As summer camps reopen in the age of coronavirus (COVID-19) and families begin to make camp decisions they may have delayed, parents should look past glossy brochures and pretty website pictures when researching camps.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has provided considerations for camp administration and local governments as they create new minimum health and safety standards. While individual camps will decide when they will accept campers, they must all adhere to these standards determined by the state.

Additionally, the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and the American Camp Association (ACA) have teamed up to provide educational resources for summer camp staff on supporting camp safety. The document includes guidelines for subjects such as communication, transportation, food services and screening for COVID-19.

“A great camp should provide an enriching experience for your child while following CDC guidelines,” said Stephanie Garland, Better Business Bureau (BBB) Springfield Regional Director. “Camp staff should be well-trained, and your child’s health and safety must be paramount.”

Common complaints to BBB involve issues with the camp’s cancellation or refund policy. These issues require special attention as COVID-19 creates uncertainty in summer activities.

When choosing a camp, use the same care and common sense you would use in evaluating a day care program. Look for a camp that provides activities of interest to your child and appropriate for the child’s age and skill level.

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Tips for choosing a safe, high-quality camp for your child:

●      Check for accreditation. Regardless of pandemic-related issues, the safest way to ensure your child’s safety is to send them to a trustworthy camp. ACA accredited camps must meet the 32 national summer camp standards, and BBB accreditation requires the organization meet eight standards of trust. Search for camps in the ACA and BBB directories to check for accreditation.

●      Know required safety standards. Individual states will provide health and safety guidelines for summer camps, following CDC recommendations. These protocols may include measures such as monitoring health of staff and campers, limiting visitor access to campgrounds, adapting meal distribution and providing sanitation products to staff and campers.

●      Use references. Physical visitations may be difficult or not allowed at all. In lieu of visiting the camp, ask if they have a list of references or past campers you can contact. You may also want to consider asking trusted friends or family their recommendations for summer camps. Reviews and complaint histories can also be found on the camp’s BBB Business Profile at

●      Assess medical resources. Camps should already have resources for treating sick and injured campers. Ask about the camp’s normal medical facilities and how those resources have changed to accommodate potential COVID-19 situations. You may also want to ask how the camp and staff are following minimum protocols and what additional measures they are taking.

●      Review contracts and fees. As always, you should review contracts before you sign them. Find out the total cost and if a deposit is required. See which activities or services require additional fees. You should also check for details regarding refunds, especially in the event of cancellations related to COVID-19. If that information is not outlined in the contract, ask a camp employee.

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