When looking for the best camp for your child, you want to make sure it has all the activities your kid enjoys. But more importantly, you want to choose a camp that’s fully committed to providing a safe environment. As you do your research, consider the following key safety aspects before making a decision.
Get to know the camp director. Ask about the director’s background and make sure you feel comfortable with him or her. You should feel that the director is happy to answer any question about safety and other topics.
Learn who the leadership staff is and ask about the age, experience, background checks, the interview process, camper-staff ratios, work history checks and character references.
Find out what topics are covered during preseason staff training and if the camp does ongoing training. At a minimum, camp staff should be trained on safety regulations, emergency procedures, communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior and specific procedures for supervision. If there are waterfront activities, make sure they’ll always be supervised by a certified lifeguard.
Emergency Action Plans
Find out if the camp has and practices an emergency action plan for an active shooter, storms or fires. You want to make sure the camp is equipped to handle an emergency.
If your child has food allergies, learning differences or any other special considerations, be upfront and honest with the director about your child’s needs and ask if the camp can accommodate these differences.
Find out if there’s a doctor or nurse in residence or on call for campers at all times. Make sure the camp has EpiPens and automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and ask which staff members are trained to use them.
The physical safety of your child is important, but don’t forget to ask about how the camp deals with the emotional well-being of campers, and how certain situations such as bullying, exclusion and gossip are handled.
Ask if the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. ACA’s nationally recognized standards focus on the health, safety and risk management aspects of a camp’s operation, and go above and beyond an inspection by the Department of Health.
One of the best ways to find out about a camp’s safety record is to ask for references. It’s always valuable to speak with another parent and ask any questions you may have about safety and the general camp experience.
—Renee Flax has been helping families find the right camp for their children at the American Camp Association of NY and NJ for more than 20 years. Parents looking for a camp for their child can contact Renee at firstname.lastname@example.org for free, one-on-one advice.