Frequently Asked Questions about 4-H Camp for Parents/Guardians

4-H camp is available to both male and female youth. A young person does not have to be a 4-H member in order to attend 4-H camp. Some types of 4-H camps are designed for youth of a specific age. For more information, contact your local 4-H Extension Agent.

Junior 4-H Camp, which occurs each summer, is coordinated through your local Cooperative Extension office. You should contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information.

Additional 4-H camps may be available throughout the year at the 4-H Center that serves your county or city. Be sure to check the Calendar of Events for more information or contact your 4-H Center.

The mission of the Virginia 4-H camping program is the same as the overall 4-H mission- "To assist youth and adults working with those youth to realize their full potential-becoming effective, contributing citizens through participation in research-based, informal, hands-on experiences."

4-H camping is a proven and effective way of reaching and teaching youth educational programming. Virginia 4-H camping programs are used to enhance life skill development using hands-on learning in a cooperatively environment.

The camping philosophy in Virginia 4-H is dedicated to the positive individual development of youth through experiential learning to promote advancement in life skills-knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes that will enable youth to become self-directed, contributing members of society. This supports the learn-by-doing philosophy of 4-H.

There are six 4-H educational centers (i.e., 4-H Centers) in Virginia. Each 4-H Center has a specific service area based upon its geographic location. Generally, youth attend 4-H camp at a specific 4-H Center based upon where they reside. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information.

Each of Virginia's six 4-H educational centers has received and maintains American Camp Association (ACA) accreditation. ACA Accreditation indicates that the camp's administration has voluntarily allowed its practices to be compared with the standards established by professionals in the camping industry (ACA, 2012).

ACA Accreditation assures parents/guardians that the 4-H Centers have had a regular, independent safety audit that goes beyond most state regulations. Many parents prefer an ACA accredited camp over other camps that are not ACA accredited.

Each 4-H Center is reaccredited every three (3) years and complies annually with ACA standards.

For Junior 4-H Camp conducted each summer, the 4-H Extension Agent (or other Extension faculty/staff person responsible for 4-H camp in your county or city) serves as the 4-H Camp Director. This person works cooperatively with the Program Director at the appropriate 4-H Center to plan, implement, and evaluate 4-H camp.

The counselor-to-camper ratio for Junior 4-H camp (which serves youth ages 9-13) is 1:8 or better. In many instances, this ratio may be 1:7 or 1:6 because of additional trained 4-H camp counselors.

The counselor-to-camper ratio for 4-H Cloverbud camps (which serves youth ages 5-8) is 1:5 or better.

The counselor-to-camper ration for 4-H teen camps (which serves youth ages 14-18) is 1:10 or better.

These ratios are consistent with the standards established by the American Camp Association.

Junior 4-H camp uses a combination of paid summer 4-H camp staff (who are employed and trained by each 4-H Center) and 4-H camp teen and adult volunteers (who are recruited and trained by each local Extension office). Approximately 1/3 of 4-H camp staff are paid and approximately 2/3 are volunteers. Paid staff are generally ages 18 to 24 years old. Teen volunteers are ages 14 to 18, and adult volunteer staff are 19 years old and older. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information regarding this question.

All 4-H camp paid and adult (over 18yrs.) are required to complete an application, participate in an interview, submit references, and sign a voluntary disclosure statement. In addition, each applicant will be required to complete a criminal background check.  

Paid summer 4-H camp staff members-who are employed all summer at each 4-H Center-receive approximately 10 days or more of training prior to camp. Included in this training are topics on risk management, safety and emergency procedures, youth behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff behavior, expectations for supervision, expectations for teaching, instructional techniques, and program development.

Volunteer 4-H camp staff members-who serve for one week-receive approximately 24 hours of training prior to camp. Topics covered include expectations for youth supervision, developmental characteristics of youth, safety and emergency procedures, child abuse prevention, basics of risk management, appropriate volunteer and camper behavior, dealing with sensitive issues, and strategies for making camp an inclusive environment.

Paid and volunteer 4-H camp staff members are taught to identify the indicators of child abuse and maltreatment and the procedures for reporting child abuse. If a paid and/or volunteer 4-H camp staff member reports a suspicion of child abuse and/or maltreatment, the 4-H Extension Agent (or other adult serving as 4-H Camp Director) and/or the 4-H Center Program Director will report the suspicion to the Department of Social Services.

Paid and volunteer 4-H camp staff are expected to be a positive influence on youth at all times. Because the Virginia 4-H has adopted the CHARACTER COUNTS! program, most paid and volunteer 4-H camp staff are trained in the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. These are the character traits that paid and volunteer 4-H camp staff members are expected to demonstrate and to foster in the 4-H camp environment.

Paid 4-H camp staff are supervised by the 4-H Center Program Director (in cooperation with the 4-H Extension Agent or other adult responsible for 4-H camp) through a combination of direct observation, one-on-one meetings, and daily full staff meetings.

Volunteer 4-H camp staff are supervised by the 4-H Extension Agent (or other adult responsible for 4-H camp) in cooperation with the 4-H Center Program Director through a combination of direct observation, one-on-one meetings, and daily full staff meetings.

Approximately 40 to 60 percent of all paid and volunteer 4-H camp staff return from the previous year. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information regarding this question.

Behavioral expectations and consequences are communicated through the 4-H Code-of-Conduct, which campers and parents/guardians must sign prior to camp. During camp, expectations for behavior are reviewed the first day, and positive behavior is facilitated through positive reinforcement and role-modeling. Corporal punishment is never allowed in 4-H camp. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information regarding this question.

Paid and volunteer staff 4-H camp staff are trained in the developmental needs of youth, particularly the need for contact with caring adults in a supportive environmental that fosters skill-building. Paid and volunteer 4-H camp staff are expected to be aware of their campers needs and concerns and to address these needs and concerns once they are identified. Paid and volunteer staff receive training in limits of authority and appropriate discipline. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information regarding this question.

For Junior 4-H camp, you should contact your local Cooperative Extension Office to discuss your child's needs.

For other types of 4-H camps conducted at a 4-H Center, you should contact the 4-H Center Program Director to discuss your child's needs.

If you are a person with a disability and desire assistance or accommodation, please notify your local Extension Office by phone or TDD* during business hours.
*TDD number is (800) 828-1120.

Paid and volunteer 4-H camp staff are trained to address homesickness by providing a caring, understanding environment and through involvement. Many 4-H campers are able to adjust to homesickness by being paired with a "camper buddy" or "staff buddy" and through encouragement and support. In instances in which these techniques are not effective, parents/guardians are typically contacted to discuss other options. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information regarding this question.

Consider 4-H camp as a learning experience. 4-H camp is an opportunity for your child to explore a world bigger than his/her neighborhood and a chance for you and your child to practice "letting go." The process of "letting go" allows children to develop autonomy and a stronger sense of self, make new friends, develop new social skills, learn about teamwork, be creative, and more. "Letting go" also provides parents/guardians with the opportunity to take care of themselves so that they feel refreshed when their child returns home from camp.

Prepare for 4-H camp together. Pre-camp decisions-such as signing up for 4-H camp classes and deciding what to pack--should be shared experience (based upon your child's maturity.) If your child feels a part of the decision-making process, his/her chances of having a positive experience at 4-H camp will improve.

Discuss any concerns that your child might have with going to 4-H camp. As the first day of 4-H camp nears, some children experience increased uneasiness about going away from home. Encourage your child to talk about these feelings rather than acting on what you think his/her feelings may be. Communicate confidence in your child's ability to handle being away from home.

Have realistic expectations for the 4-H camp experience. 4-H camp, like the rest of life, has high and low points. Not every moment will be filled with wonder and excitement. Encourage your child to have a reasonable and realistic view of 4-H camp. Discuss both the ups and downs your child may experience. Your child should not feel pressured to succeed at camp. The main purposes of 4-H camp are to learn, have fun, and to relax.

* Adapted from the American Camp Association, 2004.

Each 4-H Center employs trained medical staff who respond to all accidents, incidents, and illnesses. If your child is injured at 4-H camp, medical assistance will be provided by the 4-H Center medical staff. If the injury requires emergency services, you will be contacted by the 4-H Center medical staff and/or your Extension representative. Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information regarding this question.

When emergency services are provided, all expenses will be paid by parents/guardians' insurance that is identified on the camper's completed 4-H Health History Report Form. Any additional charges will be paid through American Income Life insurance that each 4-H Center has purchased.

In most cases the answer is "no." All mediation for 4-H campers and teen counselors (anyone under 18 years of age) must be turned-in to the 4-H Center's medical staff person according to the Virginia 4-H camping medication policy. In addition, a completed "Medication Form" must be submitted for all over-the-counter medications, and the instructions on the form must match the instructions on the bottle.

The exception to this policy occurs in situations involving campers or teen counselors who have severe allergic reactions. In these instances, campers or teen counselors may be allowed to keep inhalers and other similar medication/devices with them in the event of an emergency.

Contact your local 4-H Extension Agent for more information regarding this question.

For questions about specific policies and procedures, daily activities, volunteering at camp, what to pack, etc., contact your local 4-H Extension agent.

References

American Camp Association. (2012). Accreditation Standards for Camp Programs and Services. Martinsville, IN: American Camp Association.

American Camp Association. (2004) Parents Guide to Camps. Retrieved on March 14, 2004 from http://www.acacamps.org/parents/.

Garst, B.A. (2004), Fisher, S. (2012). Virginia 4-H Camping Handbook 2012. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Publication 388-562.

Developed by

Barry A. Garst, Sandra Fisher, Win Iden, Bryan Branch, Roger Ellmore, Ellen Douglas, Cathy Sutphin.

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