Mental and Behavioral Health and Wellness at Alonim
Camp Alonim impacts the lives of thousands of campers every year. By establishing and normalizing responses to social-emotional concerns, Camp Alonim is working to provide a safe and secure environment for all its campers. In order to do so, Camp Alonim has implemented the following policies to keep all campers and staff mentally, emotionally, and physically safe.
These policies extend beyond the time a camper spends onsite at Camp Alonim. When there is concern of a camper being at risk—whether through suspicion of abuse, a mental or behavioral health concern, suicidality, or something else—Camp Alonim has the responsibility to act.
The following is a guideline. Final action is at the sole discretion of Camp Alonim professional staff.
Below you will find some “common” behavioral concerns and an explanation of how they are generally approached at camp:
It is important that campers want to come to camp and it is normal for campers to experience some homesickness during their time at camp. It is especially normal to see homesickness in first-time campers or campers who have experienced changes in the past year. In our experience, this mostly passes within a few days to a week. We expect that some campers may need a lot of support in the first few days and plan for this support. However, we hope to see a positive arc of improvement. If you are concerned about your child being homesick, please share with us what your child’s bedtime routine usually entails at home, as well as the things that work well to comfort them. Additionally, it can be helpful to prepare your child by letting them know that it is okay to have a great time at camp and miss home at the same time. One potential indicator of how your child will do being away at camp is how they react to sleepovers with friends or family.
Bullying is never acceptable at camp. We define bullying as using one’s social and/or physical power to purposely target someone else repeatedly. Children can be mean or have arguments or fight without it being bullying. All of these behaviors will be addressed while keeping in mind that some “mean” behavior can also be age-appropriate misbehavior. Please let us know before camp if you have concerns regarding bullying, so we may partner with you to develop a successful plan for the summer. Speak with your camper before camp about going to their counselor during camp should they be made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome by another camper while they are at camp.
This is a typical way that children socialize. We expect that kids will want to spend more time with people with whom they feel closer to than others. However, children need to understand that sometimes this can cross the line into mean or exclusionary behavior. For example, we view bunk time as a time for everyone to be together rather than in smaller groups, whereas during “free time” smaller groups are acceptable. That being said, cliques can never target one person for exclusion since that constitutes bullying. Please let us know before camp if you have concerns regarding cliques so we may partner with you to develop a successful plan.
Below you will find some common mental health issues and concerns that come up at camp and an explanation of how they are generally approached:
Many, if not most, campers who have anxiety or depression can be successful at camp. Disclosing these issues to Camp Alonim prior to the start of camp allows our camper care team to work with our staff to prepare them as needed and help them respond to and support your child as best as possible. When a camper cannot function in the vast majority of our camp programs or needs intensive one-on-one support to navigate the basic day, based on our resources, we may be unable to accommodate or support this camper. When a camper’s mental health team at home and/or the staff at camp do not feel that a camper can be safe in the least supervised of times, we will not be able to accommodate this camper, and they may be asked to leave the camp program.
Campers who express serious thoughts and/or plans to kill themselves or cause themselves significant bodily harm, typically cannot be accommodated at camp. The camper’s mental health team at home and the staff at camp must feel that a camper will be safe in the least supervised of times, as our counselors do not have their “eyes” on each camper at all times. Campers who have some history of suicidal ideation or express more general or passive thoughts, may be able to be accommodated at camp, and our evaluation will depend primarily on our resources, the camper’s ability to maintain safety, and whether the camper is impacting the well-being of other campers at camp.
It is important to inform Camp Alonim prior to camp, if your child has any history of self-harm or self-harming behaviors. Safety is our number one priority. Campers may not engage in self-harm at camp. Recognizing there are different “types” of self-harm with different risks, close consultation between the camper’s mental health team at home and the staff at camp is essential before camp to ensure that camp is a good choice for the camper. Although we do not have a zero-tolerance policy regarding self-harm behavior, since a camper may not be sent home immediately, we do have a very low tolerance, especially given the evidence that self-harm may otherwise impact the well-being of other campers as well.
Disclosing a history of disordered eating before the summer to Camp Alonim is essential to helping campers with disordered eating have a successful camp experience. While we are unable to monitor individual campers’ food consumption on a meal-by-meal basis, we can work with you and your providers to develop a plan for your child while they are at camp to ensure health in eating.
Many, if not most campers who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are successful at camp. Disclosing an ADD/ADHD diagnosis and discussing your child’ s strengths and challenges with camp staff before the summer will enable us to work with you and your child’s support team, to plan for a successful time at camp. Timely assessment will also allow us to decide which of our resources to utilize to support your camper and set up any systems and practices prior to your camper’s arrival.
Supporting Campers with Mental Health and Behavioral Challenges
It is the policy of Camp Alonim to support, to the extent possible, all campers so they may have a successful summer. When mental or behavioral health concerns arise it is Alonim’s goal to deal with them immediately and sensitively. Alonim staff works to understand the developmental forces at play, and to respond to campers in a way that supports them and keeps everyone safe. Our staff are supported by educators, administrators and health professionals with years of experience in helping campers in different situations, as well as our Community Care Specialist who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
While Alonim strives to be an inclusive camp, there are some limiting factors that play a role in the decision-making process as to who can be supported at camp. These factors include the safety of every camper, the impact on the broader community, and our limited resources. Ultimately, the decision about whether any camper may enroll, and remain, at camp is at the sole discretion of the Camp Alonim Director Team in consultation with the camper care team and medical staff. While recognizing each situation is unique and not all situations can possibly or comprehensively be addressed in a short document, below is an outline of the approach used to address some of these issues and that informs our decision making.
Recognizing that each camper’s needs are unique, we look for indications that an individual camper will be successful in handling the vast majority of the camp’s day to day programming. In particular, our resources may be unable to accommodate a camper who cannot function in a high percentage of the camp’s programs and/or needs intensive one-on-one support to navigate the basic day. Moreover, the way in which a situation has been handled in the past will likely inform, but not determine, how a similar situation may be handled today or at some point in the future.
Campers and their parents/families may be asked to fill out a summer support plan template provided by Camp Alonim to foster their success at Alonim. The Community Care Specialist (LCSW) and/or Camp Alonim Director team may contact families to discuss their child’s needs and strategies for success prior to each summer. Even with pre-summer planning, we cannot guarantee that a camper will be able to be completely successful once at camp.
In the event any of the above behaviors occur at camp, Camp Alonim will take the following steps to address challenging behaviors and mental health challenges:
- Strategies will be developed with the division (age group) Head Counselor and the camper’s immediate Bunk Counselor staff to address challenges.
- Head Counselors will share repeated behavioral or mental health challenges or concerns, and/or more urgent or immediate mental health challenges and concerns with the camper care team (including the Camp Parent Liaisons, Alonim Directors, and Community Care Specialist). Head Counselors and the camper care team will formulate strategies for success to implement with the camper and bunk counselors.
- The Alonim Directors, Camp Parent Liaisons, and/or Community Care Specialist may contact parents/families for tips and strategies to implement at camp to support their child.
- Regarding Behavioral Challenges: If behaviors and/or challenges do not improve, the division Head Counselor and subsequently the Camp Alonim Directors may intervene directly and have a conversation with the camper about rectifying their behavior.
- Regarding Mental Health Challenges: If behaviors and/or challenges do not improve, the Community Care Specialist will likely intervene directly and have a conversation with the camper about strategies to improve their experience at camp.
- In situations regarding both behavioral and mental health challenges or concerns, where things are not improving, parents/families may be notified that campers are close to needing to be picked up from camp if behaviors and/or symptoms do not improve within a certain time frame. Campers will be given the same notification.
- Unfortunately, Camp Alonim is not equipped to support every camper through every challenge they may be experiencing. It is our goal to have every camper who comes to Alonim complete their Alonim session in its entirety. However, some campers may need to leave the camp program and return home early for theirs or others’ safety and positive camp experience.
The Alonim Directors and the Community Care Specialist will evaluate the safety of the camper in question, the impact on the broader camp community, and whether camp has the appropriate resources to care for the camper while at camp. Subsequently, a determination will be made based on the above criteria whether the camper may need to be picked up from camp and return home. If there is an immediate concern regarding a camper’s safety or the safety of others in the community, a camper may be asked to be picked-up and return home without the previous steps.