How to Choose a Summer Camp



Kids’ Corner | By Patrick Biron –

As the weather turned into spring, a secret switch probably clicked in your head reminding you that summer is just around the corner. And, with the kids soon to be off from school, the daunting task of finding a fun, purposeful and most importantly, safe place for them now looms. Choosing a good summer camp can be overwhelming, but armed with the right information and the right questions, you can easily find a great program that fits your schedule and your children’s needs.

Not all camps are created equal, and even those that claim they are state licensed may have large variations in their policies and procedures. Here are some key points to always investigate with a prospective camp.

1. Is the camp licensed?

If so, which State Department are they licensed through? Programs can by licensed by either the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHSC). Most programs under the former are year-round “child-care” centers and are allowed to supervise very young children. Programs under the latter department are day camp-style programs or outdoor and overnight camps, which include most of the summer camps your children will attend.

2. Does the camp run background checks?

What criminal convictions do they allow employees to have? According to Rule 265.12 of the HHSC, a camp doesn’t have to necessarily turn down an applicant just because they have been convicted of a crime. While certain convictions are never permitted under state law, employees with felonies may still be employed if two camp executive staff members evaluate them and deem them suitable for employment. Make sure the camp has a written policy about who they allow and you are comfortable with it.

3. How does the camp handle first aid?



The HHSC does not require every staff member to be first aid and CPR certified. While some camps do train all of their staff, some don’t. Especially if your child has health issues or allergies that may require administration of Epi-Pens, you may want to ensure the adult with them is trained in proper medical response during emergencies. CPR training near pools is a must.

4. What is the camp’s staff-to-camper ratio?

Are there any times when they don’t maintain that ratio? While the state requires at least a one to 10 ratio for most campers, it only requires an adult to stay in the immediate vicinity of their campers during a “hazardous activity.” During low-risk times, the ratio may drop to one to 25. Make sure your expectations for your child’s supervision match those of the camp.

5. How does the camp handle pick-up, and how can you control who takes home your child? We’ve all been there: You get stuck at the doctor with the little one and your best friend offers to pick up your other child from camp. This situation is innocent enough, but how the camp handles a stranger attempting to pick up your child is an important set of procedures. Ask how this situation would be handled, and see if they control their carpool line and exits well enough to ensure your child goes home with the right person. Do they check IDs? What would they do if they couldn’t get in touch with you? Ask these questions before those situations arise.

All camp programs worth their salt should be licensed, and all should be willing to answer your questions regarding the safety of your children. So ask now, and rest easy later, knowing your kids are safe and having fun this summer.