Can my child attend Starfish all summer long?
Starfish offers many variations on session length and program in an effort to appeal to a variety of campers' needs. All of our programs are intensive in their efforts to help campers make gains in social and coping skills. Additionally, the highly structured routines of camp, which ask campers to be "present" in a group setting from 7:30 AM until 8:30 PM can, over time, be tiring! Thus, we generally find that one (or sometimes two) sessions can be of great benefit, while spending the entire summer at camp can have the unintended effect of negating some of the wonderful work that campers do in the early weeks of their attendance. We consider each request for multiple session attendance on an individual basis, considering a camper's needs, any history of previous attendance at camps (including at Starfish), the needs and requests of the family/parent/guardian/agency, and balancing those needs with that of the camp community. We reserve the right not to enroll campers for more sessions than, in our professional opinion and after considering all of the above factors, we feel is appropriate.
For campers who do attend multiple sessions, we require the signing (by parents/guardians) of a Multi-Session Agreement, a PDF sample of which can be viewed here. This helps ensure that we are all on the same page about expectations and responsibilities for multi-session attendance.
Who will be my child’s counselor? How are staff selected?
We hire our summer staff with care and intense consideration. Starfish seeks only the most qualified staff, individuals who are committed to working with children and youth. Many are in college or graduate programs, studying areas such as education, social work, and psychology. Others are teachers who return every summer to camp. All of our staff have a desire and ability to work with children who have extra needs. Learn more about our staff team here.
Camp Starfish holds personal interviews, runs national criminal and offender checks, and requires multiple references for each staff member. You can read more about the process here. All staff members go through a minimum of ten days (140 hours) of training before camp begins to equip them with the skills needed to care for children. This includes training in behavior management, schedules & planning, teamwork, leadership, CPR & First Aid, communication, and specific camp procedures. You can read more about our staff training here.
I’m really interested in sending my child to Camp Starfish. Is it OK if I don’t live in New England?
Camp Starfish welcomes campers from all across the United States! We do require that a parent/guardian or adult responsible for your camper be accessible within a 3-4 hour distance of Starfish during the camp session. Some parents designate a friend or relative in the area as the emergency contact, while others choose to vacation nearby while their camper attends Starfish. We can help you with arrangements should you choose to stay nearby and enjoy the Monadnock region of New Hampshire during the time your camper attends Starfish.
My camper has never been away from home before. How does Starfish help with this transition?
The Camp Starfish “Set Up For Success” process is one way that we partner with campers and families to ensure a successful and positive summer camp experience. This can be anything from answering questions via email or phone to connecting new families with “seasoned veteran” Starfish parents. Mandatory for all first-time campers and their families are our pre-camp meetings, scheduled on weekends in June, when camp is open and our staff are on site. Caregivers, grandparents, babysitters and friends are all welcome to attend these rain-or-shine orientations, which include an adult-only question and answer session!
My child is gluten-free. Is this something the kitchen is able to accommodate?
It is very important to us that we meet your child’s dietary needs while he or she is at camp. If your child has allergies or dietary restrictions, please make sure to include them on your camper health form and talk with us prior to camp. Some things, like vegetarian or vegan options, we routinely provide so long as we know ahead of time. For other things, like gluten-free options, we have limited items we do supply and we may ask you to provide others to supplement the menu (especially if your camper, as many are, is sensitive to textures or likes only specific brands of gluten-free items). Camp Starfish provides sugar-free beverage options at all meals and offers a salad bar at both lunch and dinner. Guidance around portion sizes is offered.
Which Starfish program is right for my teenage camper?
For many Starfish teens, dealing with the academic and social pressures of school can lead to disregulation and be a significantly destabilizing factor. At Starfish, teens benefit from the structured, supportive environment and the knowledge that being popular isn’t important, that friends are made safely and that staff members are always around to listen, advise, and care.
For campers who have attended Starfish in the past, the teen programs will feel like the Starfish they know and love, with the opportunity to earn additional privileges and try new activities saved especially for our older campers. For new campers joining Starfish at this trying time in their lives, camp will feel supportive and welcoming - a chance to experience camp with safe boundaries. Whether teens are interested in leadership opportunities (l.e.a.d.e.r.s.), adventures off-site (Beachcombers) or “kicked up” camp activities (The Older Camper Program, also known as OCP), there’s something for each of them at Starfish.
The Older Camper Program (OCP) will likely appeal most to teens who are interested in having a camper-style experience, with the additional priveleges that being a teenager can earn them - such as having their mp3 players at rest hour or having a slightly later bedtime. It is also a good choice for campers who would benefit from the daily social-skills and teen-life focused focused "OCP Chat" activity. Check out OCP >>
l.e.a.d.e.r.s. will likely appeal most to teens who are interested in the OCP program (the two programs share many of the same activities and elements) but also want to develop their leadership abilities - especially focusing on beginning to work with younger campers. For campers who wish to do S.T.A.R. Corps in the future, the l.e.a.d.e.r.s. program is the track that will prepare them for that experience. Check out l.e.a.d.e.r.s. >>
Beachcombers will be most enjoyable for teens looking for a completely different kind of camp experience. Living in platform tents, cooking their own meals over the campfire, taking canoe, whitewater rafting, and hiking trips, and experiencing a more rustic overall camp experience is the focus of this slightly more laid-back, yet still structured, program. Check out Beachcombers >>
Do you have a nurse? How will my camper’s medications be managed while they are at camp?
Camp Starfish has a nurse who lives on sit all summer in “Healthy House” – our camp infirmary! Trained to deal with boo-boos and minor injuries, the Camp Starfish nurse also supervises a team of Health Care Assistants and works with the Camp Director to ensure campers and staff stay happy and healthy. As well, each cabin and day camp group has counseling staff certified in first aid. Camp Starfish also retains a local pediatrician each summer to provide advice and for the unlikely event that your camper gets anything more serious than a skinned knee.
Nursing staff stores and distributes all medications. Parents/caregivers are asked to pre-pack medications in camp-provided blister packs prior to arriving at camp. The Camp Nurse meets with each family on Opening Day to discuss health care specifics for your camper.
Will I be able to see and talk to my camper during his/her session?
You are welcome to call our camp office and check in on your child as frequently as you would like. Our directors live on-site and see your camper daily, and we can update you on how things are going. If we're not sure about an answer to your question, we will find out from the bunk counselors or village administrators.
We know it is hard to think about not speaking with your child for an extended period of time, but we have found that phone calls home tend to disrupt the camp experience and create homesickness and anxiety that wouldn’t exist otherwise. We ask you to trust us - as you are doing by sending your child to camp - that we will contact you if we believe a phone call home would help your camper. The increased independence this builds for your child, and the respite opportunity it gives you (that's right, you can turn off your cell phone for a little while!) is really worth it.
Although there is no Visitor’s Day during your camper’s session (we want you to be able to go off the grid and relax, after all!), the final day of camp serves as our camp-wide Visiting Day, which includes a family picnic and camper talent show, transition-home meeting and plenty of time for your camper to show you around, introduce you to counselors and friends, and even take you swimming or boating.
Can I send my child a care package?
We highly encourage you to write your child, and it does mean a lot to them. You are also welcome to email campers and we will print your messages and deliver them with the daily mail. As for sending care packages, we request that nothing edible be sent to camp. Even if your camper writes and requests these items, please don’t send them...keeping them in the cabin tempts chipmunks or other woodland creatures into becoming an extra bunkmate! You are, however, welcome to send packages to campers containing things like games, puzzles, books or an activity for your child’s cabin to complete together during bunk time.
What happens in case of emergency? Does the camp have a severe weather plan?
We have extensive plans in place for cases of emergency, including severe weather situations. In addition to having the written plans, our supervisory staff and counselor staff are well trained in the safe, calm implementation of these plans. During staff training, we even do surprise drills during which the entire camp responds as they would in the case of real emergency. We collaborate with the police, fire and ambulance services in Rindge, and they are fully briefed on our emergency processes and available to help in case we need them. Because of the campers we care for at Starfish, our emergency plans all include emotional/behavioral management sections and specific staff are identified as being responsible for ensuring that the tools needed to care for campers appropriately during any emergency response are available and ready to go. Though we have never needed it and hope never to need it, we have a full camp evacuation plan in place with designated transportation, lodging, food and health support. We firmly believe it is better to be well-prepared for everything, and ideally experience nothing.
In case of weather during camp that is serious but not of emergency level, our staff is trained to calmly move campers to designated shelter areas. Campers will remain safely in these areas until an “all clear” has been issued. Administrators with walkie-talkies are located in every area where children are secured during a storm (as they are at all times during the regular camp day). Our directors and camp office staff regularly monitor the weather and make determinations about any necessary changes to the schedule. In these situations, we do our best to forecast to campers what the changes will be and how long they are expected to last. In the event of thunder or lightning, campers and staff leave the waterfront immediately and remain out of the waterfront until a minimum of 20 minutes have passed since the last incidence.
My child receives services from an agency is willing to fund camp. How does that process work?
Starfish has always considered agency and community organization support vital to the funding process for camp. Our staff will work directly with you, and your agency workers at these organizations, to help you secure tuition funds on a case-by-case basis. Simply complete the Agency Support Form (Form OPT-1) and return to our Year-Round Office.
Q: If agencies are paying for [part of or all of] camp, who is responsible for getting the money to Starfish?
A: You and the agency. Starfish will provide you with invoices, copies of documentation, and anything else you need to ensure that the agency has a complete file for your financial request. In many cases, Starfish and the agency are able to communicate directly about this without involving you. However, the responsibility for following up with the agency and ensuring that your child’s tuition is paid in a timely manner ultimately lies with you.
Often times the dates of tuition due for the camp session and the agency's fiscal year do not match, and that's okay. In other cases, agencies will not be able to make a full payment until your camper has finished his/her session. Starfish is happy to be flexible in these situations and wait for payment, so long as your camper’s agency worker can forward, on agency letterhead, a promissory note, signed by a supervisor with fiscal responsibility at the agency. This will allow us to advance payment dates further into the summer.
Please note that all campers must have a specific and agreed-upon payment plan in his/her file prior to the first day of camp. There are no exceptions – either full payment must be made, or an Agreement with an agency signature must be on file. Otherwise, Starfish will expect you to make the remainder of the payment and then be reimbursed directly by your agency or, if the agency will only send a check to Starfish, we will reimburse you directly upon receiving the payment in the fall. No agency payment agreements will be accepted which specify a payment date.
Camp seems very expensive. Why?
The published fees for camp are determined by our costs to provide the level of programming we do. Some of the factors that cause our tuition to be higher than some other camps are the level of training and maturity of our staff – for example, our supervisory staff arrive at camp four weeks before the campers! – and the one-to-one ratio that we maintain at all times. Tuition is all-inclusive, and covers 1-to-1 supervision, activity supplies, individual swim lessons, meals and snacks, field trip costs, transportation, camp t-shirt and special events. There are no "camper account" fees or hidden costs. In addition, Starfish feels like a camp to the kids, but as adults you know that it is also a therapeutic environment with very intentional social and coping skills programming. To provide the service we do for children who have not been successful in other settings costs a little more than an average “summer camp” experience.
We encourage you to compare the cost of Starfish against other similar programs, however please realize that there are only a handful of programs nationally that offer a 1:1 ratio and the level of support for the particular campers we serve. We think you will find that in many cases, Starfish is actually not as expensive, comparitively, to other similar services and programs. Ultimately, you must weigh the desire for a proven program, high success rates, and a community of support surrounding the camp experience, against the fact that these things cost more. You can feel confident knowing that as a non-profit, the money we collect in tuition is used solely for ensuring our ability to provide outstanding services to campers and families.
Is Financial Aid available? How does that process work?
Starfish fundraises tirelessly in order to be able to provide financial aid to reduce the cost of camp when the full tuition is out of reach. It is our goal to work compassionately and openly with each family to determine ability to pay and to provide assistance with securing camp funding. Financial Aid is determined based on family size, income, and other pertinent factors. Special Considerations will be taken into account to the best of our ability. Supporting documentation is required in order for a request of Financial Aid to be processed.
You can find the Financial Aid application here. Also, please note that Financial Aid from Starfish can be combined with other sources of funding (such as agencies, grants, etc.) and in those situations, Starfish Aid is the last step of the process.
It is our expectation is that families who are able to pay the full tuition amount, without financial aid, will do so. Please do not apply for financial aid unless the full cost of camp is a true hardship.
Q. Will I know about Starfish financial aid before you accept my child?
A. No, but you will know about Starfish financial aid before you confirm his/her registration. We accept campers into Starfish based on their need for the special programming we offer, not based on financial merits. For that reason, our enrollment department will first accept your camper into the program, then discuss aid packages and financial arrangements. In this way, we provide financially needs-blind admissions. Once you have all the information available to you, including a financial aid package to consider, you will be asked to confirm your child’s registration.