December 18th, 2018 | Sterling Talent Solutions
Safety at Camp
I grew up spending my summers at camp in Maine, swimming in the lake, forging friendships, drinking bug juice and earning my five-year t-shirt, just as my mother had at the same camp a few decades before. My wife’s best friends today are the friends she made at summer camp, and last year my nine-year-old daughter joined our family happy camper tradition, going to sleepaway camp in the Poconos. The day we picked her up she cried at bedtime about missing her “camp family.” I couldn’t blame her. I remember the feeling.
Like all parents of campers, I love when they go away, I miss them when they are gone, and I wonder nonstop if they are having a great time and making great friends. Camp is supposed to be a refuge for kids to learn and grow, to have fun and stretch their wings. And it is supposed to be safe. Not safe from bug bites and ear infections, but safe from the dangers of the outside world.
My concern about camp safety is both personal, as a parent, and professional. I manage the Small and Medium-Sized Business group at Sterling, one of the world’s largest employee background check companies. We work with Fortune 100 companies and tiny non-profits, as well as camps, schools and cultural institutions of all kinds. Camp safety matters to us deeply. Here are some things to know.
First of all, there is absolutely no excuse not to background screen your counselors and other camp staff—each and every one of them, regardless of role. Parents are trusting you with their children! 80% of businesses do some sort of background screening—it is a critical step taken by the full spectrum of businesses and organizations, not just the ones who are responsible for other people’s children.
Second, background screening is easy, and it is not expensive—you can find self-service options online that allow you to set up an account on your own and order background checks all in the same session, with screening results coming back within 24 hours (often even sooner). Just keep an eye out for solutions that offer free setup and transparent pricing.
Third, background screening is a regulated activity. Significant amounts of personal data are involved, jobs are on the line. Your provider should be compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). Most accredited companies have an NAPBS logo on their website. Regulations are changing all the time and you want to find a solution that is compliant by design. Being FCRA-compliant and NAPBS-accredited is the safe approach.
Fourth, find a provider that offers options, not just a one-size-fits-all criminal check. For counselors who are going to drive campers around, you’ll want to look at drivers’ records. You may also want to run education verification for counselors or other instructors. In all cases you will definitely need to search the Department of Justice National Sex Offender registry.
Lastly, and most importantly, find a background screening provider that does not just do an “instant” search of national criminal databases. While those are a helpful starting point, they have major gaps, and you’re going to need to search for records at the state and county level to ensure that you aren’t missing something. Good providers even have their own court runners to go straight to the court—to the primary source—when that’s the only way to get the information needed.
If you’re a parent looking for a camp, look for one that is ACA-accredited. The ACA requires background screening, and establishes many other standards to assure “families that camps have made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for their children”—read more about those standards here. However, also ask questions about how camp staff is background checked. Use the rules of thumb above—is the camp just doing the cheapest screening they can, searching only national criminal databases? Are they doing state and county searches as needed? Are they searching aliases and maiden names? Are they searching the DOJ National Sex Offender registry? Are they screening all staff, including returning counselors?
Camp is a part of childhood every kid should get to experience. The research shows a myriad of benefits to camp—kids get outside and active, they are reminded there’s fun to be had that doesn’t come from a screen, they make lifelong friendships, they learn independence and gain self-confidence, they meet new role models. These are just a few of the benefits, and these days they are ever-more important. However, camps have a responsibility to earn parents’ trust by creating the safest environment they possibly can. The worst thing that ever happens at camp should be a little homesickness.
David Bloom is General Manager of the Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Group at Sterling, the global leader in employment background screening solutions. His team recently launched the self-service SterlingNOW. David was included in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Brilliant 100 and on Business Insider’s list of 100 most interesting people in the NYC tech scene. David holds a BA degree from Bates College and an MBA from Cornell University.
SterlingNOW is a self-service background screening solution built on decades of experience. It’s the ideal solution for camps to access the same thorough, high-quality pre-employment screening used by Fortune 500 companies.
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