News 12 Hudson Valley
August 15, 2017
A News 12 investigation has revealed a shocking legal loophole that could allow registered sex offenders to work as counselors at children’s camps.
The Turn to Tara investigation revealed that if a child attends a camp that is focused on a single recreational program like baseball, ballet or basketball, for example, they could be at risk due to an outdated New York state law.
Single-purpose camps are not regulated despite their growing popularity. This means that the camps are not legally required to check counselors against the sex offender registry the same way that traditional and sleepaway camps are. Regular camps are also subjected to frequent Health Department inspections, staffing ratios and minimum age requirements for counselors.
Sen. David Carlucci has introduced legislation that would legally hold single-purpose camps to the same standards as all the others, which would include background checks on all employees.
"We have a sex offender registry for good reason. We want to make sure they are not around our kids," says Carlucci.
Carlucci says his bill has already passed in the state Senate but got held up in the Assembly.
The three-term Democrat plans to launch an aggressive lobbying effort come January. He's already got the support of Rockland County Executive Ed Day. Day only learned of the flawed safety standards from News 12's investigation.
While there is no formal list of these camps’ names, News 12 did put together a partial list through several Freedom of Information requests.
News 12 discovered minor health code violations at three of them, including the certification of an aquatics instructor at the Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack.
There are an estimated 2,400 single-purpose camps operating in New York. The Department of Health estimates there are now as many single-purpose camps as there are traditional camps in New York.
The best advice for parents is to ask a lot of questions, regardless where they enroll their children.