By John Lynds
While most Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) summer camps in East Boston are already regulated by City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) per the Department of Public Health (DPH), the neighborhood’s teen ‘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 ‘Tiffany Girls Teen Center”, that usually operates out of the Paris Street Community Center but is being run out of the Umana Community Center this summer until the Paris Street rehab is completed, will follow these new standards to strengthen oversight and child safety.
Mayor Martin Walsh said these changes are a result of an assessment of all protocols and procedures at the city’s summer camps and drop-in programs that was conducted last week after Willis’ death.
“The city experienced a terrible tragedy with the loss of Kyzr Willis and we immediately launched a review of all our protocols at our BCYF centers,” said Walsh. “Thousands of families entrust their children to our summer camps and we take that trust extremely seriously. It is our priority to act quickly on any potential improvements to our programs, and I will continue to work closely with BCYF leadership to ensure we have proper oversight and safety procedures at all of our programs.”
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.
Eastie’s other summer camps at the Umana and Marty Pino Community Center are currently regulated by ISD per the DPH and 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 Eastie 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.