Need proof that background checks are becoming more common in every corner of American society? Consider New Hampshire, where a new requirement has been put in place calling for background checks of staff members at so-called youth skills camps. Already, background checks have become or are becoming commonplace in all manner of youth sports organizations and university-operated summer camps. Now, New Hampshire is taking the trend one step further, implementing background screenings for these briefer, less discussed skill camps.
According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, a youth skill camp can be defined as "a non-profit or for-profit program with a specific curriculum that has been developed to impart a specific skill to minors." Youth skill camps can involve "the teaching of sports, the arts, and scientific inquiry" and are taught "by one or more knowledgeable and experienced instructors." Under new requirements from the Department of Environmental Services, those "knowledgeable and experienced instructors" will have to undergo criminal background checks if they fit two criteria: first of all, checks are required for "all personnel who may be left alone with children"; secondly, the background check rule will apply to any youth skill camp program that occurs over three days or longer.
The policy also requires camp organizers to obtain background checks for their own staff members. Once the background check reports have been returned, camp organizers must certify the results with the Department of Environmental Services before their skill camps can accept students. This certification must occur once annually, and camps must submit a $25 fee, essentially to have their background check information logged into the system.
There are a few different things to be noted about this new policy. The first is that it absolutely hints at a universal adoption of background checks for any programs involving youths. In the past, brief day camps or other small-scale programs, such as New Hampshire's youth skill camps, have not been subject to the same scrutiny as longer sleep-away camps or youth sports programs. Quite simply, since these programs are typically just a few days long, the risk of an instructor abusing his or her power is naturally lower. Still, the risk is there, and we can expect to see more and more programs such as these implementing criminal, child abuse, and sex offender background checks in the coming years.
The second thing to note here is the odd nature of the set-up. If the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services isn't actually running the background checks for the various youth skills camps across the state, then why are those camps required to pay a $25 fee at all? In most similar systems, a camp or organization would be asked to pay a fee to finance background checks. In this case, the camps are paying for their own employee background checks, and then paying the state to essentially verify those checks. It's a redundant and inefficient process, and one that could be streamlined to avoid confusion about who is actually responsible for what, in terms of the background check process.