Community Support Teams:
A Model for Day Camps and Schools

As mental health challenges have grown in the last several years, day camps and schools have become the front line for intervention.  Notably, with challenge comes opportunity. In response to the growing demand for services addressing mental health and wellbeing over the past 10 years, I have developed a consultation model employed by day camps, which could also be implemented in schools. Below is a brief outline describing some of the facets of Community Support Teams (CST) and the role these teams can play in supporting the social, emotional, behavioral, and communication needs of children and adolescents.

 

We use a consultation model

We do not provide direct service or therapy/counseling 


 

  • Our goal is to help children and adolescents have a successful and happy camp experience, build friendships, and have rich growth opportunities. We help to identify children and adolescents who might need support over the summer so that they can have a successful experience

  • Develop plans and proactive strategies that will support children and adolescents

  • Intervene with staff to provide ideas and strategies to support children and adolescents

 

The following are some of the responsibilities of the CST members. The specific responsibilities are tailored to the individual school or day camo.


 

  • Support for campers/students and counselors/teachers

  • Stress the importance of being mindful of cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds

  • Interpret information while keeping developmental considerations in mind

  • Spend time with groups/classrooms to help a camper/student to make a friend, regulate emotions, sustain attention, follow directions, etc

  • Connect with parents or therapists

  • Rapid assessment of a situation with a child or adolescent and develop a strategy for intervention (triage)

    • Is everyone safe

    • What is the child’s behavior– behavior is communication and it is up to adults to break the code and understand what they are trying to convey

    • Who is in distress: frequency–duration–intensity of concerning behavior

    • Who needs support: child/adolescent, staff, both??

    • What does the child need:  support, break from the group, help with making friends, problem-solving guidance

    • What information do we already have about the child from parent information or talking with staff who have previous experience with the camper/student

    • Connect with nursing staff to assess for medical concerns or noteworthy history

  • Look at Camper Profiles and Health Forms (or other documents and reports) for information about campers that is provided by parents

  • Work as part of the team to brainstorm plans, strategies, and supports

  • Keep an eye out for quiet children/adolescents that might be flying under the radar (ie– Does everyone have a friend? Is everyone engaged in activities?)

  • Develop a “tool box” to support campers. Examples include:

    • Fidget toys

    • Behavior bingo

    • Transition bingo

    • Behavior plans

    • Clipboard with visual schedule

    • Behavioral expectations poster/banner

    • 3PIE: Help kids to become Planners, Problem solvers, Philosophers, Investigators, and Explorers (Macht-Greenberg)

  • Identify children/adolescents who are part of potentially vulnerable populations (eg: gender identity, mental health, social-communication challenges, etc)? Initiate proactive connections by building trusting relationships so that campers and families are comfortable reaching out to staff if the need arises

If you have questions or would like help in starting a CST at your camp or school, click here.