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John Lowery
John Lowery
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Summer Camps: Background checks help minimize risk to campers

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As the (seemingly) endless Winter starts to cede a bit of control to the approaching Spring, many parents are thinking about summer and registering kids for camp. The other day I was thumbing through Nashville Parent magazine and was taken aback by the dizzying array of summer day and boarding camp options available to Middle Tennesseans. I was also reminded of the cases I’ve handled involving camp counselors who physically or sexually abused counselors. The risk is higher where campers spend the night but is not to be underestimated in day camps. One way parents can help minimize the risk to their children is making sure that camp employees, especially counselors, undergo background checks before being hired. If the web site or promotional materials do not specifically state that background checks are employed, do not hesitate to inquire about the level of scrutiny given to camp employees. This is also true for seemingly benign activities such as Vacation Bible School; predators are often drawn by the combination of accessible children and the need for volunteers to work with them. I was pleased last fall to be subjected to a background check at my own church before being allowed to coach in a church-sponsored soccer league. Unfortunately, some institutions are more concerned with cost containment than camper safety, and background checks are not a priority. Don’t just assume that for-profit facilities run by large companies are practicing due diligence with their employees; a few years ago I was shocked to learn that the counselor who sexually assaulted several of my camper-clients had been hired even though he falsified all references on his application and had a significant criminal history, including a conviction for contributing to the deliquency of minors. If the large corporation (65,000 employees nationwide) had followed a properly administered background check policy, much harm could have been avoided.

If someone you know has been abused by an authority figure, consult a qualified lawyer to explore options which will help alleviate financial stresses associated with long range therapy and other issues arising from sexual or physical abuse against minors. Some facts about child abuse, including symptoms, are located here.