“If I were a parent, I wouldn’t even consider a camp that didn’t have ACA accreditation,” says Judy Levine, who is a camp-referral consultant at Summer Camp and Trip Resources.
“One of the best things a parent can do is to make sure [the camp] is ACA-accredited,” Hedges says. “It doesn’t mean that it’s the guaranteed safest camp, but it does mean that they met a basic standard.”
However, it’s ultimately up to parents to determine whether a summer camp is a good fit for their child. Experts believe that parents should contact the summer-camp director to ask detailed questions even if a particular summer camp has ACA accreditation and is located in a state where camps are regulated and camps have access to the FBI crime database for background checks. You’ll want to discuss issues such as behavior management and camper discipline, what steps the camp takes to prevent bullying, how it handles emergencies, such as fires or severe weather, and what steps it takes to prevent sexual abuse. The best camps will have clear policies in those areas.
The bottom line is that camp directors should be open and willing to discuss all of your concerns and questions. If camp directors become defensive about any of the questions that experts suggest that you ask, then it should raise a red flag regardless of whether they don’t know the answers or they’re trying to hide something from you. Either case means that you likely should look for another summer camp.
Unfortunately, picking the right summer camp for your child requires a lot of work. We believe that parents who scrutinize all of the factors that contribute to a summer camp’s safety put themselves in the best position to avoid getting burned by a camp that doesn’t take the proper precautions to protect their child.
Freelance writer Patrick Doyle has been a journalist for 10 years. He is a contributing editor at Matter and has written for Men’s Journal and Real Simple.