Is your parish hosting a day camp or vacation bible school this summer? If so, please read the following tips to ensure a safe and fun time for all.
The first step in planning your program is to find the right people. Whether hiring temporary workers or seeking volunteers, screen all applicants. Conduct an interview and ask the candidate for at least three references. Provide the candidate with a list of expectations and requirements for the job.
The Diocese of Trenton requires a criminal history background investigation for all staff and volunteers working with children, young people, and vulnerable adults. Because the background check may take weeks to complete, it is important to begin considering your staffing needs well in advance. When possible, utilize your current volunteers who have already completed the criminal background evaluation.
Camp directors will annually complete a sex offender registry check for each staff member and the camp will comply with the requirements of New Jersey Youth Camp Standards N.J.A.C. 8:25, Revised 03/26/2015.
Safe Environment Training
Once accepted for the position, all staff and volunteers must complete the Protecting God’s Children program and read and sign the Diocese of Trenton Code of Conduct for Employees and Volunteers. For more information on background investigations, safe environment training and the Code of Conduct, please go to the Diocese of Trenton website.
When a program is held in a parish building other than a school, the pastor is responsible for developing emergency procedures, with assistance from his staff. Post procedures in a prominent place, along with emergency phone numbers and the directions to the nearest hospital emergency room. Require all staff/volunteers with cell phones to program the phone numbers for the local police and fire department into their phones.
At least two staff members or volunteers who are present onsite during the camp should be trained to administer CPR and epinephrine auto-injectors. In addition, if camps are located in or at schools, personnel are now required to have AED training. NJ Law A-1608 (Janet’s Law).
Conduct training in fire safety procedures and protocols. Be sure all staff/volunteers know what to do in the event of a fire and how to guide children, the elderly and the disabled to safety. When a program operates in a building that is regularly used as a school, follow the school’s existing fire protocols. Students with special needs should be assigned an individual to assist them.
Fire drills are a good opportunity to identify those who require extra assistance. Always take daily attendance and, in the event of an evacuation, take the roster with you so that you may account for all students.
Be sure you have a plan in place for children who are at serious risk when exposed to particular foods and/or allergenic substances. Be careful of the materials you use for crafts as food allergens can appear in non-dietary sources. Finger paint, for example, may contain wheat and milk. Empty egg cartons may contain traces of egg. To download a flyer with information about potential food allergens in school activities, go to our Resources page.
Arrival / Dismissal
Provide parents with written instructions regarding parking procedures and the arrival and dismissal of children. If a child is released early, the individual picking up the child should be authorized by a parent/guardian to do so. Be sure to have authorization in writing. Staff should not transport children who are not their own to and from the camp in their personal vehicles.
Parish staff must maintain all walkways, stairs, entrances, exits and driveways. Periodically inspect these areas to be sure they are in good repair and free from debris.
Use of Third-Party Vendors
If using third-party vendors, either to supply food or to provide entertainment, always obtain a contract and a Certificate of Insurance that names the parish/school, Pastor, the Diocese of Trenton, and Bishop David M. O’Connell as additional insured.
All third-party vendors must complete all requirements in regards to child protection, including criminal background checks, safe environment training, signed code of conduct and application with references. In lieu of this the company may supply a written statement that all those employed and working at your parish or school have these items on file with the parent company – all components must be met and copies must be provided if asked. If any of the 4 requirements are not part of the company's own best practices they must submit to the diocesan process.
- Children are less likely to drink fluids during play - they’re too busy having fun. Closely monitor children to ensure they take frequent water breaks, preferably in shaded areas. Require all children to bring their own water bottles.
- Avoid serving juice or carbonated and caffeinated drinks.
- Try to plan outdoor activities for the coolest parts of the day.
- Be sure staff/volunteers recognize the signs of heat illness. One of the first signs is muscle cramping, but be familiar with all the signs and symptoms. See the CDC website for more information.Equip students with the proper gear for the games you are playing; make sure the gear is clean and in good condition.
- Know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion. If you suspect a concussion, seek medical help immediately. See the CDC website on concussions.
Youth under the age of 18 may not work more than eight hours per day, no more than six consecutive days in a row, and no more than 40 hours per week. 14 and 15-year-olds may not work between the hours of 7pm and 7am. However, from the period beginning on the last day of minor’s school year, ending on Labor Day, minors may work until 9pm if a parent gives written permission. Youth under age 16 may not operate power machinery, such as power lawn mowers. Contact the NJ Department of Labor for more information.
Immediately report any injury or accident. During business hours, claims should be reported to PMA Management Corporation at telephone: (800) 482-9826.