The kids are excited. Another school year has gone by, and many children are off to summer camp. There is vital information to keep in mind regarding summer camps. You want to make the experience a happy and safe one and provide a source of fond, life-long summer memories – and make it worry-free for you.
First, is it the right camp? Do your research.
If it’s your child’s first experience at camp, you might want to first consider a day camp before an overnight camp. Here they get many of the same activities and benefits without having to sleep away from home. Once they get the feel of it, maybe next year they can experience the adventure of actually staying at the camp.
Finding the right camp can be your first challenge. Of course, your church probably has one, and certainly there are the YMCA, YWCA and Boy and Girl Scout sponsored camps. There are many that are specialized, such as:
- Traditional camps that offer a little bit of everything
- Academic camps that focus on science, math, or even creative writing
- Adventure camps that are all about outdoor hobbies like rafting or mountaineering
- Arts camps that specialize in theatre, music, film, or painting
- Religious camps that focus on faith and worship
- Sports camps that let you sharpen your skills in tennis, soccer, or baseball
- Special needs camps that are especially for kids living with an illness, such as cancer or diabetes, or a physical disability.
Check to see what activities they offer and if your youngsters are able to participate in them.
Is the camp accredited? Is it licensed?
The American Camp Association (ACA) has hundreds of standards that its thousands of member camps must meet in order to be accredited. Those standards include health, safety, quality of programs and more. The ACA works with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross and other youth-focused organizations to ensure your child’s camp experience is up to standards that will help children have an engaging, exciting time at camp while staying safe and healthy.
There are no federal regulations when it comes to camps. Rules vary greatly from state-to-state. 6 states don’t require camps to be licensed at all. 28 states don’t require criminal background checks of camp employees. And, according to the American Camp Association, only 25% of camps in the U.S. are accredited, meaning they meet the 300 health and safety standards set by the association. – CBS News
The Indiana State Department of Health is the governing body for camps in our state. There is no license needed for day camps in Indiana, but a license is necessary to operate a resident camp. However, there are no criminal background checks required by law for the staff of a camp.* Responsible camp operators will request them on their own. Be sure to ask. For a state-by-state list of regulations, click here.
*Correct as of May 5, 2016
“According to Psychology Today, adolescents account for approximately 50% of all sexual abuse. Unfortunately, summer camp is an ideal place for abusers; in recent years, sexual abuse has occurred at Christian camps, publicly funded camps, Boy Scout camps, and even the camp run by the school President Obama’s daughters once attended. While no camp is immune from the possibility of sexual abuse, research the steps you can take to prevent your child from becoming a victim of abuse.”
You as a parent can educate your child to be aware of certain signs. Also, make them aware of bullying – either by a fellow camper or a camp staffer – and let them know it’s something they need to immediately tell you about or report to camp management.
You want to make sure the people taking care of your children are properly trained and have the necessary credentials and clearances. Are the camp counselors who will be guiding your children trained to handle emergencies? If they will be involved in boating, swimming, or other water sports, for example, you’ll want to know about such things as life jackets, supervision, and the CPR certification of instructors.
Other things to ask:
- How old are the camp counselors? You want your child’s camp counselors to be 18 or older and to have proper training.
- What’s the ratio of camp counselors to children? There are only so many children a camp counselor can keep track of safely. You don’t want your child to be able to wonder off alone.
- What is the camp’s safety record?
- What is the camp’s method of child discipline? Find another camp if you don’t approve.
Medical Provisions, including Homesickness
For starters, according to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a good camp will have written health policies and protocols. All children attending the camp should be required to have had a complete exam by a doctor in the past year and be up-to-date on all childhood shots.
Before camp starts, parents should make sure the leaders have a detailed health history of their child, including any significant illnesses, operations, injuries, allergies, and any current medical problems.
Don’t forget allergies to bug bites!
And not every problem is a physical illness or injury — you also might want to know how the camp handles outbreaks of homesickness. Eight out of 10 campers report being homesick at least one day at camp, according to American Camping Association statistics. The good news: Less than 10% of those cases are so serious — the child becomes so anxious or depressed that he stops eating or sleeping — that they are sent home.
Overnight camps should at least have a licensed physician or a registered nurse on site at all times. Day camps should have phone access to dial 911 for an emergency. You will also want to ask how far away the nearest hospital is in case your child is injured and needs more medical care than medical staff can give your child at the camp.
By all means, ask for references
Do some research online to see what people say about the camp. Check their safety record. What’s the ratio of return for those who have attended the camp? If there is a high percentage of young people who attend once and then never return, you know something is wrong. Check with parents of other children who have gone to the same camp.
Tauber Law Offices care about the safety of your family. We have children ourselves and know how important it is to provide them with wonderful experiences during the summer months. If you are concerned about possible negligence or any of the other issues we have outlined here, please contact us immediately. Have a great and happy summer!