The day camp advertisement boasted of a basketball court, spacious playground and computer lab. In reality, the physical premises offered a portable kiddy hoop, a small fenced-in backyard and a couple of out-dated computers sitting in the basement.
The Better Business Bureau cautions parents who are seeking a summer camp for their kids – whether it is day camp or sleep-away camp – to exercise care and common sense. With application deadlines fast approaching, it can be tempting to panic and choose the first camp that has an opening. That’s a decision you may later regret.
The BBB offers tips to help narrow your choices to camps that will ensure a safe and fun experience for your child.
Look for a camp program that fits your child’s age, personality and interests. Some camps have structured programs with staff scheduling campers' activities. Others are more flexible, allowing campers to choose some of their daily activities.
Find out how long the camp has been in business and check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to determine if the operations are trustworthy.
Always visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Check on its location, view the living/eating/recreational facilities, ask about safety procedures (particularly for water activities, archery and out-of-camp trips) and assess the quality and commitment of the staff. Ask the camp staff about the following issues:
- What are the total 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? What is the ratio of campers to staff members?
- Are medical facilities adequate and is a nurse or doctor on site? What are the procedures for transporting injured or sick children to nearby medical facilities?
- What are the safety rules and how are they enforced?
- Are family visits or other communications with campers allowed? How is homesickness handled?
- Are references from parents of repeat campers available? Ask 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.