Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! Legal Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe at Summer Camp

Here in Texas, there are only six more weeks until summer vacation.

Only six more weeks of having to drag my kids out of bed in the morning and plead with them to go to bed early in the evening. Only six more weeks of consulting Professor Google to help my 7th grader with algebra. Only six more weeks of 1st grade spelling lists. And only six more weeks of having someone else be responsible for keeping my kids occupied seven hours a day, five days a week.

So unless I want to spend my summer as my kids’ personal Cruise Director like Julie on The Love Boat (wow, I bet the reference ages me), I need to find some good summer camps for my kids.

If you are also looking into summer camps for your kids, here are some legal tips for you to keep in mind.

Read the contract and liability waiver and release very carefully. 

I know. The minute you see pages of tiny print legalese your eyes glaze over and all you want to know is where do you sign.

Take the time to read the contract carefully, in particular, the cancellation policy. Things happen. Kids get sick or injured. Their interests change. They’re not quite ready for a sleep-away camp. Make sure you fully understand the cancellation policy and are comfortable with it before you sign. Assume that the camp will enforce the financial terms of the contract by either not refunding your money or pursuing the full tuition amount with a lawsuit or debt collection. For more information, check out my post on breaking tuition contracts.

While you are in a reading mood, be sure to read the liability waiver and release carefully as well. If enforceable, it could prevent you from suing the camp in the event something goes wrong and your child is injured. Any parent knows how easy it is for kids to be injured. It goes without saying that a serious injury can be catastrophic for a family—physically, emotionally, and financially. For more information, check out my post on liability waivers and releases.

If the camp you are considering for your child is particularly expensive (think Space Camp) or dangerous (think full contact football camp), it may be worth paying an attorney to spend an hour or two reviewing the contract for you before you sign.

Ask questions and get answers in writing.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and demand answers. Are the camp counselors trained in First Aid and CPR? What is the camp safety record? How often are the camp facilities inspected? What is the procedure if there is a medical emergency? Are kids ever left alone with an adult? Have the staff been trained to spot sexual and other forms of child abuse?

If the answers don’t sound right, find another camp for your child.

Check the camp’s accreditation and reviews.

Be sure to check out the camp’s American Camp Association accreditation and the online reviews. If there are lots of disgruntled parents or no reviews at all, find another camp for your child.

Be sure to sure to provide the camp with multiple emergency contacts.

The camp will ask for at least one emergency contact, but give more than one if possible. Also, your emergency contact should be someone other than your spouse (assuming your spouse’s contact information is listed somewhere else on the form).

Talk to your kids about safety and abuse.

The first step in protecting your kids against sexual abuse is talking to them.

Make sure you have talked to your kids about good and bad touches, and good and bad secrets. Need some help starting the conversation? With my kids, I have always used the “underwear rule”: no one should ever touch you on parts of your body usually covered by your underwear.

And make sure they understand that they can always talk to you about anything.

You’ve already had this conversation with your kid last summer? Great, now have it again.

Paying for summer camp.

I’m taking off my lawyer hat now and putting back on my mom hat. 

So we can all agree that summer camp is a great for kids, and even better for their parents. But it can also be expensive, really expensive. Especially if you have two or more kids. Extra especially if your two or more kids are in private school during the rest of the year.

Just like schools, there are tons of scholarship out there for summer camps. I came across one offered by EduCents, a parenting website. For three lucky families, you pick any camp in the world and they will pay the cost up to $1,000. You can find more information about this scholarship contest here. Entries will be accepted through April 29, 2018.

If parents went to summer camp instead of kids, what would be the dream camp for parents? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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