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What to ask before leaving your kids at summer camps or programs

As kids are getting out of school and started to enjoy the summer parents will want to make sure they're safe, especially if you’re putting your kids in a summer program or camp.

Maureen France has used summer camps and programs before for her 7-year-old son. Her family just moved to Georgia and are starting to look at camps here.

As a parent, she has a checklist.

“What kind of activities that they offer, the prices, how the staff is, how many staff members there are versus how many number of kids, the age groups, is he going to be with the same kids his age or all different ages, so that's pretty much the kinds of things I look for,” France said.

The Georgia Child Care Association says those are all good questions.

They say parents should ask if the program has a license from the state agency, Bright from the Start, or if it is exempt from having one.

Ask if they background check or fingerprint employees.

Ask what the ratio of teachers and counselors to children is.

Ask about safety training like CPR, First Aid, or what the program does in case of a medical emergency.

Carolyn Salvador is the executive director of the Child Care Association and says parents need to be thorough.

“You wouldn't buy an automobile if you didn't think it was safe, so why would a parent risk their most prized possession on a cheap summer camp on the hope it's going to keep their child safe,” Salvador said.

That's because state law does not require summer camps to be licensed, according to the GCCA. There are no regulations for unlicensed camps. Camps can be licensed if they operate as daycare or childcare centers other times in the year. But, in the state of Georgia programs can ask for an exemption from those regulations.

Salvador says those exemptions are often granted. Once a program is exempted, there are no regulations that the State of Georgia can enforce.

Those regulations take up hundreds of pages, according to Salvador. She said that unlicensed programs with the exemptions are not necessarily less safe, but she does strongly recommend parents doing their homework.

Salvador recommends parents make unannounced visits to their child’s summer camp or program at different times to check in. She also says parents should trust their senses and instincts, if a camp or program doesn’t fit, don’t use it.

The GCCA says they are working with state legislators to create a licensing system for Georgia summer camps and programs.

Parents can check for licensed programs and camps at the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning website, or by dialing 877 ALL GA KIDS.

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