sleeping bagsWith school ending this month, thousands of children will be attending New York camps for a summer of swimming, sports and building life skills. But how do you know the camp you are choosing for your child is safe?  The American Camp Association, NY and NJ offers parents some quick tips to ensure you are choosing the safest summer camp possible for your children this summer.

  1. Licensed by the Department of Health – Many parents don’t realize that there are over 10,000 unlicensed summer camps in New York State, which means there is no oversight by the Department of Health.   These camps aren’t being checked for a wide range of safety standards including checking the state sex offender registry prior to hiring staff, maintaining minimum staff to child ratios, hiring medical personnel, maintaining vaccination records and reporting illnesses to the Department of Health.  In light of the measles outbreak, parents at a minimum should be choosing a licensed summer camp that keeps vaccination records of campers and must report a measles case to the Department of Health.
  2. Measles – Find out what your camp is doing about the US measles outbreak. Are they accepting unvaccinated children?   Do all children need to be vaccinated to attend? Do they keep vaccination records?  Each camp has a different policy and it’s important to find out what it is before sending your child to camp.  Unregulated summer camps don’t need to report illnesses and aren’t required to keep vaccination records as regulated summer camps do.
  3. Camp Director – One of the most important parts of researching a camp is looking at who the camp director is.  Don’t choose a camp without speaking with the camp director. Parents should inquire about the camp director’s background and if he or she is a year round camp professional or a seasonal employee.  
  4. Staff Composition – Inquire about a camp’s staff composition. Ask about who is caring for your child.  Ask about age of staff, experience, pre-season and on-going staff training, background checks, staff ratios, the interview process, camper-staff ratios, work history checks, and character references.  Unregulated summer camps aren’t required to do background checks or maintain minimum staff to child ratios.
  5. Medical Staff– Ask if there is a doctor or nurse in residence or on call for campers at all times. Parents want to also make sure the camp has epi-pens and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on site and that the camp employs staff members trained to use them.  Keep in mind that unlicensed summer camps don’t need to have medical staff.
  6. Safety procedures – Ask about the safety measures that are in place.  These can include inquiring about active shooter plans, emergency plans for natural disasters or evacuations, security guards, staff screening procedures, and instructor qualifications.
  7. Accreditation – Camps that choose to become Accredited by the American Camp Association go above a state’s basic licensing requirements and address specific areas of programming, personnel, health care, emergency response, management practices and youth development.  Choosing an accredited camp is a parent’s best evidence of a camp’s commitment to a safe program.

Happy Days of summer!

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