By: Ann Givens, Jonathan Vigliotti and Nicole Fierro,
I-Team NBC New York
Although background screening policies for employees and volunteers are becoming more prevalent, there are still many organizations that shockingly, do not make them mandatory. Summer camps are a setting where adults are given regular access to children and other vulnerable populations so it should go without saying that these summer camps must require background checks on their volunteers and employees. However a recent investigation by NBC New York discovered that there is a false sense of security when it comes to background checks done in many Northeastern states.
Summer camps across New Jersey were cited last year after they failed to conduct background checks on camp workers. Also disturbing, is the finding that there are many camps within the tri-state region that are not required to conduct background screenings at all.
New York does require background checks, but they only do a state sex offender search, meaning that any crimes committed out of state would not show up on a background check report. Connecticut does not require any form of sex offender or criminal checks on its camp staff, while in New Jersey, background screenings are mandatory. However, the problem is that many of these camps are not following the guidelines for a proper background screening, leaving children at risk.
Although New Jersey requires camp employees and volunteers to undergo state and national sex offender checks and background checks, in 2013, almost one quarter of camps in the state were cited for failing to perform these mandatory checks.
The executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, Laura Ahearn, says of this delinquency, “There is an expectation that parents have that any counselor who is working there has been fully vetted and has had a full fingerprint and sex offender registry check, and that’s not the case.”
According to Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a proponent for closing loopholes in background checks, a project conducted on background screening policies found that over 6 percent of the 77,000 volunteer applicants screened had serious criminal records that included forms of sexual abuse and murder. This investigation also found that over 40 percent of those volunteers with criminal records had offenses that came from out of state where they likely would not have been discovered with a basic screening.
Parents should remain vigilant when it comes to asking questions about their children’s caretakers. It is important to know that anyone who will be spending time around your child has had a full, due diligent background screening that includes a nation-wide search.
To read the full article from NBC New York, click here.