Most after school programs and summer camps exempt from oversigh - - Columbia, South Carolina

Most after school programs and summer camps exempt from state oversight


The end of summer is near and after school programs are already filling up across the Midlands

"I was basically looking for a place where you could go after school without feeling like a burden," said dad Roger Norlund.

But before you choose a program, child advocates say be warned. Most after school and summer programs are not regulated or inspected by DSS.

"If you go to an elementary school at dismissal time, you will see buses from karate camps, from gymnastics, from dance studios," said Tricia Sheldon with the SC Association of Early Care and Education. "For the most part, I would say 95 percent of them are not licensed or regulated in anyway."

Leigh Bolick, director of Child Care Services at DSS said after school programs are not required to be licensed.

"They don't even register with us," Bolick said. "No one is going in from the state to inspect."

No inspection means most of the people and places that surround your children in these programs aren't held to any state standard.

"So there is no DHEC inspection, no fire inspection, there's no background checks on teachers that are required," Sheldon said. "It's absolutely they can do whatever they want to do and what they feel is appropriate and there is no oversight for those children what so ever. They could have 30-35 kids with a teenager watching them."

Even the YMCA isn't required to be licensed or registered to take care of roughly 200 kids per day in the summer. But program directors say they uphold their own strict standards.

"We keep a 1-12 ratio, meaning one counselor for every twelve kids," said Rachel Young, senior program director at a YMCA. "CPR/first aid certified, all our counselors are, we do background checks on them. We make them take a child prevention course to ensure the quality of our program."

And those are exactly the types of things parents are advised to look for when choosing a program for their child.

"I could come and observe the program just to see what types of activities the kids are doing," Norlund said. "Maybe even ask the kids if they're having fun."

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