(KTVI) - Wise parents already are searching for summer camps that will keep their children safely occupied when school is out. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises parents to look beyond glossy brochures and pretty website pictures. The safety, health and satisfaction of children should be the camp’s top priority.
“A great camp should be an enriching experience for your child,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Camp staff should be well-trained, and your child’s health and safety must be their top priority.”
When choosing a camp, parents need to use the same care and common sense they would use in evaluating a day care program. They should look for a camp that provides activities that are of interest to their child and appropriate for the child’s age and skill level.
Parents need to take time to visit camps to inspect facilities, ask about the staff’s training and experience, and find out how the camp handles medical emergencies. If the child is staying overnight, be sure to look at cabins, showers and other facilities that your child will be using.
Some camps, such as those organized around a particular sport, are highly structured and stress development of specific skills. Others are more flexible and give campers the opportunity to choose some of their activities. Your child’s interest and personality should be your guide in choosing an appropriate program. If the child is old enough, ask what activities he or she would enjoy at camp.
Parents should ask how long a camp has been in business and check with parents of past and returning students. Check the BBB website, www.bbb.org, for the camp’s record on handling complaints.
The standards for day and overnight camps may be different, but each should put your child’s safety and well-being first. The BBB offers the following tips for parents searching for the right camp for their child:
- Always visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Check its location and view the living, eating and recreational facilities. Ask about safey procedures (particularly for water activities, archery and out-of-camp trips), and assess the quality and commitment of the staff.
- Ask about fees and payment deadlines. Is your deposit refundable? Are there extra charges for any activities? Are meals and transportation offered?
- What is the camper return rate? The counselor return rate?
- What is the camp director’s background? How is the staff trained? Are criminal checks made for employees and volunteers? What is the ratio of campers to staff members?
- Are medical facilities adequate? Is a nurse or doctor on site? What are the procedures for transporting injured or sick children to medical facilities? Are those facilities nearby?
- What are the safety rules and how are they enforced? Does the camp have appropriate insurance coverage?
- Are family visits or other communications with campers allowed? How is homesickness handled?
- Are references from parents of repeat campers available? Ask the parents about their child’s experience and why they recommend the camp.
- Finally, look for camps that are certified by the American Camp Association. ACA-accredited camps have met up to 300 nationally recognized standards.
A BBB video on choosing summer camps is at: http://youtu.be/Ct-N7x4U_60.