How to keep your kids safe at summer camp

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s that time of year — many schools are coming to a close, and tens of thousands of kids in our area will be home for the summer.

So what’s a parent to do to keep their kids occupied? Enroll in summer camp!

But who’s monitoring these camps, making sure you get what you paid for and your kids are safe?

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At Tapout Fitness in North Raleigh, the open setup makes for a family atmosphere, as parents do their own workouts alongside their kids, age 5 to 13, who are learning martial arts.

Jamie Drescher competes on Team USA for Taekwondo and has been teaching at youth camps for 10 years.

He echoed officials advice to parents looking for a summer camp.

“Come in, try a class before you sign your kids up, take a class yourself,” she said. “You can read reviews on the place you’re going, and it’s important to see the kind of people who are working in the building as well.”

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein offered similar advice.

“Whatever you do, don’t you believe what you see online, fill out the application and send the money away, because you want to have some confidence that the camp is actually going to deliver the experience you want your child to have,” she said.

At Tapout, Drescher is proud of the experience she provides.

“I grew up in martial arts summer camps, so I know the environment that I want to create for other kids, and they’re going to learn, they’re not gonna sit around,” Drescher said.

That’s a relief for parents who haven’t exactly gotten what they paid for in years past.

“You sign him up for a summer camp for activities, not just for somebody to sit there and watch my kid and have him sit over there in the corner and watch Disney movies,” said parent Blane Boyd.

Parent Mary Fox said that she’s had a bad experience with her children at a summer camp.

“Being really in close quarters with some kids. Some kids not getting along, and kids getting bullied. I’m not a big fan of that,” she said.

But the dangers can go beyond that. CBS North Carolina pulled the most-recent complaints parents filed against summer camps with the state attorney general’s office.

They range from accusations of stolen money to a camp taking a child across state lines.

“If you feel like you got ripped off, or they didn’t delivered what they promised they would deliver, our office can help,” Stein, the state attorney general, said.

Anyone who thinks children aren’t being kept safe or are being neglected should contact the local county Department of Social Services, Stein said.

But, because summer camps operate as a recreational program for fewer than four consecutive months, they’re exempt from licensing in North Carolina — which can make it easier for things to slip through the cracks.

Four years ago, St. Augustine’s hired two convicted murderers to run a summer camp for kids.

And an Orange County man working at a different camp was busted for possessing child porn while on the job in 2013.

A simple online search finds a ton of summer camps in our area, and it can be a bit overwhelming with all the results that show up.

CBS North Carolina has already profiled one local company that can help.

BLOBfish Activity Hub is a website created in the Triangle that allows parents to search all kinds of camps to find options that fit their kids’ interests and schedules. It also carries reviews from other sections.

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