When choosing a summer camp, it’s important to do your research. One of the most important aspects of your search will be to take a close look at the safety aspects of the camp to make sure you are selecting a camp that is committed to the safety of children. The American Camp Association, NY and NJ recommends families consider the following when looking for a camp for your child.
1. Make Sure the Camp is Licensed. There are thousands of unlicensed single purpose camps in New York which have no oversight by the Department of Health. This means that camps that offer one activity, such as soccer or gymnastics, aren’t required to check the state sex offender registry before hiring staff, don’t need to maintain minimum staff to child ratios, and don’t require medical staff at camp, among many other safety aspects. Ask the camp if they are inspected by the Department of Health at a minimum and if they choose to be Accredited by the American Camp Association which goes above and beyond DOH licensing.
2. Who is the Camp Director? Inquire about who the camp director is, how much experience they have, if being a camp director is their full time job and how long they have been at the camp for. You should also look for a camp director that is happy to answer your questions about camp safety and other aspects of the program. You are forming a partnership with the director and you want to know that you click with the director and feel comfortable with this person taking care of your child.
3. Staff & Staff Training. Ask about the age of the staff, experience, pre-season & on-going staff training, background checks, instructor qualifications and reference checks. Also ask if topics such as behavior management techniques, appropriate staff and camper behavior, child abuse prevention, water safety and emergency procedures are covered, among other topics.
4. Special Considerations. If your child has special considerations, whether it’s food allergies, sleep issues or ADHD, ask how they handle similar issues. Remember to be completely open and honest about your child’s needs with the director. You want to make sure the camp can properly accommodate your child’s needs.
5. Emotional Well-Being. Besides the physical safety of your child, you want to ask how the camp handles issues that affect your child’s emotional well-being from bullying to homesickness. You want to feel good about how the camp handles certain situations that may arise during the summer.
6. Medical Staff. Ask if there is a doctor or nurse in residence or on call for campers at all times. Parents also want to make sure the camp has epi-pens and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on site and that the camp has trained staff members to use them.
7. References. One of the best ways to find out about a camp’s safety record is to ask the camp for references. Ask other parents about the experiences of their children at the camp and if they are going back next summer. Be specific and ask for a reference from your neighborhood or child’s age group to ensure the camp isn’t giving out the same few phone numbers to each parent.
Still looking for a camp? Families can contact Renee Flax at the American Camp Association, NY and NJ for free, one-on-one advice in finding a summer camp. Call 212.391.5208 or visit www.acanynj.org