Looking for summer child care or camps? Watch for warning signs

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INDIANAPOLIS — It’s that time of year again to start looking for summer child care and camps.

There is a lot to look for when picking a place to leave your child for the day or week.

“You want to come in and you want to look around the facility, make sure it’s neat, clean and secured,” said Jodee Harley, owner of the Early Learning Academy in Zionsville.

To make her Academy secure, Harley installed a key pad at the front door.

“Different situations can happen, especially with families, and we feel it’s really important that you do have proper security and if people do not have a code, they do have to show their license to get in.”

Make sure the staff is trained in CPR and First Aid.

Confirm the place is licensed here.

And check out the teacher to child ratio.

“I think if you’re looking at the classrooms and they look overly populated, too many children for the amount of caregivers, I think that’s a really strong warning sign.”

Harley says another big red flag is if the teachers seem to sit around chatting with each other, instead of engaging with the kids.

Also, although many can be fine, be very careful if choosing a place that only does before and after school care during the school year, then expands for summer.

“I think people can be very deceived because during the school year, these places can be open for two hours in the morning to get the kids on the bus and then two hours at night, however they can be open all summer and they are not licensed.”

Visiting in-person is a must.

“I think it’s always kind of nice to make an appointment, however follow up with that, just drop in and say you’re in the area, you mind if I check out the classrooms again?”

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips:

  • Ask for recommendations. Ask family, friends and coworkers if they have suggestions of child care facilities they have used. Check here to find business reviews on child care centers.
  • Visit the facility with your child, and spend time talking with the care providers. Watch how the caregivers, parents and children interact.
  • Check for licensing. The size of the child care facility impacts whether or not they need licensing in the state of Indiana. Also, ask about CPR or first aid experience.
  • Find what is best for your child. Look for features that will help your child thrive. Ask what activities the kids do on a regular basis. Consider the caregiver’s education, experience and training as well as the size of the group and setting.
  • Ask for references from the child care provider. Ask for a list of references from current or previous families. Call the references and ask about their experience.
  • Consider the cost. If you have decided on a child care facility, calculate the costs involved and the options that are best for your family. Do they reimburse you for days your child doesn’t attend or days the facility closes? Is there a refund policy if you have to withdraw your child?
  • Keep talking with your child and the caregiver. Ask your child how the day went, what they did, who they saw, or if anything special happened. If your child doesn’t want to go back to the daycare, find out why and follow up with the caregiver. Ask the caregiver to see weekly activity plans and menus. Ask how your child behaves, gets along with others, makes progress, and if your child has difficulty adjusting.

Many of these same tips apply when searching for a summer camp. Also, consider the following in your summer camp search:

  • Always visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Check its location and view the living, eating and recreational facilities. Ask about safety procedures (particularly for water activities, archery and out-of-camp trips), and assess the quality and commitment of the staff.
  • Are the medical facilities adequate? Is a nurse or doctor on site? What are the procedures for transporting injured or sick children to medical facilities? Are those facilities nearby?
  • What are the safety rules and how are they enforced? Does the camp have appropriate insurance coverage?
  • Are references from parents of repeat campers available? Ask the parents about their child’s experience and why they recommend the camp.
  • Ask about fees and payment deadlines. Is your deposit refundable? Are there extra charges for any activities? Are meals and transportation offered?