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Questions for Evaluating a Summer Camp

Do Their Campers Return?

Inquire about the camper return rate. Not every camper wants to go back to the same place the following summer, but a large number of returning campers probably is a sign that the children and their parents were highly satisfied with the camp's offerings and the way it is operated.

This is more important to know when evaluating resident camps than day camps. Children change their choice of day camps more frequently in order to find more variety or to be with their friends.

Watch Out!

When campers are engaged in risky activities such as swimming or horseback riding, there should be additional adult supervision.

Medical Accommodations

Find out about the camp's medical resources. Is there a full-time nurse? Is there a doctor on call? How close is the nearest hospital and the nearest ambulance service? What are the camp's protocols about when parents are called if their child is ill or injured?

If your child has special medical requirements, ask the camp staff how they would be handled. Is there appropriate storage for medications, for example? Can the cafeteria provide special foods for children on restricted diets? What accommodations are made for children with allergies? If, for example, a student carries an injection to be administered in case of bee sting, will all his counselors know how to use it so that precious minutes aren't wasted taking the child to the nurse?

Ask if the staff is trained to recognize the difference between homesickness and depression.

Watch Out!

If your child will ride the bus to day camp and must wait alone at his stop, make sure he knows what to do if the bus doesn't arrive by a certain time. Also, ask what the drop-off policy is. Younger children may not be allowed to be dropped off at a stop where no parent is waiting unless the parent has provided written authorization.

Transportation

Many day camps provide bus transportation to and from their facility morning and afternoon. Buses also may be used for field trips. Some resident camps provide bus service from metropolitan locations. If your child will be using the camp's bus or van, ask how often the vehicles are inspected by mechanics. Find out the drivers' qualifications and if there are any ongoing training or safety programs.

The Facility

If you want to take the extra step of visiting the camp before enrolling your child, find out if any open houses are scheduled. You won't see the camp in operation, but you can observe firsthand whether the facility is well-maintained and possibly meet some of the staff.

Water Safety

Whether you visit or not, find out where kids will be swimming—either a pool or a natural body of water—and if the water is monitored for bacteria. Is there a shallow area marked off for kids who are still learning to swim? Are swimming lessons offered? Are lifeguards certified in lifesaving always present when campers are in the water?

If boating is offered, ask whether counselors are always in the boats with campers. Do campers have to pass a test before they take boats out on their own?

Safety Savvy

If you don't know any families whose children have attended the camp, get references from the director. Ask these parents their overall impressions of the camp, what they liked best, and what they liked least.

Other High-Risk Activities

For any high-risk activity your child might engage in at camp—from rock climbing to white-water rafting—make a point of asking questions about protective equipment, staff training, and safety precautions.

If your child will be riding horses, for example, he should wear a helmet. Ask if the camp requires this.

Food Handling

State health departments or other regulatory bodies should be responsible for making sure camps prepare and store food safely, but enforcement may be spotty. Ask about food handling, both in the camp cafeteria and when meals are sent out with campers on trips.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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