Whether you’re looking for a local day camp or an overnight experience far from home, the key to finding the right camp involves research. That means not only learning about all the options, but carefully screening camps to ensure your child will be safe and have a fun and memorable time.
Not all camps need to be licensed by a local or state government agency, nor do all seek certification through the American Camp Association. And with the wide variety of camps from which to choose, there is no standard set of regulations across the country, according to FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information.
"Because the commitment to quality and safety can vary dramatically from camp to camp, it's really important for parents to do their homework to make sure they're getting the best fit for their child and themselves," says Adam Orlow, a personal injury attorney with The Orlow Firm in New York.
If you’re looking for a camp to enhance your child’s skills, or simply to give him or her a little adventure, here are tips from FindLaw.com on what to consider when researching summer camps:
Get references – Ask the camp for two to three references of parents who live near you. Don’t hesitate to contact those parents to learn about their child’s experience at the camp. In addition, peruse online reviews.
Check the camp’s hiring procedures – Camps should readily share their protocol for staff background checks, which should include criminal background checks and personal references. In addition, make sure the camp offers its staff training on appropriate communication and discipline.
Visit the camp – If possible, visit the camp to inspect the facilities and equipment, review safety policies and meet the staff. For example, if the camp offers horseback riding, are campers wearing helmets? If a camp offers kayaking and canoeing, are life-vests stocked and well maintained?
Read all of the camp’s registration forms – Pay special attention to cancellation policies, disciplinary rules, and how staff handles cases of homesickness.
Ask about emergency procedures – Findings from an American Camp Association study indicate that few camps systematically review their health and injury records to make improvements toward preventing or reducing injuries and illnesses. With that in mind, ask the camp about policies and procedures for handling medical emergencies, especially if you’re sending your child to a sports camp.
Ask the camp about insurance – All camps should have insurance, and if you come across a camp that does not, you might want to consider other options.
Check the staff’s expertise – If a camp promotes itself as a source for your child to enhance his or her skills, carefully check the staff bios to make sure they have the proper training and background.
What are the camp’s policies toward visitors – How does the camp monitor visitors such as vendors and support staff? What does the camp do to secure its property throughout the day and night?
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