New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed a new bill requiring all children’s camps within the state to perform background checks on staff. The bill corrects a former loophole that allowed single-use camps to hire staff and volunteers without running criminal background checks or checking sex offender registries.
Previously, single-purpose summer recreational programs were not mandated under state law to run staff or volunteers through the state or federal sex offender registry. These summer recreational programs include soccer camps, or others focused on single activities. This requirement shocked many New York residents, as general-use camps already checked the state’s sex offender registry.
The bill, which Assemblywoman Amy Pauling sponsored, was introduced in 2016 upon becoming aware of the loophole. However, no single incident spurred the assembly woman’s interest in this bill. Instead, she was mindful of these lax rules’ dangers to children attending these camps.
Under this bill, S3966B/A8136B, the coverage of these hiring requirements will include these previously unregulated camps. Additionally, requirements concerning already regulated general-use camps will also expand. These camps will now be required to run the names of workers and volunteers through the federal sex offender registry. This bill improves safety by ensuring background checks are run on volunteers and workers, revealing potential offenses committed out-of-state.
The bill amends Section 1392-a of New York’s public health law to read the following:
“Every person, firm, limited liability company, association, and corporation which operates a children’s overnight camp shall be required to ascertain whether an employee or volunteer is listed on the state sex offender registry pursuant to article six-C of the correction law and the National Sex Offender Registry using the National Crime Information Center, established under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (42 U.S.C. 16901 et seq.) prior to the day such employee or volunteer commences work at said camp and annually thereafter prior to their arrival at said camp.”
The Governor signed the bill into law, which will go into effect after 180 days. This timeframe means the law will be in effect in time for the 2023 winter break camp programs. This bill will provide a necessary safety net protecting the state’s most vulnerable population.
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