By John Lynds
While most Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) summer camps are already regulated by City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) and the Department of Public Health (DPH), Charlestown’s ‘drop-in’ program will have to follow rigorous new standards in the wake of Kyzr Willis’ accidental drowning last week at the Curley Community Center in South Boston.
The Charlestown Community Center, which runs a city drop-in center during the summer for neighborhood kids, will follow new standards to strengthen oversight and child safety.
Immediate changes being made at BCYF ‘drop-in’ sites include the following according to Walsh’s office:
Headcount Procedure: Staff will conduct headcounts on 60-minute intervals, as well as headcounts of all children before and after moving through the entrances and exits of the Community Center. A time sheet and clipboard will be distributed to each staff member to confirm they have conducted a headcount at the appropriate times and provided to the program director at the end of each day.
Front Desk Staffing: A staff member will be designated as responsible for managing children in the drop-in program at arrival and dismissal, as well as ensuring that no child leaves the building unless accompanied by an adult.
Child Staff Ratio: The centers will operate under a minimum ratio of 10:2 for children ages 6 and under and 20:2 for children ages 7 and older. This means that for every group of children there will be at least two counselors to assure a check on each counselor, and to be prepared in the case of an emergency. Additional staff members will be assigned to groups of children under the age of 10 to provide increased support and supervision.
Book End Supervision Procedure: The staff will organize children into lines before moving between activity locations, with a designated staff member at the front and back of the line, as well as a staff member to walk alongside the children.
Ocean Safety Procedures: All children who enter the ocean will be required to wear a life preserver at all times. A maximum of 10 children and 2 staff members will be allowed in the water at any one time and assigned staff must remain in the water with the children at all times.
The headcount procedures, child staff ratio and book end supervision procedures will be enforced broadly across all BCYF drop-in programs. All BCYF drop-in programs will also move toward uniform emergency actions procedures as well as site-specific emergency action plans for fire and evacuation, lost child or swimmer and injury scenarios.
BCYF’s also put a ban on employees using personal electronic devices during shifts will continue to be strictly enforced. Personal electronic devices may only be used when an employee is on break or during a case of emergency.
The city’s other summer camps are regulated by ISD through the DPH and these summer camps have clearly defined and documented operating procedures, specifically with respect to child safety.
Drop-in programs, as defined by state regulations, do not fall under ISD regulations, and as a result have fewer clearly defined and uniform operating procedures.
Over the next month, ISD will be visiting the drop-in program here in Charlestown and across the city to brief staff on the regulations required by summer camps and work with BCYF to ensure all drop-in programs are brought in line with ISD regulations for summer camps.