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Summer Camp Safety

Summer camps can be a fun and rewarding experience; however, parents need to be aware that summer camps are an unregulated industry lacking oversight and accountability. Many states require schools, daycares, and nursing homes to follow strict licensing and inspection regulations, yet summer camps are not required to follow these same regulations.

In fact, summer camps self-regulate and self-report accidents, sexual abuse, and even deaths. Consequently, there are no published statistics from which an accurate account of summer camp abuse can be determined. We have found over 1,000 recent summer camp sexual abuse incidents and fear summer camp abuse may be similar in scale to the Catholic Church and Boy Scout sex abuse scandals.

Crime Stoppers of Houston has worked with national and local media to educate parents on camp safety issues.

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Did you know?

  • Summer camps are an $18 billion industry. There are more than 14,000 day and resident camps in the US with 8,400 overnight camps and 5,600 day camps. Each year, more than 14 million children and adults attend camp in the U.S. Nationally, camps employ more than 1.5 million staffers to work in various camp positions.
  • 19 states do not require criminal background checks when hiring counselors.
  • The states, like Texas, that do require some form of youth camp licensing, do not require all summer camps to follow their state licensing guidelines. Many camps do not meet the state’s definition of a summer camp, so these camps do not abide by any state licensing regulations.
  • Each year, at least 900 U.S. camps hire thousands of UNVETTED foreign counselors to come to the U.S. with a J-1 Visa. Camp counselors are the least regulated of all J-1 subcategories. A total of 23 agencies provide foreign counselors to U.S. camps in an internet-intensive process which can be flawed. The young person interested in coming to the U.S. on a J-1 Visa pays a fee to apply to be a counselor, and if accepted, they work all summer at a U.S. camp. Numerous recent sexual assaults have been committed by unvetted J-1 counselors.
  • Few states have laws regarding camper/counselor ratios.
  • Counselors in Training (CIT) are often 14 – 16 years old and their parents often pay thousands of dollars for their teen to attend camp as a CIT. CITs are often counted in the camper/counselor ratio, giving parents a false sense of security. Most states do not have specific laws regarding CITs, and these young teens are typically given significant responsibility over young campers with little to no training.