Integrated Security Services, Inc., New York

The Lurking Dangers of Summer Camps

23 Jun

Kid a summer camp Justin Jensen/flickr

Summer camps are fantastic opportunities for kids to have an exciting and social summer. It’s important to ask yourself, however, if you really know where you’re sending your kids.

The final school bells have rung, and it’s time again for summer. Soon, kids from all around the country will be heading in droves to camp for a fun and fulfilling season, and for busy parents, this childhood getaway provides a practical opportunity to find some time for themselves.

In sending their kids away, though, parents place an enormous amount of trust and responsibility in summer camps and their staff. But the truth is, from camp operators to individual counselors, parents often don’t truly know who they’re handing their children over to.

Every counselor and staff member should be responsible, trustworthy, and have experience in childcare, and it goes without saying that checks should be in place to ensure as much. While many states require that all camp employees undergo basic criminal screenings, there are actually no federal regulations in place that enforce this standard.

According to CBS News, what should be a standardized set of camp guidelines and regulations is actually just a smattering of unevenly-applied state and local rules.

Luckily, people are starting to notice, as Florida’s Hendry County recently strengthened its requirements for hiring camp staff to address this unfortunate trend.

Setting a Standard

In a sudden move this May, Hendry County passed a law requiring all camp staffers to complete a Level 2 criminal background check. The news came as a shock to local camps, sending many scrambling to fulfill requirements before the start of the summer season — some camps even cancelled operations altogether.

So what were the insane particulars being demanded by the county? Staff are now required to be fingerprinted for state and national criminal history checks by an approved vendor. That’s it.

Criminal checks are an absolute no-brainer as a basic preventative measure, but in this case, legal action was needed to enforce them, rattling local camps to the core. As it stands, only 28 states even require camps to conduct criminal checks.

The reality is that most camps operate completely at their own discretion with little to no oversight. In a troubling example from CBS, one unfortunate camper was actually dunked repeatedly in a lake by a counselor before drowning — when the distraught family pressed charges, they discovered that the camp was actually operating without a license, and had been doing so for years.

The camp had presented all the outward, superficial signs of a safe and respectable establishment when, in reality, it was a sham.

Complete Assurances

Even Hendry County’s new law doesn’t go quite far enough. While criminal screenings obviously need to be a critical part of a camp’s hiring process, they certainly don’t paint a full portrait of its operations.

Knowing that the staff doesn’t have a serious criminal history still tells you very little about how a camp actually functions — in order to be totally confident that it does so responsibly, you need tangible assurances that the establishment is run with caution, integrity, and care.

Fortunately, there are tools you can use to ensure your children’s safety. By enlisting a trusted investigative firm like us, you’ll be able to discern crucial details about a camp’s management, members, and history.

Our seasoned investigative staff will present you with a nuanced report detailing any civil litigation issues, the criminal and civil histories of camp operators, previous tax issues, and any other red flags that might indicate that you should send your kids elsewhere.

Your children should have every opportunity to enjoy a memorable summer at camp, but that doesn’t mean you should send them just anywhere. By turning to the help of professionals, you can ensure that they’re safe and well cared-for.