Hundreds of AZ summer day camps not regulated - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

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Hundreds of AZ summer day camps not regulated

PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Schools and daycare centers have them.

But for many Arizona summer camps there is no license required.

"That actually does sound pretty crazy to me," said Valley parent Monica Finnegan. "I wasn't aware of that."

Will Humble is Director of Arizona's Department of Health Services.

CBS 5 asked him if these camps require any type of background check?

"If it's exempt - it doesn't require a background check for our regulations," said Humble.

CBS 5 asked if the camps require any on-site inspection?

"If it's exempt - it doesn't require an inspection from us," said Humble.

CBS 5 news did some research and found that hundreds of summer camps across the Valley and around the state are exempt from getting a state license.

It means that they have no mandatory criminal background checks on counselors and staff, no required CPR training, and no enforcement of a camp's sign in and out policy to make sure kids can't walk off with a complete stranger.

Mala Blomquist is an editor with the magazine, Raising Arizona Kids.

She said that Arizona law requires summer day camps to have a state license just like a daycare center or school. However, certain camps are given a free pass.

"There's nothing worse than finding something and thinking that's great, then having to pull them out and find something else," said Blomquist.

Arizona law states that any single-subject day camp that operates for 10 weeks or less is not required to have a state license.

That includes baseball camps, swim camps, cheerleading, drama, music, and the list goes on.

State lawmakers created the exemptions for summer camps several years ago in order to provide families with more choices.

The idea was that if certain smaller camps had to pay for a license, fees for background checks, along with other state requirements, they could not afford to operate.

But just because a camp doesn't need a state license doesn't mean that the camp is not aggressively taking steps to ensure kids safety.

Arizona Sunrays general manager Kenzie Nargang told CBS 5 that they want parents to have peace of mind, so they do background checks on staff members, provide CPR and First Aid training, and check IDs when children come and go.

They also encourage all parents to ask a lot of questions before signing their kid up for any summer camp.

"You want to ask about who your child is working with," said Nargang. "What is their training? Where did they come from? Did they grow up in your facility? How many years have they been with your camp? Ask about their policies and procedures."

State officials insist that just because a summer camp does not have a license does not mean it's not safe.

It's up to parents to do their homework, and then decide where they are comfortable sending their kids, said Humble.

For more information on the different types of camps available go to http://www.raisingarizonakids.com/community-resources/summer-camps-day/

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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