Addressing Problems at Camp

Addressing Problems at Camp
Addressing Problems at Camp
Photo via InterExchange

InterExchange Camp USA works hard to find suitable placements for all participants. However, we understand that sometimes there are special circumstances when placements do not work out. Please follow these procedures if there are problems at camp.

If you are having trouble at camp or are unhappy about something, whether it’s an issue with your job, a co-worker or camper, talk to someone! Your supervisors are there to help you. If you still feel that the issue is not resolved after speaking with someone, call InterExchange Camp USA staff. We will work with you and the camp to try to improve the situation. Do not let a problem become so big that you get fired, or quit before you speak to us about it.

If You Get Fired

If you get fired, you will be asked to leave camp immediately, usually within 1-2 hours of dismissal. You may be responsible for organizing your own transportation from camp to an airport or bus station. You will be paid a prorated stipend based on the number of days you have worked at camp. If this occurs, please call the InterExchange Camp USA office. Make sure you speak to someone in our office before you leave camp. If this occurs outside of our normal business hours or on a weekend, call the emergency phone at 1-800-597-1722 (and press 3) or 1-917-741-5057. We will speak to you about the situation and decide if we can try to place you somewhere else.

Common Reasons for Getting Fired

Every year, there are participants that are fired from their camps for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of the most common reasons for dismissal. Please do your best to avoid them; your orientation at camp should cover what is and is not acceptable.

  • Drinking alcohol on camp premises
  • Returning to camp drunk
  • Smoking on camp premises
  • Use of illegal substances (drugs)
  • Disrespecting fellow camp staff/supervisors
  • Inappropriate behavior towards children (See Dealing With Abuse section below)
  • Poor work ethic

If You Want to Quit

Please keep in mind that we work extremely hard to find placements for our participants. Camp transfers are rare and not guaranteed. We ask that all participants try their best to make their placements work, and to talk with their camp supervisor, camp staff, or our team if there is a problem. If you are unhappy with your placement, please let us know about it. We will do everything we can to improve the situation at camp. Our team is here to help you have an amazing experience. If you encounter problems during the summer, we want to know about them and resolve them as quickly as possible.

Working With ADHD Campers

3–5% of American school-aged children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a disorder linked to a child’s mental and social development that can make it very difficult for the child to focus his/her attention on any one situation. ADHD is based in the brain, and some campers may take medications to improve their ability to focus. The following is a list of suggestions for working with ADHD children:

  • Understand what ADHD is. You should receive more detailed information during your camp orientation. If you do not, please ask your supervisor for some information.
  • Be very clear when communicating your expectations. Guide these campers rather than excusing inappropriate behavior.
  • Stay close. Keep the most active campers nearest to you, especially during large group events and at meal times.
  • Control the issue of time. Give instructions for immediate expectations rather than for a task to be completed that is hours or days in the future.
  • Engage them. Use stories, imagery and emotions to provide excitement about an activity.
  • Be positive and supportive. Give positive feedback and use repetition until your instructions are clear.
  • Use brief time-out moments only when necessary. Require children to sit out of an activity and think about unwanted behavior. This approach works wonders for children under the age of 12, and many ADHD kids are already accustomed to time-outs. Make sure your supervisor informs you about the camp’s policy on the appropriate use of time-outs before you attempt to use this technique.

Working With Aggressive or Resistant Children

Children learn to test limits from an early age, so you may find that you will have to confront a child who is resistant to your authority. If you must confront a misbehaving child, it is never acceptable to hit the child. You will be fired if this happens. You may even face criminal charges. Each camp has different policies when it comes to managing aggressive behavior and bullying. Please reference their orientation when considering these issues.

Child Abuse

In the U.S., child abuse is not tolerated. This “zero tolerance” policy may be different from your home country’s policy, so be very careful about how you behave. Always seek help from your supervisor or camp director if you have any questions. Child abuse can take place anywhere–at home, school, in public places–wherever a child goes or interacts with others. It can also cause long-lasting damage to the child’s body and mind. The various types of child abuse are categorized as:

  • Physical Abuse: Causing any kind of physical injury to the child is known as physical abuse. Parents, teachers or a third person may cause such harm, in the name of teaching the child to behave properly. Parents and teachers who are involved in this kind of child abuse often do not realize that their behavior is actually a criminal/civil offense and an unethical act, which could harm the child in the long run. In other cases, a child may be experiencing physical harm with the intention of causing him or her an injury. Signs that point towards physical abuse in children include the presence of cuts, bruises, other injuries on the body, fearfulness, being over-alert and shocked at minor things, deliberate attempts to cover the injury marks, etc.
  • Mental Abuse: This is also called psychological or emotional abuse. Causing harm to the child’s psyche that may affect him or her in the long run amounts to mental abuse. This type of abuse can adversely affect, and even halt the development of the child, especially social development. The immediate consequence of mental abuse is the loss of confidence, and/or rise of a pessimistic attitude in the child. Cases of mental abuse display signs of two totally extreme psychological conditions – the child may either become too aggressive or he may become extremely passive. Various forms of mental abuse, including humiliating the child in front of others; comparing the child to his or her friends or others, shouting at or threatening the child, or not talking to him or her at all, and exposing him or her to the abuse of some other person or animal, might adversely affect the child. Mental child abuse can happen at home as well as in school or another environment.
  • Sexual Abuse: This is when an older person uses the body of a child for his or her sexual satisfaction. Cases of child sexual abuse are being reported every day all over the world, with the instances increasing at an alarming rate. Things amounting to sexual abuse of a child include provoking or forcing a child into a sexual act, indecent revealing of genitals for one’s sexual stimulation, and either showing a child pornography, or using him/her for the same.
  • Child Neglect: Child neglect refers to depriving a child of his basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, hygiene and proper care. It amounts to child abuse when it reaches a level where the chances of harm to the child may surface. A neglected child may suffer from physical as well as emotional problems. One of the most visible and apparent physical signs of neglect is the skinny or bloated appearance of a child, which is a result of undernourishment. He or she may also suffer from physical disorders such as asthma, hypertension, or various kinds of allergies. On the psychological front, the child may suffer from issues such as depression, stress, violent behavior and aggression, among other behavioral disorders. However, the effects will depend on the degree of neglect that the child has had to face during his childhood, and his or her own willpower.

Protect Yourself

The best advice we can give you is that you should never put yourself in a situation where you are alone with a child. If you need help because you are unsure about a situation, ask for it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of intelligence. You’ll find that your co-workers and camp director will be more than happy to help you overcome your problems.

Sadly, many camps will have campers who have been past victims of child abuse. At home, some of these campers may already have a child welfare representative assisting the family through their problems. Other campers may currently be in abusive situations. For these campers, the abuse is still a secret; they have not told anyone about it or they have been ignored when they tried. Ask your supervisor what you should do if a camper confides in you about an abusive situation he or she has experienced or if you suspect one of your campers has been abused. Similarly, counselors who have been victims of abuse may come to work at camp.

As with the campers, some have had disclosures and interventions. Others may still be guarding their secrets. Be aware, discreet and supportive of others’ pasts.


Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. There are many roles that kids can play. Kids can bully others, they can be bullied, or they may witness bullying. When kids are involved in bullying, they often play more than one role. It is important to understand the multiple roles kids play in order to effectively prevent and respond to bullying. There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying—either being bullied or bullying others. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help. It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.

Discuss how to address bullying with your camp director, as your camp may have specific policies and procedures for handling this issue.

Sexual Harassment and Sexism

Most camps will cover the topic of sexual harassment during their pre-camp orientations. However, here is some general information that you should be aware of.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is behavior that is uninvited, unwanted and unwelcomed by the recipient. The behaviors include physical contact, verbal abuse, gestures or written messages.

Sexual Harassment Includes:

  • Continuous idle chatter of a sexual nature
  • Sexual slurs, innuendos and other comments about a person’s clothing, body and/or sexual activities
  • Continuous and unwelcome flirting
  • Lewd remarks or suggestive sounds such as whistling, catcalls or kissing sounds
  • Implied or overt threats if sexual attention is not given
  • Repeated unsolicited propositions for dates and/or sexual intercourse
  • Jokes or comments based on sex
  • The use of graphics or other materials degrading persons based on their sex
  • Unwelcome touching or ogling
  • Coercion, with the promise of reward
  • Unwanted physical contact such as patting, pinching, stroking or brushing up against the body
  • Attempted or actual kissing or fondling
  • Physical assault
  • Coerced sexual intercourse or rape

You Could Be a Victim

Who are the victims? Anyone, male or female, young or old, can be the victim of sexual harassment from someone of the opposite or the same sex.

If you are being harassed, take action to stop it. Some options available to you are:

  • Say no. Make it loud and clear. A harasser does not expect confrontation.
  • Keep records of all incidents and confrontations and find witnesses or others who will back up your claim.
  • Get support from a friend, employer or anyone else you trust. Make sure you don’t keep it bottled up inside. The more help you get, the faster the harasser will stop.
  • Call InterExchange Camp USA. If you think that you are being sexually harassed, please contact us immediately.

Know Your Rights

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (WWTVPRA) of 2008 protects the legal rights of certain employment or education-based nonimmigrants—including J-1 Exchange Visitors—against abuse and discrimination while visiting the United States.

Among other protections, you have the right to:

  • Be treated and paid fairly
  • Not be held in a job against your will
  • Keep your passport and other identification documents in your possession
  • Report abuse without retaliation
  • Request help from unions, immigrant and labor rights groups and other groups
  • Seek justice in U.S. courts

Be aware of all the laws that protect you:

For your safety, know the signs of human trafficking to make sure you don’t become a victim:

Next: Important Tax Information and Tax Forms »

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation