Hutchins said that many city recreation programs are not licensed because the state does not consider them to be child-care providers. "I don't know what their criteria are for hiring staff," she said, suggesting that parents should ask for the qualifications of parks and recreation staffers who will be supervising their children.
Linda Ellyson, a Costa Mesa mother of four, said she was unhappy with summer programs that employed high school and college students as counselors. "My 12-year-old got bored and walked home one day. When I got there, they told me she'd never come in and I panicked," Ellyson recalled. "They were more interested in chitchatting than in watching the kids."
Eventually, she let her daughter stay home alone most of one summer, checking in with her frequently by telephone from her office. "I didn't know what it was like to be a latchkey kid because my mom was always home when I was young," Ellyson said. "It was really hard on my kids to suddenly be on their own like that."
Child-care experts suggest that parents check out several programs and compare cost and quality before enrolling their children in summer day care. Also compare the ratio of staff to children, the qualifications of staffers, safety features of the facility both inside and outside, what kind of transportation will be used if field trips are offered, and how much supervision the children get during various activities.