Lack of Background Checks on Summer Camp Staff Put Kids at Risk

More and more companies are taking background checks seriously, protecting themselves and their employees from a litany of dangers.

But one type of company is not taking the same precautions despite the higher risk of danger. The offenders? Summer Camps for kids—the very places that should be taking every precaution necessary to protect your children.

On the contrary, most states do not require criminal or sex offender checks for camp employees and in states where they do, many camps choose to ignore it. 43 Camps out of 181 received citations for failing to complete back ground checks.

Even if camps do run background checks, the checks are limited to a state criminal database. There is no complete nationwide database. The closest thing to a complete database is an FBI check. However, FBI checks are not readily available. Individual states control who can access the FBI database, currently 34 states bar such access.

Fortunately, New York Senator Charles Schumer is pushing a bill called Child Protection Improvements Act to provide youth-serving organization with complete FBI database access.

“With summer around the corner, I am putting on full court press to pass legislation that will allow summer camps, little leagues, Boy Scouts and other children’s organization access to federal background check data that is the most accurate and up-to-date database and will help keep children safe from dangerous predators. Parents deserve the peace of mind knowing that their children are in good hands when they drop them off at camp or after school programs.” — Senator Charles Schumer, 6/1/2014

A pilot program in 2004 was given the same provisions on a temporary basis. From the data collected, it was clear that the Child Protection Improvements Act would indeed keep predators at bay.

40,000 checks were run during the pilot program, and 6.1 percent of applicants had convictions that make them unfit to work with children. The convictions included criminal sexual conduct with a child, aggravated criminal assault, rape, homicide, and other serious felonies. 40 percent of the background checks that discovered criminal records were records from other states. Meaning, that even if summer camps currently run background checks a child predator could easily slip through.

Until such legislation is passed, parents need to mindful and do their own investigation before sending their child off to summer camp or enroll them in any other youth program.

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