According to the American Camp Association, there are over 14,000 camps in the U.S. which serve over 14 million campers every summer. That is a lot of camps and – “Surprise!” – they are not all created equal. Parents, when you’re looking for a summer camp for your child(ren), don’t initially assume all the staff has been screened. Just a few short years ago, many camps in New Jersey were cited for failing to perform background checks. In 2014, a “NBC 4 New York I-Team investigation found that Connecticut does not require camps to do criminal or sex offender checks on camp staff, while New York requires only state sex offender checks – not criminal background checks or national sex offender checks.” Indeed, ConsumersDigest.com has noted that “[p]arents shouldn’t assume that camps are required to do in-depth background checks on camp counselors and other staff members, because 23 states have no requirements for camps to conduct background checks. Meanwhile, 29 states prohibit summer camps from having access to the FBI crime database that can help to provide a thorough background check of any camp counselor or other staff member. What’s worst of all, four states have no camp regulations whatsoever, which means that the summer camps that are in those states can operate however they see fit.”
ProtectPeople.com has observed that “for camps, background checks demonstrate transparency, show preparedness, and prove commitment to child safety as the foremost concern. . . . Not only do background checks ensure the safety of children, but they help to garner trust in the community and prevent camps from being opened up to potential lawsuits.” Backgroundchecks.com suggests parents ask camps what they do to screen counselors and employees. “An answer of ‘we do background checks’ is insufficient. Finding out which types of criminal checks a camp runs—county, state, multi-jurisdictional—is a must, as is confirming that they run sex offender checks. Also ask if the camp does verification checks with references and former employers. These checks can reveal red flags that didn’t lead to criminal convictions or even arrests.” The Better Business Bureau further suggests that parents may want to use the same approach as they would when selecting a daycare center and go and visit the facilities and ask questions.
Here are several questions to ask when looking into a summer camp for your child:
– What training do counselors receive?
– Are counselors/staff CPR and First Aid trained?
– What is the camper to counselor ratio?
– Aside from any state laws in place, what if any background checks do you conduct?
– Do you drug test your counselors?
– Does the American Camp Associate accredit the camp?
Of course this list is not exhaustive. Any other questions you may have, we suggest you ask – don’t hold back! This is especially important when you visit the camp before you commit to have your child attend. And to the camp organizers and leadership — when you need to run background checks on potential employees, do not hesitate to reach out to the team here at Backgrounds Plus!