What pitfalls can lurk at a children’s camp?

For many parents and children, the summer holidays are a time of first separation, the moment when a child goes to a children’s camp. For parents, this situation is stressful in itself and the more anxious ones remember what has happened to whom at summer camp. However, many situations can be prepared for in advance. All you need to know is how the camp experience can be viewed from a legal perspective, what parents (and children) are entitled to and who is responsible.

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9 minutes of reading

Let’s summarize the most common questions that arise in connection with summer stays for children.

Who can organize the camp?

The lapidary answer would be: anyone. Czech law does not impose special conditions on camp organizers. With the exception of the negative definition for persons who have been banned by a court from working with children or minors, almost anyone can organize a camp. It is therefore a good idea to know in advance who you are entrusting your child to. It is worth checking references from previous participants and if some organisers prove themselves, then persevere with them in future years. Camps organised by a parent’s employer provide a guarantee of quality and safety. The latter can then easily ask about the experience of colleagues and does not buy a rabbit in the bag. You can also usually be sure that the camp is organised by the leaders of a club that the child has been attending for a long time (e.g. a climbing or drama club or scouts).

Camp organisers who receive subsidies from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports are also a specific group. They should meet certain standards, including compulsory training for the main leaders.

How is the camp usually covered contractually?

By completing an application form, parents usually give their consent to the camp organisers to the terms and conditions, which are worth studying carefully. They usually include the conditions for cancellation of the application or the price and scope of the services provided (accommodation, meals, admissions, etc.). However, other arrangements are also important for both the parents and the child, such as the possibility of visiting the child, the possible prohibition of the use of mobile phones or other devices, the prohibition of bringing other items such as cigarettes, magazines, etc. There are also arrangements about the material responsibility of the leaders, the obligation to have the children undergo a medical examination and other important conditions.

Personal visits are usually forbidden in most cases and the vast majority of organisers do not even allow the use of mobile phones. However, it is primarily up to the organisers of the camp and its overall concept to set these types of conditions. If you, as a parent, do not agree with them, it is better to look for another summer camp beforehand, rather than screaming at the gates of the camp every three days to demand a visit from your child.

Tip: read the terms and conditions in detail and don’t leave it until just before you leave. Some children may find the rules (e.g. no mobile phone) frustrating and, however much you believe they are perfectly suitable and desirable for them, it is a good idea to discuss everything calmly and in advance. Otherwise, when you leave, you may wave to a crying child who has had their mobile phone snatched from them five minutes before, without them knowing that this behaviour will happen.

Who takes charge at camp?

Camp counselors, especially the main camp counselor, take responsibility for the children during the camp and the trip to camp. Although some instructors (e.g. at Scout camps) are not yet of legal age, the organisation itself must always be supervised by adults, especially in the form of the main leader of the whole camp as well as the medical staff. The camp medic does not necessarily have to have a medical background in the sense of college or high school, but it certainly does not hurt. In terms of the law, however, completion of an accredited Recovery Paramedic course of a few dozen hours, along with passing the final exams, is sufficient. The course should ensure knowledge of basic first aid and the ability to fully care for a child in the event of minor medical incidents such as colds or injuries, or to fully safeguard the child (albeit at a basic level) until the arrival of the emergency services.

Tip: From a legal and practical point of view, it is quite common for a person with a basic course as a paramedic to act as a paramedic at children’s recovery events. However, if a child’s medical condition requires closer supervision, parents should choose a camp that includes a person with a traditional medical background (such as a nurse, nurse practitioner or doctor).

Damage to the child’s belongings and equipment

It’s easy for your child’s shirt to get ruined in the heat of the game, for shorts to get burnt in a fire, or for your child’s mobile phone screen to get smashed. What can be done in such cases?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for these situations. It depends on the age of your child (or the age of the other child who caused the damage) and on whether they were following the inappropriate instructions of the supervisor at the time (in which case they could be held responsible). Older children could be held responsible for causing the damage themselves, but for younger children it is more a question of whether there was adequate supervision (by the supervisor) at the time and whether it was neglected. If the supervisor was not negligent, then the parents of the child would be liable for damages.

In general, in this context, it is especially advisable not to give your child expensive designer clothes, expensive electronics and other things you care about at camp. If it is unavoidable that a child has a valuable item with them (typically glasses or other medical equipment), then they should be instructed both to cherish the item and to report anything that happens to them to the leader immediately. In this way it is possible to trace who was responsible for the damage at the time. Managers should also be informed of the valuables being packed (usually this is also stipulated in the terms and conditions). It’s never a bad idea to have public liability insurance for family members, which can cover exactly the kind of situation where your offspring dismembers a friend’s branded mobile phone.

What if a child gets injured or ill?

When it comes to your child’s injury and liability, the situation will be somewhat similar to that of damage to property. The similarity is that the primary inquiry is whether the injury and related damage was caused by a breach of duty by the camp operator. That is, for example, inappropriate play or activity where children handle an axe or fire without being properly instructed beforehand and supervised afterwards. Another possibility is that another person causes the injury. In such a case, it would be examined whether there was any wrongful act by that person that directly led to the injury.

Very often, however, it is the child himself who is responsible for such a situation, because of his own carelessness. Then we usually just have to figure out how to get the child out of the camp. If the parent cannot go immediately, it is usually possible to arrange with a grandparent or other family member to take over the pick-up. It is only necessary to inform the counselors and to give written authorization to the other person, as without it the counselors should not release the child to anyone other than the legal guardian.

Tip: If you know that you are going on a week-long trip abroad during the camp, it is a good idea to prepare for possible complications in advance and give the leaders your credentials and contacts for the next person.

As far as reimbursement of medical expenses is concerned, it can be assumed that 100% of the children going to the camp have regular health insurance. A copy of the health card is usually an essential part of the application form. However, it is also possible to take out long-term or short-term accident insurance, which will provide some kind of pain relief in the event of an accident. Group insurance for children is rarely taken out.

My child is on a diet. Is he or she entitled to a special diet?

Vegetarianism or various food allergies are becoming more common among children and many kitchens are able to respond to these. However, it cannot automatically be assumed that your child will have all the food comforts they are used to from home. It is always best to discuss in advance the extent to which the camp kitchen can accommodate different eating habits, or the situation can be made easier (again, after discussion) by purchasing foods that your child eats, such as vacuum-packed gluten-free bread, lactose-free soy desserts, or vegetarian pates.

We were not satisfied with the camp’s filling. Is there anything we can do?

It’s fair to say that there’s probably not much you can do in this case. Except that you can, for example, write your evaluation on social networks and find another camp for your child next time. It all depends, of course, on what you were promised and, above all, what was written in the contract, terms and conditions or event announcements. If you are promised daily hiking, excursions and swimming and the reality is that the children were locked up in a cabin for 14 days, even though the weather was beautiful, then it is appropriate to speak up, point out the contradiction with the terms and conditions and demand, for example, a discount on the price. However, if a programme of sports and games was promised and the only content was volleyball interspersed with football, then the child may have returned dissatisfied, but the operator has de facto fulfilled its promise and you will hardly be able to claim compensation.

We know from our law firm’s experience and from our clients’ stories that the vast majority of summer camping situations can be resolved by settlement. But if you don’t know how to handle a situation, don’t let it go too far and contact an attorney early on to help you resolve it

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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