Have you seen the latest issue of Inside New Orleans? It’s a bi-monthly magazine published about the arts, events, interests, and people of New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Each issue is full of regular columns about fashion, music, exhibitions, and food, as well as featured articles on unique aspects of the city and culture of New Orleans, LA.
The current issue (February-March 2015), for example, has a painting by Gretchen Armbruster on its cover— a fantastic New Orleans Artist — articles about the Metairie Cemetery and the costumes of the Louisiana State Museum, but also a piece about summer camps for kids. Overall the article describes the difference between day camps, specialty camps, and sleepaway camps, mentioning several examples and promoting many of the benefits kids gain from camp.
It was fantastic to see that the author highlights Rockbrook as an example of an overnight camp, describing it as the “ideal place to explore what it means to live a ‘wholehearted’ life rich with true connections.” Wow! That’s such a nice complement! It’s something that sounds very familiar, and right in line with the philosophy and feel of Rockbrook. Thanks Inside New Orleans!
It’s that time of year when we have parents calling to inquire about Rockbrook’s Federal Tax ID, presumably to list the camp on their tax returns. They hope their summer camp expenses can be written off, that they can receive some kind of tax deduction for what they spent sending their children to camp. While we are not tax accountants here at Rockbrook, we can at least summarize what we know and point you to other resources we think might be helpful. There is a certain amount of confusion revolving around this issue because some, but not all, camp expenses qualify as “Child and Dependent Care Expenses.”
First of all, the IRS document that spells this out is Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses. It identifies who can claim the credit, how to calculate it, and most importantly for us, what sorts of childcare providers qualify. The question is, does Rockbrook qualify as a childcare provider? If so, and assuming you qualify in other ways (e.g., both parents working), you may be able to claim between 20% and 35% of your allowable childcare expenses— up to $3,000 per child or $6,000 per family.
Unfortunately, it appears that Rockbrook does not qualify as a child care provider for a rather simple reason. We are an overnight, sleepaway camp. The IRS is clear on this; while “the cost of day camp may count as an expense towards the child and dependent care credit, expenses for overnight camps do not.” I suppose the logic here is that this deduction is meant for child care expenses accrued because both parents are working (or looking for work), and hence a day camp is legitimately providing childcare during working hours. Yes, overnight camps provide that too, but what they charge also covers childcare when the parents are not working, i.e. at night. Perhaps a portion of overnight camp expenses should qualify as “work-related,” after all Rockbrook is taking care of your children while you work in the summer, but that is not how the current tax code reads.
Again, we are not tax experts, so please do not take this as advice. Your tax professional may have a different point of view (if so please share that in the comments!), and certainly there may be exceptions and other restrictions to consider.
Here is a good article published in Forbes to consider, and another from CBS News. Both do a nice job of discussing the restrictions, and both mention overnight camp expenses not qualifying.
Going away to camp, particularly to an overnight or sleepaway camp, is a big step for kid. Being separated from parents, meeting loads of new people, and trying lots of new challenging activities— all these can be a little scary. Imagining it all, it’s easy to worry and find yourself asking “What if…?” kinds of questions. In fact, it’s just as common for parents to be scared and worried too. They also can suffer from a certain amount of “separation anxiety.”
There are a couple of things that can help both parents and kids feel better about this. First, realize that this is perfectly normal and all parents feel nervous about being away from their children for extended periods of time. Likewise, all children see their parents as their basic source of comfort and can at first be reluctant to go without it. Being away from each other requires both parents and children to develop a new sense of trust. Parents must trust the camp (its directors and staff, in particular) to take good care of their children, and each child must learn to trust themselves and their abilities away from home.
Fortunately, summer camps are ideal places for this kind of growth. They offer safe, structured environments where each girl finds plenty of fun things to do, but more importantly, caring adults trained to encourage her to make her own decisions, and to be more independent and self-confident. Camps have a lot of experience in this. They know it can take time, but have seen thousands of children succeed at camp and be better prepared for challenges later in life.
If you are considering summer camp for the first time, it can help to practice the kind of healthy separation camps represent. For example, it’s a good idea to schedule sleepovers at friends’ houses or other long weekends away from home. Even with something this simple, kids learn they can do things on their own.
Camp is a wonderful experience for everyone. For both parents and kids, it’s a chance to grow up a little.
Here’s an interesting article that caught our eye over at the Christian Science Monitor, “Mom to Dad: ‘Think Jimmy’s Doing O.K. at Camp?'” It’s a short piece written by Dave Horn about his time as an overnight camp counselor in the 60s. While parents today have online photo galleries and blogs to see how their children are doing at camp, he notes just a few years ago there were only letters. Parents had to mostly wonder and wait to find out about their camper’s camp experience.
But what if the campers didn’t write home much? After all, they’re having too much fun to stop and write a letter. Camps helped by asking the camper’s counselors to write quick notes to parents, reassuring them that all is well at camp (a tradition Rockbrook still follows). To help his young campers even more, Dave Horn turned this letter writing into a game. He had each camper take turns playing the “boss” and dictating a letter home. The camper would sit down and recite what he wanted to tell his parents and Dave would type it out on his portable typewriter. In this case, 1960s technology helping kids communicate from overnight camp.
I wonder if he mentioned hula hooping in your bathrobe? 🙂
After breakfast we hike up the hill in camp, just up the trail behind the dining hall, to reach Castle Rock. Locking carabiners, harnesses, helmets, rock climbing shoes, and ropes… everything in place for a day up on the rock. Put on the gear and tie into the rope with a follow-through figure eight knot. Wait for the belayer to get set and begin the commands. “On belay?” “Belay is on,” she says. “Climbing?” “Climb on,” you hear, and you’re ready to go. A left foot up and you’re off. Lean to the right. A foot switch. A little tricky spot, but you get it. This is real rock climbing! Amazing view at the top. A quick rappel and you’re down. Great job!
This week we took the new Rockbrook slide show down to Columbia, South Carolina, for a visit with a great bunch of campers, both girls who have already attended RBC and friends who are interested in attending next summer. We really enjoyed seeing everyone. And what a treat to make s’mores! It’s always so fun for us to see our Rockbrook girls, and to help new families learn what makes RBC such a special girls summer camp.
Columbia, SC is located only about two hours from Rockbrook, but in the summer, camp’s mountain climate makes it much cooler and pleasant. Girls from Columbia have been coming to Rockbrook for generations! Almost 100 years!
That’s Amanda, Katie, Anna, Virginia, Margo, Lauren, Betsy, Tillman, Lawton, Amelia, Carey, Mary Clyde, Annie. And thanks to Marjorie Ann and Burgess for hosting the party!