New York Bill to Improve Background Checks for Camp Counselors Signed Into Law

October 31, 2023

New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul has signed legislation to increase background check requirements for counselors at youth camps. This new law eliminates conflicting requirements under existing state law. In addition, it requires them to check the national sex offender registry regardless of how they are classified.

Governor Hocul said, “Keeping our children safe is a top priority for me as Governor of New York.” She also claimed to be “proud to sign this legislation into law to ensure that every child who attends camps throughout New York State is protected from predators. With this new law, we will help bring camp operators and families greater peace of mind that our kids are in safe hands.”

Past Resolution Attempts

Previous legislation has attempted to solve this issue as well. For example, the law required camps to run new employees and volunteers through the National Crime Information Center database. However, the law contained a significant deficiency. In particular, state law would only permit law enforcement officers and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to access any of the database’s files.

Under this new law, the New York State Department of Health must require non-regulated and single-purpose day camps to conduct a national sex offender registry search. They must use the United States Department of Justice’s publicly accessible database. The new law would ensure protection from predators for children attending camps in New York State.

How It Works

Camps will use the National Sex Offender website created in 2005. This website would link the registries that states keep into a national site for easy search. People using the site can search for a specific person by entering a name, address, zip code, city, town, or county.

After identifying an individual, the information provided on the registry will depend on the individual’s level of risk. The risk levels range from 1 to 3. Individuals with a level 2 or 3 risk of repeat offenses must appear on the registry. State law requires the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to include this information.

As this new legislation recognizes, background checks are a critical factor in making employment decisions. This point is particularly true for those working with vulnerable populations. However, employers in every industry should ensure they work with an experienced and trusted employment screening provider. The right partners can help employers understand the screening process. They also provide accurate and timely reports so that employers can make an educated employment decision.

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