The school year is ending and many parents are faced yet again with the daunting task of finding a childcare provider for the summer. Schedules, location and budget can all factor into this big decision, but BBB advises that parents and guardians know the right questions to ask before deciding on a childcare arrangement or summer camp.
While searching for an ideal childcare choice for your family, BBB wants consumers to know that there are simple ways to eliminate some of the not-so-perfect options:
- Do your homework. Whether you are looking for a daycare center, in-home child care or a nanny service, conduct a basic online search and visit bbb.org. Check that the daycare is licensed and registered with the South Carolina Department of Social Services. This state department will show the results of previous inspections of the facility.
- Get recommendations. Ask your family, neighbors or close friends who they trust with their children.
- Tour the facility in person. The building should be clean with toys and equipment in good condition. Does the area feel age-appropriate for your child, including the bathroom facilities? Also, be sure that food prep and serving areas are separate and clearly marked.
- Ask about the employees. Find out if background checks are conducted on all employees and volunteers and confirm that all employees are CPR and First Aid certified. If it is a home-based daycare, ask for names of friends or family members who regularly visit the home when children are there so you know who will be around your child.
- Find out about policies. Ask about the daycare rules and regulations. Get a copy of the payment policy (or contract) and schedule to make sure there will not be any additional fees or late penalties.
- Trust your gut. If a daycare center or home-based daycare does not feel right to you, then move along and look for a better option. Ultimately, you have to do what is best for you and your child.
When choosing a summer camp for your child, look beyond the glossy brochures and attractive websites. Parents should heed the same caution and common sense they would use in evaluating a daycare program. Look for a camp that provides activities that are of interest to your child and appropriate for your child’s age and skill level.
The standards for day and overnight camps may be different, but each should put your child’s safety and well-being first.
BBB offers the following tips for parents searching for the right camp for their child:
- Visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Check its location and view the living, eating and 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 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? Ask about the frequency of returning campers-and returning counselors.
- 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 parents whose child has been to the camp before 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.
Parents and guardians can look for trustworthy childcare services and customer reviews at bbb.org.
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