Wise parents already are searching for summer camps that will keep their children safely occupied when school is out. Better Business Bureau reminds parents to look beyond glossy brochures and pretty website pictures when choosing a summer program for their children.
“Choosing a summer camp involves some important research”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Because the camp experience will likely have significant impact on your child’s life, it’s important for parents to choose a camp wisely.”
Some camps, such as those organized around a particular sport, are highly structured and stress development of specific skills. Others are more flexible and give campers the opportunity to choose some of their activities. Your child’s interest and personality should be your guide in choosing an appropriate program. If the child is old enough, ask what activities he or she would enjoy at camp.
Take time to visit camps to inspect facilities, ask about the staff’s training and experience, and find out how the camp handles medical emergencies. If the child is staying overnight, be sure to look at cabins, showers and other facilities that your child will be using.
Ask how long a camp has been in business and check with parents of past and returning students. Check the BBB website, www.bbb.org, for the camp’s track record on handling complaints.
Financial limitations regarding camp costs should also be considered. Inquire about costs for uniforms, camp trips, and extra spending money which may be needed. Keep in mind, however, that although childcare may be less expensive than sending your child to camp, a good summer camp experience can be a long-term investment which may positively influence several aspects of your child’s life.
BBB offers the following tips for parents searching for the right summer camp program:
- Visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Check its location and inspect 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? The counselor return rate?
- 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 the parents 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.
For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373.