Statewide proposal would require more oversight into summer camp background checks

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - As school is wrapping up, many parents are getting ready to send their kids off to summer camp.

Right now, many providers across the state already comply with a state law that requires anyone that works for or volunteers at a summer camp to have a background check.

The problem is that there is no check to make sure the providers are actually following the law.

The Florida Department of Children and Families is pushing a proposal to require summer camps and child care providers to register in an online database . They could only access the database after completing a background check, then obtaining a special code to access the database.

It would be public and allow parents to scan the database for a summer camp they might feel more comfortable sending their children to.

This follows an investigation by The Palm Beach Post revealing that child molesters and other felons had successfully owned or worked at summer camps.

Temporary camps are one of the main targets in the state-wide database. "Summer camps, since 2010, have been required to do background screening anyway. That's not going to change, we just need to get them doing it," said Deborah Russo with the DCF.

Various childcare and summer camp employees and providers met Wednesday with the  DCF and county officials to ask questions about how much this would cost, and who specifically would need to register.

Officials say they are still working on the final draft of the proposal.

Though nothing is required by law yet, more than 1,000 providers have already completed their background checks to access the database.

Bentley Child Development Center in Riviera Beach is among those that have already entered their information on the website.

Employee LaJuanda Williams has worked for the center for more than 25 years. She says she gets a background check every year, along with every employee and volunteer at the center.

"If you're going to be exposing these children, you really want to have [employees] cleared," said Williams.

The Bentley Child Development Center does day care, after school care, and has summer camps.

Check out the database at: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childcare/

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