A Few Points for Parents to Consider

Sunday, April 20, 2008; P07

Thinking of sending your teenager on a community service trip? Two things to keep in mind: If your kids don't want to go, don't force them, since a positive attitude is essential. Second, if a trip organizer requires your child to fill out an application or perhaps submit an essay, don't write it for him or her. The application is intended to help the provider assess a teen's readiness for a trip; let them do their jobs.

A few questions to ask before choosing a provider:

· How long has the company or nonprofit group been in business under the current ownership?

· Will the travel provider supply information allowing you to contact previous travelers?

· What is the ratio of teens to on-site employees, and what is the minimum age, training and experience of employees? Look for providers that hire college graduates, as opposed to college students only a year or so older than the teens they're supervising, advises Jeffrey Shumlin of Putney Student Travel.

· What does the company do to prevent access to illegal substances, and what is its policy regarding teens caught using alcohol or drugs?

· What plans are in place to react to health problems and other emergencies?

· How many hours are spent in community service? Sometimes community service is the focus, other times it's a brief sidelight.

· Has the community where the service is being performed been involved in choosing a project and making the plans? Jason Sarouhan of Global Routes says that's the only way to be sure something useful that the community needs is being built.

· Have company employees visited the work site and planned the activities, or has that role been subcontracted? Shumlin says the best companies closely interact with the community their teen clients will serve.