does not recommend a waiver for staff.
  • If you are allowing families to provide their own personal equipment at camp, the owner should sign a personal equipment waiver.
  • All families should be provided with a Code of Conduct. This is similar to your regular Camp Code of Conduct for Campers, just updated to include adult family members.
    • Address issues such as language expectations, quiet hours, loud music, social distancing reminders, common courtesy, etc.
    • Highlight and review child abuse prevention practices for camp in this document
    • Receive a signed copy of this from all family members
  • Evaluate the need for additional signage in camp. Examples of this may include:
    • Additional camp maps
    • Parking/no parking signs
    • Schedules to manage social distancing
    • Informative signage that alerts families that while preventative measures are being taken, there is no guarantee that COVID-19 is not present in camp. Examples of these signs can be found on our website.

Policies & Procedures to Consider
Additional policies and procedures may need to be updated and/or evaluated specifically for family camp. Some things to consider are:

  • Vehicles
    • Where can you drive and park in camp?
  • Campfire rules
    • Who, what, when, where and how campfires will be managed
  • Camp boundaries and supervision of minors
    • What boundaries are expected for parents/guardians to enforce with respect to minors at camp?
    • How will this be explained and enforced by your staff?
  • Cooking and food storage
    • Can families bring their own food?
    • Can food be stored in the cabin or on the front porch?
    • Are hot plates or cook stoves allowed? Where are families permitted to use these?
  • Hiking/exploring camp
    • Will families be asked to check-in or out if they are going on an extended hike?
    • Will camp check out a first aid kit?
    • Will camp allow guided hikes on the property?
  • Local Wildlife
    • How will you inform families about the local wildlife and what to do/how to respond during an encounter?
  • Emergency action plans (EAPs)
    • Do camp EAPs need to be updated to include families?
    • Do any staff roles change?
    • How will families be informed of the EAP?
    • How will camp train and document any updated training for staff?
  • AEDs and emergency training
    • For programs such as aquatics and challenge courses, have rescue staff been trained on rescue procedures for adults as well as children?
    • Are all AEDs in camp functioning properly and are staff trained on the location and use of AEDs (and O2 if applicable)?

Programming at Family Camp

  • Traditional camp programs have been designed for children, not adults. Establish activity limits/restrictions before families arrive. Clearly explain these expectations to families:
    • Minimum age for activities
    • Minimum or maximum height or weight limits
  • Scheduling may look different than traditional camp. Even for camps that have done family camp in the past, scheduling activities at family camp in the time of COVID-19 will look different. Some things to consider are:
    • Families will need to stay together as a cohort
    • More time in-between activities will need to be scheduled in order to allow time to clean/disinfect supplies and equipment
    • Camp will need to limit the number of families that can come to a program area during a time-slot
    • There may be some activity areas that don’t make sense for family camp. Or during COVID-19, proper cleaning and disinfection of program supplies may be prohibitive with respect to staffing or supplies. Identify those programs ahead of time and communicate that with staff and families.

Empowering Staff—Staff Will Always Be Your Key to Success

  • Young staff are faced with a different set of challenges during family camp. Redirecting the behavior of an 8-year-old is very different than a 40-year-old.
    • Prepare staff to provide a positive customer service experience while still holding families accountable to camp rules and expectations.
    • Empower staff to enforce camp policies.
    • Inform staff about different nuances and relationships that may come into play (adult alumni, donors of the camp, friends of the director, etc.)
  • Set staff up for success
    • Family camp does not necessarily mean less staff. Camps should have adequate staff to manage the activities and services promised.
    • Staff need to be identifiable—especially with more adults in camp, it should be clear who is a representative of camp.
    • Structure the schedule so that staff are in pairs or groups of three. This helps prevent 1:1 situation with staff and families.
    • Remind staff that it is okay to say “no” or to come get the support of leadership if a family is pushing the boundaries.
    • Staff are always the role models.

Additional COVID-19 Considerations for Family Camp

  • ACA’s Operations Field Guide, as well as the Association of Camp Nurses guidance applies to family camp situations.
  • Pre-screen families before arrival (resources available from ACA and ACN.)
  • Screen families upon arrival (resources available from ACA and ACN.) Develop a plan for on-going screening at camp.
  • Develop a cleaning schedule for common/high touch areas that follows CDC guidelines. Document all cleaning efforts.
    • If adding cleaning responsibilities to a staff person’s role, update staff job descriptions to reflect this.
  • Communicate with your local public health entity regarding your plan to operate family camp programs. Have a clear understanding regarding expectations for food service, lodging spaces, medical personnel and programming choices.
  • Decide when and where in camp face masks will be required and who will be required to wear them.
  • Share your Communicable Disease Plan (CDP) with families prior to arrival.
  • Establish a plan for a positive COVID-19 case within your family camp program:
    • Develop a CDP Crisis Team
    • Prepare communication plans in advance
    • Update quarantine plans as needed
    • Understand expectations from local public health officials
    • Provide as much contact tracing as possible
    • Inform your insurance company