Who's in charge of your kids?

HOUSTON Selecting the right camp for your child can be a daunting task. With so many choices out there, parents often feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the thought of picking one. That decision shouldn't be made on instinct alone.

For many Houston area kids, going to summer camp is a rite of passage. It's the first time they learn how to swim, horseback ride, explore and make new friends. While campers are focused on the fun, their parents direct their attention towards safety.

Parent Holly Mabry said, "Safety is a big factor, to make sure there is a lot of security for the kids."

What about security? And the qualifications of the people responsible for watching your kids? These are questions every concerned parent like Mabry should be asking.

Each camp is very different and they are geared towards certain age groups," said Nicki Saunders with theYMCA.

Camps run by national organizations like the YMCA and the city of Houston do criminal background checks on staff as part of the hiring process. The Y also conducts phone and face-to-face interviews, reference checks and pre-employment drug screens. The process doesn't stop once an individual is hired.

Alicia Alaniz with the YMCA explained, "All camp staff must have CPR and first aid certification, then they go through two weeks of training."

While accreditation isn't necessary, it's something parents should inquire about.

"It's like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. It's not necessarily required, but it's a good thing," suggested Doug Earle with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

So before you sign on the dotted line and entrust your children to someone else, take a look at the kind of care and supervision they'll be getting, make sure the staff is knowledgeable, and get a feel for the facilities. Mabry says it's advice every parent should live by.

She said, "It happens when you least expect it. She's my only one. I have to be extra careful."

You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against a particular camp that you're interested in.

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