Where’s the Outrage? Sex Offenders Running Florida Summer Camps

Nick Fishman

Earlier this month the Palm Beach Post published the results of their six month investigation about the affect Florida’s policy of not licensing camps has had on the state’s camping industry.  Their findings were despicable.  According to the Post,  “Palm Beach County paid a convicted child molester, thieves, drug dealers and other people with criminal records nearly half a million dollars to run summer camps for homeless and foster children during the past three years.

Before his camp opened, one operator repeatedly sexually assaulted a 6-year-old girl. Another scammed trusting women out of thousands of dollars. Still another dealt crack in an open-air drug market.

All ran companies that received tax dollars to watch over at-risk kids. None was required, or even asked, to pass background checks, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found.”

Some other findings from the report:

  • Roughly one in eight companies was run by at least one person with a criminal conviction or arrest history. One camp operator was convicted of nearly two dozen felonies during a 28-year stretch.
  • Since 2007, 617 homeless, foster or disadvantaged children have attended camps run by people with criminal records. During that period, the county paid these camps $473,059.50, or about $767 per child, in tax dollars, grants and contributions.
  • Day-to-day responsibility for administering the scholarships falls to a single county employee who spends part of her time on the program. She ensures camps meet basic requirements, such as providing access to bathrooms and drinking water, but stops far short of screening camp operators’ backgrounds.
  • No state agency runs background checks on camp operators because laws meant to protect the vulnerable don’t apply to children in summer camps. Although the Department of Children and Families screens owners and operators of day-care centers and other child-care providers, an exemption in Florida statutes effectively allows anyone, even a registered sex offender, to open a summer camp and gain unsupervised access to children.

You might be wondering why I am only choosing to share this information now.  Well, I think I, like many others are becoming immune to these stories.  We see stuff like this every day and are no longer surprised when things like this happen.

When I consider the EEOC’s bent on limiting the use of criminal background checks in the hiring process, I wonder if they pay attention to stories like these.  And if nothing else, I hope that the state addresses this issue yesterday.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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