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The past couple of weekends I have been attending several graduation parties whether from 8th grade, High School, College, and Thursday for my daughter Jill, who will graduate with her master’s in education.
Summer camps are expected to be back in full swing this year after two pandemic summers forced them to close or operate at limited capacity. Camp is a great opportunity for kids to make new friends, try new activities, and gain self-confidence and resilience. But as parents and counselors know, a lot of preparation goes into making lasting summer camp memories.
Camp is a unique experience because it may be the only time during the year that kids are away from home—and parental supervision—for an extended period. Although the time spent apart can be positive for the parent-child relationship, there are several contingencies that families should plan for ahead of time. After your child is off at camp, it may be too late to update contact information, medication lists, and temporary guardianship permissions.
Like most aspects of our society, summer camps were hit hard by COVID-19. In the first summer of the pandemic, about two out of three summer camps across the country closed.¹ Summer camp life was somewhat back to normal in 2021, but most camps that did reopen operated at limited capacity or under other restrictions. With pandemic restrictions lifting nationwide and a sense of normalcy returning to American life at last, there should be a full return of camp activities this summer.
Based on strong 2021 enrollment numbers, summer camps are expecting a more than full recovery in 2022 and are bracing for record, or near-record, turnout. Summer camp preparations for minor children after two years of distance learning, excessive screen time, and time away from peers, summer camp may be the antidote to lingering psychosocial pandemic effects. Parents who passed on summer camp for the last couple of years, or who are planning to send their kids to camp for the first time, may need a little help with their summer camp checklist.
Besides items such as sunscreen, swimsuits, extra socks, and name tags parents should fill out the paperwork to ensure that their child gets the care they need while away from home. Consider appointing a temporary guardian. In many states, a temporary legal guardianship allows an appointed individual to make most decisions (including medical decisions) on your minor child’s behalf. The guardianship is for a fixed period (up to a year, depending on the state) and can usually be terminated at any time (i.e., when camp is over, and the child returns home). States have a specific power of attorney for a child’s medical decisions because parental consent is typically required before medical care can be provided to a minor. Although in many states there are exceptions to this general rule, parents may want to have a backup plan if their child has a medical emergency at camp. Appointing a guardian may not be necessary if the camp is close to home and you can respond quickly in an emergency. But if the camp is farther away from home (or you will be traveling or otherwise unavailable) and near trusted family or friends who can step in for you and authorize medical care, a temporary guardianship can be useful. Instead of appointing a temporary guardian or executing a power of attorney, you may also permit to authorize emergency medical care. However, if the camp’s paperwork limits the scope of its authorization or liability, a temporary guardianship or power of attorney may dispel any doubts you may have about gaps in your minor child’s care.
Updating Contact Information. Whom should the camp contact if something goes wrong? Presumably, you are your child’s primary contact. But if you live far away and cannot be there immediately in an emergency, you may not be the best first point of contact. Or there could be a situation where the camp cannot contact you right away, such as if you are traveling, working and unable to get away, having a medical procedure, or for another reason. Emergency contacts are people other than the parents whom the camp can reach out to when something goes wrong. The emergency contact form may allow you to authorize the same people to pick up your child from camp, which makes it logical to choose a contact who lives close to the camp (or at least closer than you). Pick a trustworthy and dependable proxy, and to avoid confusion or surprise, tell your child who the emergency contact is.
Medications. Taking medication is one aspect of home and school life that will continue at summer camp. However, summer camp medication management often requires planning ahead to comply with laws and regulations. Camp practices surrounding medication are governed at the state level. Depending on where the camp is located, it may have some latitude regarding how it oversees and dispenses medications. The camp’s specific policies about medication management should be spelled out in writing. If your child takes prescription medicine, you will probably have to sign a permission and waiver form that allows the camp to dispense it. It is normal for these forms to gather information about the medication’s name, dosage, and dispensing instructions.
Other Considerations for Campers Aged Eighteen or Older
When planning for a minor child headed off to camp, most of the legal legwork falls on the parents. The situation is different for campers aged eighteen or older. Although they may still live at home, an eighteen-year-old is legally an adult. Therefore, they require their own estate planning documents. All young adults should have a basic estate plan in place, even if they have little or no money or property. If your legal adult child does not have an estate plan, now is a good time to put together these documents before they head off to camp for the summer:
The Medical Power of Attorney allows someone (the agent, surrogate, proxy, or attorney-in-fact) may make medical decisions on behalf of the principal (the person granting the power of Financial power of attorney: As with a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney gives someone (an agent or attorney-in-fact) the authority to act on another person’s behalf. A financial power of attorney may be limited to tasks such as cashing checks, paying bills, and making bank deposits. Although more financial transactions are done online these days, if the child does not have access to the internet or a device at camp, they may need somebody else to temporarily handle their finances. attorney). The principal can revoke a power of attorney.
We hope your child’s stay at summer camp goes off without a hitch and is a wonderful experience. But if something unexpected happens, planning can go a long way and provide much reassurance. The parents of minor children hold all the cards with legal permissions. Children aged eighteen or older must take a more active role in their summer camp preparation. If you or your child have camp-related legal questions, our estate planning attorneys are here to help. Contact our office to set up an appointment.