Because of a loophole in a New York State law, it may be possible for sex offenders to obtain employment at children’s camps. Per a report from News 12 Westchester, the issue lies with camp classification. Camps that focus on a single recreational activity are not regulated in the same way that general interest day camps or sleepaway camps are. As a result, the counselors
and employees at these camps are not required to face the same screening standards as they might at other youth-serving programs.
The News 12 report noted that single-purpose camps are growing increasingly popular in the state of New York. These camps allow kids with specific interests to focus on improving their skills in those areas, from baseball to robot-building to ballet. Because these camps are classified as single-purpose programs, they avoid the law that typically requires camps to run criminal and sex offender registry background checks on counselors
, coverage explained.
Other regulations that are common at sleepaway camps but not at single-purpose camps are minimal age verifications for camp counselors
and regular inspections by the Health Department, reports noted.
A new piece of legislation could close the loopholes and force single-purpose camps to meet the same standards as other types of camps. The bill, proposed by State Senator David Carlucci, has already passed the State Senate. It is currently stalled in the General Assembly, coverage explained, where it will be revisited next year. If passed, the law would require single-purpose camps to search criminal records and sex offender registries for all prospective employees. Carlucci has stated that he views sex offender checks as particularly important to keep predators away from vulnerable kids.
News 12 noted that there are currently about 2,400 single-purpose camps in the state of New York. The state’s Department of Health has estimated that, at this point, there are probably as many single-purpose camps operating in New York as there are traditional or sleepaway camps. Some of these camps could be running background checks on their counselors
and employees of their own volition, the DHS noted. However, since there is no law requiring the checks, parents have little guarantee that they are sending their kids to a safe environment.
If Carlucci’s bill gains support in the General Assembly and becomes law, it would likely go into effect sometime next year, coverage noted. News 12 encouraged parents to “ask a lot of questions” and find out which policies single-purpose camps observe for employee screening, health and safety inspections, and more.