When choosing a summer camp, families want to make sure they are choosing the right camp for their child. The American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey recommends that parents ask the camp director at the camp they are interested in the following questions when researching a summer camp for your child.
1. What is your camp's philosophy and program Emphasis?
Can the director easily explain the programs mission statement and goals? Ask the director about the type of child that is a successful participant in their program. Each camp is unique, and provides unique programming and approaches. Families need to consider carefully whether or not the camp's philosophy matches their own. Asking questions about learning approaches, how behavioral and disciplinary problems are handled, and how adjustment issues are addressed will give families a better understanding of the camp's position. Don't be afraid to ask about policies regarding discipline and communication. The more open families are with camp directors, the better informed they will be when it comes to making a decision.
2. What is your camp's program?
What activities are must have's for your child? How many electives do the children get and what kind of help do they receive in choosing them? How long is each activity?
3. What type of training and education do you and your staff have?
The American Camp Association recommends directors possess a bachelor's degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years, and have at least sixteen weeks of camp administrative experience before assuming the responsibilities of director. 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. Families should ask about camper-to-staff ratios, and supervision in cabins and for various activities, like swimming and athletics.
4. Enrollment Options
What is the length of the program offered? Is there flexibility? What is the length of the day? Is transportation available?
5. What is the staff composition?
Who is caring for your child? Ask about age, experience, pre-season and on-going staff training, child abuse training, background checks, the interview process, and camper-staff ratios.
6. What are the safety procedures?
Ask about the safety measures that are in place. These can include inquiring about medical personnel on property, emergency plans (i.e. evacuation, inclement weather), staff screening procedures, and instructor qualifications.
7. Is your camp accredited?
Find out if the program follows a nationally known accreditation process. Ask for those standards to be outlined. Find out if their camp program is inspected each summer by the Department of Health. Understand what it means to be Accredited by the American Camp Association. The ACA is the only national organization which establishes uniform standards for reviewing camps and ask if the program has chosen to participate.
8. Sensitivity to Camper Needs
Ask how the camp handles special considerations for your child such as food allergies, religious obligations, ADD, vegetarian food options, etc.
9. What are the policies on parent-camper communication while in camp?
For resident camp, can you send and receive e-mails from your child? Can you call and talk to the child during his/her time at camp?
10. Ask for references from the camp
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. Ask other parents about the experiences of their children at the camp. Find out if the children seemed comfortable in talking about their experiences with staff and campers. Ask if they are going back the next summer. Ask if the parent was pleased with the communication received from the camp. Ask what communication was received. Ask these parents for the names of other parents and children who have attended the camp.
Parents searching for a day or resident camp can visit the American Camp Association, New York, and New Jersey's camp database website www.campwizard.org. For more information, please visit the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey's website www.aca-ny.org.