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How to Choose a Wilderness Program - The Questions Parents Need to Ask

Parents should take the time to investigate thoroughly a number of programs before making any selection. To assist parents in making an educated decision, the National Association of Wilderness Camps has compiled a series of checklist questions that parents may want to use.

General Questions

1. How long has the program been in operation?
2. How long has the program been licensed? By whom? (What govt agency)
3. Is the program affiliated with any professional organizations? which ones?
4. How many children is the program licensed for?
5. How many children are currently enrolled?
6. Describe your admission criteria.
7. How will I know my child is appropriate for this program?
8. What type of supplies and clothing does a child need upon admission?
9. How often is the family contacted by the program with progress reports?
10. Are there currently any lawsuits against the program? Any in the last five years? If so, what for?
11. Has the program or any staff member ever been charged with physical or sexual misconduct against a child in the program? any program?
12. (If applicable) How often will the family be allowed to visit, phone, write while my child is in the program?
13. Does a child ever receive consequences? A group? If so, what do they consist of?
14. (If applicable) Are physical searches conducted? if so, how and by whom?

Staffing Questions

1. Who is the Administrator/Director?
2. What credentials are required of staff? Both direct care and administrators.
3. What training does the program direct care staff receive?
4. How many direct care staff (Counselors) work with each group? (Staff to child ratio)
5. Can I meet the staff who work directly with the children?
6. Does the program have a high staff turnover?
7. How are the children transported and by whom while in the program?

Medical Care Questions

1. (If applicable) Is there a doctor or nurse on staff?
2. If my child is sick who will care for them?
3. (If applicable) Who administers medications?
4. Can my child request to see a medical professional?
5. Does my child need a physical prior to entering the program or will the program conduct one at admission?
6. (If applicable) How does the program handle routine doctor/dental appointments?

1. Describe your safety plan and program.
2. What are the program's precautions for severe weather such as extreme cold, wet conditions, including floods, and tornado's?
3. Where are the nearest medical facilities and what is the response time for an emergency?
4. Does the program carry Liability Insurance? Sufficient?
5. (I.A.) Are safety plans posted in the campsites?
6. Are the sleeping areas protected from the elements of weather?
7. Are the counselors (direct care staff) First Aid and CPR trained?
8. Are the staff trained/certified in Adventure Activities? (canoeing, rock climbing, etc.)
9. In the last five years have there been any serious injuries or deaths?

Counseling Questions:

1. What type(s) of counseling are the children involved in and how often?
2. (I.A.) What type of testing and/or assessments are done when a child is enrolled in the program?        
3. How is the family involved with the program?
4. Who determines the treatment goals for each child?  

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