By Laurie Evans
As any parent who has sent a little one off to school for the first time knows, it can be very difficult to trust your precious children to strangers.
That can be particularly true when it comes to sending your kids off to a new camp for the first time, especially an overnight camp.
You want to make sure the adults to whom you are entrusting your children are properly trained, empathetic and prepared for any emergency.
So how do you find out if the staff at the camp your child is begging to attend are all those things?
You first stop should be at the website for the American Camp Association.
The ACA purports to ask all the right questions of both day and residential camps before awarding its accreditation.
Don’t see your camp on the list? Don’t worry. You can ask the staff the same questions that ACA asks to make sure the summer camp you have chosen is not only safe but a good fit for your family.
The ACA recommends that parents ask the following questions to get a better feel for which camp experience best suits your child.
What is the camp’s philosophy?
Each camp has its own method of constructing programs based on its philosophy.
Does it complement your family’s philosophy? Does the camp focus on learning through competition or through cooperative learning?
How does the camp handle homesickness and other adjustment issues?
What is the camp director’s background?
ACA recommends directors possess a bachelor’s degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years, and have at least 16 weeks of camp administrative experience before assuming the responsibilities of director.
What training do counselors receive?
At a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision.
How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?
This is where the director’s philosophy comes through loud and clear.
Do they use positive reinforcement? What are the rules and consequences?
How does the camp handle special needs?
For a child with special requirements, parents should ask the camp director about needed provisions and facilities.
Is there a nurse on staff? A designated place to store insulin or allergy medicine?
Are special foods available for campers with restricted diets? Every question is important.
What about references?
Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask for references.
This is generally one of the best ways to check a camp’s reputation and service record.
Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association?
Why? Why not? ACA-accredited camps meet up to 300 health and safety standards.
This does not guarantee a risk-free environment, but it’s some of the best evidence parents have of a camp’s commitment to a safe and nurturing environment for their children.