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How you can help ensure your child's safety at camp

Whether you're sending your kids off to camp for the last weeks of summer, or you're enrolling them in a local day camp, it's essential not to assume that the camp and its staff will always take the necessary precautions to keep them safe. It's important to do your homework.

First, be sure that any camp you are considering is accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). The ACA provides accreditation for day camps as well as sleep-away camps.

When you decide on a camp, you'll need to complete and sign some legal documents -- likely including a liability waiver. Make sure you read all documents carefully before you sign them.

Liability waivers are designed to protect the entities that draft them. Camps don't want to pay for medical care for every child who suffers a broken bone or get sued if a child suffers a serious asthma attack. Specialty sports camps, like those for soccer or football, usually have very strict liability waivers that relieve them of responsibility for any number of mishaps. Make sure you understand the terms of the camp's liability waiver before you sign it.

If you visit the camp ahead of time, or at least when you drop your kids off, look around carefully and ask questions. Make sure the facilities where your kids will be sleeping and spending time are in good condition. Check out the bunk beds, in particular, to make sure that they're sturdy. Make sure that the counselors are trained in CPR and first aid.

No one wants to consider the possibility that their child could be sexually abused at camp, but it does occur. Ask the camp management about their policies regarding reports of sexual abuse -- whether it involves another camper or a staff member.

Make certain that the camp staff have all the information they need for your child. Be sure that you provide more than one emergency contact. Make sure the appropriate counselors and medical personnel know about any medical conditions, including allergies, that your kids have. Find out what the camp's procedures are for storing and dispensing campers' medications.

If your child suffers an injury or illness that you believe the camp bears responsibility for but you're not getting the resolution you're seeking because of a liability waiver, it's wise to talk with an attorney to determine whether you have legal recourse.

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