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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been a camp director for 14 years. I strongly disagree with one of the suggestions offered by "Frustrated in Georgia" to parents when selecting a camp for their children.

She suggested that if parents "drop in" on a session and are not permitted to see their little camper in action, the parents should ask WHY they cannot be allowed to meet their children, wherever they happen to be at the time.

Security is a big concern. To limit intruders, everyone must check in at the office. Also, it has been my experience that if kids see their parents -- or even other kids' parents -- it can trigger homesickness.

The rest of the advice to parents was excellent, but I would like to add two more suggestions:

First, make sure that your camper is never allowed to wander without supervision.

Second, encourage your camper to follow safety rules, even if you don't agree with the rules.

Example: We ask our campers to wear socks and closed-toe shoes because of the terrain. Tops with sleeves are also a requirement, in order to limit sunburn at high elevations.

You would be amazed how many parents don't agree with these rules and let their children know it! Those are the kids we have the hardest time keeping safe.

We've had parents scoff because we limit desserts, try to serve healthy food, and ask each child to drink water instead of soda pop at every meal. Parents send bags of candy with their kids and instruct them not to tell the counselor. Abby, near our campsites, there are bears that love candy.

Please let parents know that most camp employees are dedicated to keeping their children safe and healthy, but we need their support. -- CALIFORNIA CAMP DIRECTOR

DEAR CAMP DIRECTOR: When everybody knows the rules in advance and follows them, a lot of confusion and misunderstanding can be avoided. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I worked at a camp for several summers and would like to add further suggestions for parents:

(1) Check to see if the camp is accredited by the American Camping Association. I had to go through a couple of the accreditation visits, and they are rigorous. Plumbing and sleeping facilities are thoroughly checked, and random interviews with counselors take place to ensure that everyone is well versed on safety precautions and procedures.

(2) If you have a problem with the camp, let the camp director know. Those in charge may be unaware of the problem, and there is no way to remedy it if they are not notified.

Thanks, Abby. -- FORMER CAMP COUNSELOR

DEAR FORMER CAMP COUNSELOR: Thank you for bringing this organization to my attention. The ACA accredits more than 2,000 camps, all of which must comply with up to 300 standards for health, safety and program quality. Its mission is to educate camp owners -- particularly in the area of health and safety -- but also to assist the public in choosing camps that meet both industry-accepted and government standards.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "DAIRY QUEEN" IN DUBUQUE: "If happiness truly consisted of physical ease and freedom from care, then the happiest individual would not be either a man or a woman; it would be, I think, an American cow." -- William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943).

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