#childsafety | Summer Camp: The Comeback Kid Of 2022

NEW JERSEY— For many parents, giving their children some structured time during summer break is a win-win. Kids have fun and learn new skills; parents don’t have to scramble for child care.

And summer camps of all varieties are part of the equation once again.

The summer camp trend is making a comeback in 2022 after the COVID pause. But now there are new challenges for the industry, primarily staffing, summer camp advocates say.

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“The re-opening is very exciting,” said Alicia Skovera, executive director of the American Camp Association, New York & New Jersey.

The association represents about 600 camps – day camps and overnight camps – in New Jersey and in neighboring states, she said. Apart from New York, there are members from Maine and Pennsylvania, Skovera added.

Find out what’s happening in Across New Jerseywith free, real-time updates from Patch.

And the good news for the industry, she said, is that there are waitlists as the demand to enroll children in camps is returning to pre-COVID levels.

She said no camps in the area her organization represents are cutting back or closing.

“Summer camps will look more like 2019 than 2020 or 2021,” with no COVID mitigation rules for this summer, she noted.

COVID Restrictions Relaxed

The demand for summer camp is up because parents discovered “how important camp was after COVID for socializing, being outdoors and taking a break from technology,” said Jess Michaels, communications director of the association.

Youth camps will not be required to implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies as a condition of operation during the 2022 summer season, the state Department of Health has determined.

There is optional camp guidance from the state that camps can use to incorporate COVID protocols.

Many camps will still incorporate some of the changes made over the past two years, such as increased hand washing, hand sanitizing and cleaning of frequently used surfaces, Michaels said. But there are currently no COVID mandates for camps, Michaels added.

She said camps may set their own polices regarding vaccinations.

And the association provides COVID guidance on its website.

Focus On Staffing, Training

The summer camp picture is coming together as schools approach the end of the academic year.

“It will be difficult to take people off those waitlists,” Skovera said.

But camps are starting up new training sessions for employees, she added. And onboarding staff is a priority right now, the association says.

“Staffing is an issue for many industries right now, with all of them vying for the same teen/young adult age group. Teens today have many job and program opportunities,” Skovera said.

Among her association members, camps in New Jersey are primarily day camps. Then there are the many public day camps run by municipalities. Almost every town website has advertisements for camp counselors.

“It’s even harder for town camps,” Skovera said. “Teens have so many options today.”

There are teen tours, internships and work at local restaurants and other businesses, Skovera said.

Staffing is a national problem, she noted referring to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics March report that showed there are 11.5 million jobs to fill.

Rewards Of A Camp Counselor Job

Skovera is a big booster of teens’ taking a job as a camp counselor, or other position in the summer camp world.

“It’s working outside; it’s a paycheck and it’s fun,” she said.

Young employees can learn specialized skills too as part of the job, such as CPR and first aid, Skovera said.

Young people learn skills they’ll need as adults: leadership, how to manage people and problem solving, Skovera cited.

Another factor Skovera noted is how our more virtual, isolated society seems to lack role models.

But the camp industry can fill that gap, offering a “supportive environment,” she said.

Resources For Parents

It may not occur to most parents, but the association can actually serve as a clearinghouse of information about summer camp options, Skovera observed.

The website has a handy locator for camps, filtered by overnight or day camps in the area a parent prefers. It also filters the guide by day or overnight camp. And it provides parents with information about camp tours.

It also offers links to advice about the camping experience, such as preparing your child for his or her first overnight camp experience.

It can offer information on the variety of specialty camps that exist to meet campers interests or special needs.

New Jersey parent Cindy Brooks, whose children attended Willow Lake Day Camp in New Jersey, sees the benefits of a camp experience.

“Camp has helped them grow socially, gain confidence and kept them active and healthy,” the West Orange resident said.

And overall, the association can provide guidance about any camp a parent is considering.

“First and foremost, parents want to know where they’ll be sending their children, whether it’s for one week or for eight. What is the environment? How safe is the location? What are the views and beliefs of the camp?” the website notes.

Accreditation from the ACA indicates that a camp follows a set of high standards, Skovera said.

The website said camps accredited by ACA operate “under the approval of industry professionals and authoritative sources. These standards set the bar for health, safety, and risk management practices, while providing evidence of a camp’s sustainability and continual pursuit of improvement.”

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