Ask the right questions at camp fairs
With the camp fair and camp open house season starting to heat up, here is a list of questions families can ask the camp directors or representatives they will have a chance to speak with:
- 1Is this camp accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA)?
The ACA, New England has nearly 400 ACA-Accredited day and resident camps throughout the region. Achieving ACA accreditation means these camps voluntarily meet or exceed 300+ standards to ensure the health and safety of the campers and staff. ACA-accredited camps proudly display an ACA accredited logo.
- What is the camp community like?
It's important to understand the most highly regarded values that the camp holds and to learn about the people who lead the adventures and experiences the camp provides.
- What happens on a typical day?
There may not be a "typical" day at camp, but there are certain things that may happen every day meals, bunk inspections, lessons, group gatherings, etc. Having a good general sense of what the camper will be doing on a daily basis will help you know what to expect and help you to prepare your child.
- How is communication handled between camp and home?
Talk to the camp director and staff about the best way to keep in touch about the camper's adjustment to camp. Some camps may have a system in place for parents and guardians to follow; most camps encourage letter writing by both campers and family members.
- How does the camp help children adjust to camp life at the beginning of the session?
Some camps may ask that you send a letter to the camp before the child arrives so that (s)he will have something from home to read upon arrival. Others may recommend refraining from contacting the child by telephone (for a certain period of time or at all) to allow them to settle in. Try to plan ahead so all family members understand how the camp transition will unfold and what to expect from each other and people at camp.
- Are references available?
Find out what others have thought of the camp. Ask the director for references most likely parents of current or past campers new campers of a similar age to your child. Most will be happy to connect you with a parent of a current camper. Talking with a parent in the know can help determine if this camp is the right fit for your child.
- How does the camp recruit, screen and train its staff?
Ask how the camp screens and trains its staff and where it recruits them. Certain state regulations address background checks. ACA standards address many aspects of staff hiring and training.
- Can you tell me about your counselors?
Perhaps most importantly, parents should find out what the staff-to-camper ratio is.
Parents can also find out about the ages of the counselors the ACA recommends that 80 percent of the staff be 18 or older and that all staffers be at least 16 years old and a minimum of two years older than the campers they supervise.
And finally, ask how many members of the staff are returning from previous years. Fifty percent is considered a good benchmark. If it's lower than that, don't be afraid to ask why.
- How does the camp handle discipline issues?
Let's face it kids will be kids from time-to-time. Just like any other environment, there are times where campers need discipline. Ask what the camp's policies and rules are. Consider whether or not the camp's discipline policies are aligned closely enough with yours at home.
- Are there financial discounts/incentives available?
Each camp is responsible for the way they structure their financial systems, so don't assume what holds true at one camp is true for all of them. If you really like a camp, but think paying for it may be a challenge (especially if you have multiple children attending), talk with the director to see if there is anything they can do to help you out. Some may offer discounts for sending more than one child, while others may offer payment plans.
Provided by the American Camp Association, New England, the region's leading source for "all things summer camp."
For more information, visit www.ACANewEngland.org or call (781) 541-6080. Find us also at www.Facebook.com/ACANewEngland.
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