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Rip-Off Alert: Find safe, rewarding summer camps

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Updated: 6/05/2013 5:17 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) -- If your kids plan to go to camp this summer, here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau in this Rip-Off Alert.

The BBB has tips and business reviews that can help parents find camps that will provide safe, rewarding experiences for children.

When choosing a camp, parents need to use the same care and common sense they would use in evaluating a day care program. They should look for a camp that provides activities that are of interest to their child and appropriate for the child's age and skill level.

Parents need to take time to visit camps to inspect facilities, ask about the staff's training and experience, and find out how the camp handles medical emergencies. If the child is staying overnight, be sure to look at cabins, showers and other facilities that your child will be using.

Some camps, such as those organized around a particular sport, are highly structured and stress development of specific skills. Others are more flexible and give campers the opportunity to choose some of their activities. Your child's interest and personality should be your guide in choosing an appropriate program. If the child is old enough, ask what activities he or she would enjoy at camp.

Parents should ask how long a camp has been in business and check with parents of past and returning students. Check the BBB website for the camp's record on handling complaints. The standards for day and overnight camps may be different, but each should have your child's safety and well-being as its top priority.

The BBB offers the following tips for parents searching for the right camp:

Always visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Check its location and view the living, eating and recreational facilities. Ask about safety procedures (particularly for water activities, archery and out-of-camp trips), and assess the quality and commitment of the staff.

Ask about fees and payment deadlines. Is your deposit refundable? Are there extra charges for any activities? Are meals and transportation offered?

What is the camper return rate? The counselor return rate?

What is the camp director's background? How is the staff trained? Are criminal checks made for employees and volunteers? What is the ratio of campers to staff members?

Are medical facilities adequate? Is a nurse or doctor on site? What are the procedures for transporting injured or sick children to medical facilities? Are those facilities nearby?

What are the safety rules, and how are they enforced? Does the camp have appropriate insurance coverage?

Are family visits or other communications with campers allowed? How is homesickness handled?

Are references from parents of repeat campers available? Ask the parents about their child's experience and why they recommend the camp.

Finally, look for camps that are certified by the American Camp Association. ACA-accredited camps have met up to 300 nationally recognized standards.
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