After the tragic death of 7 year-old Kyzr Willis
on Tuesday, Mayor Marty Walsh announced on Friday some new changes to BCYF
summer camps. Willis was attending a summer day camp at the Curley Community Center when he slipped away and accidentally drowned. See press release below:
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) to announce that all BCYF drop-in programs will follow rigorous new standards in an effort to strengthen oversight and child safety. 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 this week.
Summer camps are currently regulated by the City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) per the Department of Public Health (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.
“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,” Mayor Walsh said. “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.”
BCYF oversees 21 fully licensed summer camps, seven fun stops and five drop-in programs. Drop-in programs are located at the BCYF Curley Community Center, the BCYF Mattahunt Community Center, the BCYF Gallivan Community Center, the BCYF Charlestown Community Center, and the BCYF Paris Street Girls program.
The Summer Youth Activities Program (SYAP) staff will undergo a full day comprehensive training on the new procedures prior to SYAP returning to the Curley Center on Tuesday, August 2. Families can continue to bring their children to the Condon Community Center, or the Curley Community Center where the city will provide transportation, until the SYAP re-opens.
Immediate changes being made at the Curley Community Center for the SYAP include the following.
- 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 Curley 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: While a Curley Community Center employee currently oversees the front desk, a SYAP 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 SYAP 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 SYAP 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.
- Security Cameras: Out of an abundance of caution, 34 security cameras will be brought online to increase security across the Curley Community Center by Tuesday, August 2nd. An effort was already under way by the City to upgrade the surveillance systems at BCYF facilities and the work was expedited this past week at the Curley Community Center.
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 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.
Over the next month, ISD will be visiting all drop-in programs to brief them 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.