Choosing a summer camp? Read the fine print


Summer is coming, and for many, that means it’s time to find a camp. Whether you’re sending your child to an overnight camp for the entire summer or to a day camp at the local park, there are some legal basics you’ll want to understand beforehand.

Forms, forms, and more forms

Even a simple, week-long day camp involves a pile of paperwork. While it can be overwhelming, it’s important not only to carefully review and complete the ubiquitous forms like liability waivers and the doctor’s physical, but also to read and understand the individual camp’s rules, regulations, and requirements.

For example, if your child has an allergy or medical condition, it must be noted on the medical forms and you will need to provide appropriate medications or devices. And you need to clearly understand what the camp employees will and won’t do in the event of a medical or behavioral problem.

Who will be working at the camp?

Many states require criminal background checks for adult employees at a camp, and organizations like the American Camp Association strongly recommend such checks. As a parent, you should insist that your child’s camp has conducted background checks even if not required to do so by law.

If the camp is being run by or through a school district and the camp employees are also school employees, they will have had to comply with the school district’s requirements. This could include not only a routine background check but also more extensive measures like fingerprinting.

For privately run camps, parents are well within their rights to ask about background checks and clearance procedures for all the camp workers.

What happens if something goes wrong?

While the extensive liability waiver form might seem to shield the camp from accountability when things go awry, camps cannot completely evade their responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment. Therefore, you should ask about what types of insurance the camp carries and the monetary limits on those policies. If the camp’s operator does not own the location or facilities, it makes sense to ask about the facility’s insurance coverage as well.