State officials are sending an important message to parents after a five-year-old boy drowned at an unlicensed summer camp in Georgia while on a field trip last week.
Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the same state agency that licenses Georgia’s childcare programs, is investigating Camp Cricket Summer Day Camp in Chattahoochee Hills after Benjamin Hosch's tragic death.
On Monday, the state ordered the summer camp to close, stating that the camp was unlicensed and did not have an exemption to run without a license.
The heartbreaking incident has raised a lot of questions about regulation of day camps.
Now, state officials are encouraging parents to research summer camps as thoroughly as they do day care facilities before signing their children up for a program.
During a news conference Monday, the parents of Benjamin Hosch were overcome with grief as they talked about their son’s death.
The family's attorney said children attending the day camp were taken to a nearby waterfall and rock ledge to eat their lunch on Friday, and that's when investigators told the Hoschs the kids were allowed to slide on the waterfall and swim.
Benjamin's parents said their son couldn't swim and he was missing for more than 45 minutes before he was found submerged in a small pond.
Reg Griffin, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, said many parents are unaware the same agency that licenses child care programs also keeps detailed information on summer camps.
Georgia law allows for what is called an exempt program, where a child care program can be exempt from state licensing requirements based on age, hours of operation or specific activities. But programs granted exempt status are required to provide certain information to the state.
"What they’re teaching, the credentials of their staff, and, most important, a requirement that they would notify parents with children in care, that they, as an exempt program, were not licensed by the state so that they can make an informed decision before enrolling their child. " said Griffin.
Griffin is encouraging parents to search the Bright From The Start database year-round so that they can select the best program for their children.
To find out if a program is licensed, visit decal.ga.gov. Navigate to “childcare services,” scroll down to exemptions and you can search by county and zip code any summer camp that you might be considering.
"If you look under the childcare programs and under exempt programs, and you can’t find them in either place, that’s a definite red flag that you may want to reconsider enrolling your child in that program," said Griffin.