Summer camp safety checks

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(WTNH) — There are a lot of rules and regulations and checks that youth camps in Connecticut must go through to get a license, but running a criminal background check on camp staff is not one of them.

The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood and the Department of Public Health both play a role in making sure camps are up to snuff. First off and to no surprise, camps must be licensed and inspected, not only by the Health Department but also by the Fire Marshal. Here’s a look at the application form.

Those inspections check dozens of areas; is the water sanitary, is there refrigeration for food service, whether the toilets work, and whether counselors are over the age of 16. You can see the inspection form here (.pdf).

LINK: Statutes and Regulations for licensing Youth Camps (.pdf)

There’s a state law that says a camp director or assistant camp director who is approved by the Department of Public Health has to be at camp when it’s in operation. According to the Office of Early Childhood, “camp directors are checked annually on the national sex offender registry”, but state law does not require criminal background checks for the camp staff.

The requirements to be a camp director include:

A. Must be age 21 or older; and
B. shall not have been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude and be of
good character; and
C. shall be certified as mentally competent by a physician; and
D. shall not use improperly any narcotic or controlled drug; and
E. shall have had at least sixteen (16) weeks of administrative or supervisory experience in an organized camp

Directors of various activities like archery, horseback riding, etc., also must meet certain requirements.

LINK: Parent’s Guide to Common Health Questions in a Licensed Youth Camp (.pdf)

The state rules and regulations don’t apply to programs run by city or town parks and recreation departments. Diana Lejardi, Director of Communications for the Office of Early Childhood, told News 8 in an email:

“Day camps operated by municipalities are not required to be licensed pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 19a-420(3) and are therefore not subject to the state’s licensing requirements. Individual municipalities may require camps to register with their town or city or have regulations which camps in their municipality must adhere to.”

The American Camp Association is a non-profit group that provides accreditation to more than 2,400 camps around the U.S., including many in Connecticut. According to them, Connecticut doesn’t require criminal background checks. They have developed guidelines about how and why camps and other youth groups can develop a background check program. Their reasons in favor of organizations having a policy include:

  1. To protect the safety and well-being of everyone involved in your programs.
  2. To ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
  3. To support the concept of giving ex-offenders “second-chances” where appropriate.
  4. To adhere to ACA-accreditation standards.

Read their .pdf to learn more.

Not sure if your summer camp is licensed? You can look up a camp license information (or any license for that matter, like child care or home improvement contractors) at elicense.ct.gov

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