DCF Helps Parents Choose Safe Summer Camp
By David Wilkins
Secretary, Florida Department of Children and Families
While many children have likely been counting down for a while, parents may just be realizing that summer vacation is just around the corner.
The Department of Children and Families wants to help parents as they make summer camp choices for their children. It can be a very confusing time with so many wonderful options, but there are some tips to keep in mind.
Last summer, a new law approved by the Legislature took effect to promote a safer summer experience by requiring all owners, operators, employees and volunteers who work more than 10 hours a month to undergo background screening for state and federal criminal histories.
Previously, these checks had been required for only the owners and operators of facilities licensed and inspected by the Department.
While summer day camps are not required to be licensed by the Department, our mission to protect the state’s children has provided the ability to ensure compliance with background screening requirements. We will investigate all complaints and concerns.
For months, our Child Care Safety workers have been informing licensed camp operators of the requirements. Information for camps and families is available at www.dcfbackgroundscreening.com.
Because there are so many summer camps in Florida, and many operate only in the summer and may not be well-known in the community, it can be confusing when seeking the best options for your family. If you have concerns that a summer camp is being operated without background screening of required employees, please bring them to our attention at 1-888-352-2842 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of our education effort, we want to thank the American Camp Association and the Florida Recreation and Park Association for helping to spread the word.
Just like you encourage your children to do their homework, it is important that parents ask questions and make sure any summer camp personnel are appropriately screened. Together we can ensure children are in the care of appropriate caregivers and that your summer experience is a good one.