Are You Ready For The Summer? Camps Better Conduct Background Checks
June 1, 2012
When I was 7 years old, my parents packed me up and shipped me off to overnight camp. It was the greatest thing that we could have done for each other. I wasn’t always the angelic figure you’ve come to know, so I’m sure they were happy to be rid of me. And for my part, I loved every single minute of it. In fact, I enjoyed summer camp so much that I kept going until I officially retired as a counseler at the age of 21.
I still can’t get used to the fact that I don’t get to go any more, so this summer I’m doing the next best thing. I’m sending my 10 year old to camp for 4 weeks. And because you all know me, you know where I am going with this story.
In 1980, my first summer as a camper, camps didn’t conduct background checks on their employees. It just wasn’t done. It also wasn’t done my last summer at camp in 1993. And unfortunately, for some camps around the U.S., that tradition has continued.
We posted a story back in March about a Palm Beach Post investigative report that revealed felons, including registered sex offenders not just working at, but in some cases running camps. No background checks were required and none were done. The state of Florida doesn’t mandate background checks for camp owners or employees.
But it’s not just Florida. A couple weeks after we heard about that story, it was reported that the state of Arizona doesn’t require criminal background checks either. We keep finding instances of states with a similar lack of oversight and unfortunately, we also continue to find horrific stories about child abuse as a result every summer. If only the camp would have known about the employee’s past, many of these situations could be avoided.
So, if you are a parent like me and considering camp for your child, whether it’s day camp or overnight, please make sure you ask the camp if they perform background checks on their employees. Find out what kind of background checks they conduct and how they monitor their staff. Make sure you are comfortable with their response.
Because this is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, we have developed a number of relationships with camps across the country. Thankfully, in most, if not all cases, they hadn’t turned to us because something bad happened to one of their charges. They just knew that a statewide or national criminal database-only search wasn’t cutting the mustard. At a minimum, camps should conduct a county criminal records check, a sex offender registry search and then, a national criminal database search.
Camp really is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children. Let’s make sure it’s an experience that they’ll treasure for the rest of their lives.
Oh, and make sure your kids know all the tricks they’ll need to know to survive such as, short-sheeting a bed, dipping an sleeping bunk mate’s hand in warm water, putting shaving cream on a sleeping camper’s hand and tickling their face so that hand goes to straight to the annoyance and SPLAT!!!!
Here’s a picture of my camp group from 1985. Can you spot me? I’ll give you one hint, I had hair back then.