Check your kids' camps before they go

Parents are preparing to send their children to summer camps for days, even weeks at a time, but how can you assure yourself that they'll be safe?

What does the state do?

In Washington, camps are not required to be licensed, but there are health and safety requirements enforced by the state board of health. According to the American Camp Association, Washington does require criminal background checks of camp employees.

In Oregon, camps are required to be licensed. They're regulated by the Oregon Health Authority, but the inspection process falls to county health departments. They regulate things like food sanitation and emergency procedures. According to the ACA, Oregon does not require criminal background checks, but camps may require checks themselves. That's a question you'll want to ask before signing up.

These inspection findings aren't readily available to parents online. Instead, you need to call the health department in the county where the camp is located to see if there are any violations or chronic problems.

Want more?

If you're looking for more, you'll want to send your kids to a camp that's accredited by the American Camp Association. The ACA runs a voluntary accreditation program that requires camps to meet 300 different standards.

ACA accreditation goes beyond the basics and looks closely at programming and staffing, including appropriate counselor-to-camper ratios based on age. There're additional standards for swimming, horseback riding and adventure activities.

In Oregon, there're 268 ACA-accredited camps; in Washington, there's 511 ACA-accredited camps.

To check if your child's camp is accredited or to find a camp that is, call (800) 428-CAMP or click here.