School is out for summer in most Nevada school districts, and this is often the time when parents start looking for a fun summer camp that they can enroll their child in.
With so many different options available, it can be challenging to choose the best ones! There are camps in Nevada to nurture any interest, including day camps, overnight camps, STEM camps, music camps, writing camps, nature-based camps, sports camps, faith-based camps, and just about everything in between to enrich your child’s summer experience.
But when it comes to screening camp employees and volunteers to ensure the safety of young campers, did you know that background checks aren’t required in Nevada? Different camps have different criteria. For example, some camps request only personal and professional references while others have more stringent requirements including background checks and fingerprinting.
Without due diligence, you can unknowingly be turning over your child to a camp staffer that has a past criminal record—even one involving crimes against children.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act
It is a common myth that everyone who works directly with children has been properly vetted with fingerprint background checks. While it should be the case, it isn’t.
A federal law called the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was enacted in 2006 in honor of Adam Walsh, a six-year-old Hollywood, FL boy who was abducted at a local mall and found murdered two weeks later.
The law was passed to protect children by categorizing sex offenders into three tiers based on the crime committed. It also mandated the creation of a national sex offender registry to which states were to post offender information on the internet for the public to see.
Additionally, anyone working with children is required to complete a fingerprint background check prior to having contact with children. These fingerprints should be run each year.
Sadly, states generally don’t enforce this federal law as strictly as they should.
Requirements and Standards for Nevada Summer Camps
Even though standards for licensed child care facilities are stringent and include comprehensive background checks with fingerprinting (among other things), most day camps are exempt from Nevada child care facility regulations.
While camp regulations vary greatly, Nevada and many other states’ camps are under the authority of their state health department. Other states have specific county or city licensing and permit requirements.
Nevada camps follow the standards and requirements of the American Camp Association, which provides a standard best practice for camps nationwide to ensure the health and safety of campers.
State Laws and Regulations for Nevada Camps
Here are some requirements at a glance for Nevada camps, which are governed by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services:
- License required for day camps: Yes
- License required for resident camps: Yes
- Criminal Background Checks Required: No
- State Allows FBI Checks: Yes
To see a full list of requirements for Nevada camps, click here.
General Background Checks: Screenings vs. Fingerprint Background Checks
Some programs require staff to undergo background screenings (multi-jurisdictional background checks) or run background checks based on the applicant’s name and date of birth, but these measures are lacking because the national criminal databases pull from public databases that are privately held and unique to the company hosting the database.
Because not all states permit these companies to offer the sex offender registry for a profit, that critical information is intermittently not included in the report. Additionally, certain criminal offenses can be missed if the applicant is not truthful when providing their personal information. In fact, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners reports that only 55% of U.S. court records can be accessed online through national criminal databases, and that list of criminal history usually only goes back for seven years.
Research shows that the single most effective way to get an accurate criminal history record is through fingerprint background checks, which use the FBI criminal database (including sex offender registries) to reveal a person’s history going back to the age of eighteen with 99.6% accuracy, regardless of whether that person had changed his/her name or provided false personal information following a conviction. Fingerprints don’t lie.
As protectors for our children, it is important that we be proactive and put pressure on summer camp administrators and any program involving kids to require a fingerprint background check of all staff members and volunteers.
What Parents and Caregivers Can Do to Help Safeguard Children
You are probably shocked to see that fingerprint criminal background checks are not required and not enforced or regulated. This is alarming given the nature of camp staff positions and how closely they work with children. While many camps have their own staffing requirements, which include background checks with or without fingerprinting, others do not.
This is where you as the parent or guardian come in.
According to the Nevada Department of Health & Human Services, “…No children’s camp may be operated without obtaining [a license for the operation of a children’s camp].” But this doesn’t necessarily mean that all camps have undergone the state licensing process.
When you find a camp you are interested in sending your child to, here are some questions to ask them:
- Are you licensed by the State of Nevada to operate this camp?
- Are your staff members required to undergo a comprehensive background check, including fingerprinting?
- If you don’t require fingerprint background checks, do you cross-check staff members against the Nevada Sex Offender Registry?
- What types of training programs do staff members undergo before working with campers?
- What rules do you have in place regarding staff members and campers to ensure that campers are not alone with staff?
- If transportation is involved, do you require driving record checks on staff members that will be transporting campers?
Children are among our most vulnerable citizens. We owe it to them to protect their innocence by offering the best levels of protection possible, including fingerprint-based background checks for any individual working with or around them, even for a short time as is the case with summer camps. By thoroughly checking out camp staff and volunteer requirements before registering children for summer camps and voicing our concerns to camp administrators and even local representatives, we can encourage all camps to adopt fingerprint background checks as standard practice.
Are you an employer interested in fingerprint background checks for your camp employees and volunteers? Look no further than Fingerprinting Express! We specialize in processing highly accurate fingerprint background checks quickly while protecting the applicant’s personal information. Contact us today to learn how we can help!
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