Background checks not required at NH sports camps - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Background checks not required at NH sports camps

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Summertime is camp time, and many Massachusetts families send their kids to camp in New Hampshire.

But a loophole means that some camps in the Granite State are not required to be licensed, which means there are no mandatory background checks on camp staff.

It's something one Massachusetts father wishes he had known before sending his 12-year-old daughter to an overnight soccer camp in New Hampshire.

“She heard something down the hall that sounded strange so she got up,” the father said. “She looked up and down, didn't see anything, and when she walked down the hall there was a common room. When she walked in that, the individual came out from behind a door and grabbed her.”

The father says the unidentified man raped his daughter.

“It was just the worst thing that anyone could hear. I just basically broke down. Basically I felt like I had let her down because we had allowed her to go there,” he said.

The rapist was never caught. The family settled a civil suit with the sports camp and signed a confidentiality agreement, which is why we're hiding the father's identity and not naming the camp.

But the father says he's speaking out so that other families know about the loophole that he only learned about after his daughter was sexually assaulted.

It turns out the overnight camp where that Massachusetts father sent his daughter wasn't licensed because sports camps don't have to be licensed in New Hampshire.

“Right now I'm not convinced there's a problem,” said Rene Pelletier, an assistant director with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which licenses more than 160 camps in New Hampshire -- but not sports camps.

“I think the rationale behind it at least from our perspective has always been that generally these camps are always run at organized facilities like the colleges of the state,” Pelletier said. “I think the state has always felt that because of the expertise of these facilities, and the oversight, that in fact it was something that the state didn't have to get in and regulate tightly.”

But Pelletier admits his agency has no idea how many sports camps are in New Hampshire or where they're operating. And because they're not licensed, they don't have to comply with all of the safety standards that go along with licensing, including the requirement that staff undergo criminal background checks.

“This just seems crazy that there's this whole classification of camps with no oversight?” asked FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.

“Keep in mind that I don’t know what the percentage is but I think realistically most of the sports camps…are day camps,” Pelletier replied. “A lot of them weren't residential overnight camps.”

“But some of them are?” Beaudet asked.

“But some of them are,” Pelletier replied.

“And you honestly don’t even know how many we have?” Beaudet asked.

“Absolutely, I don’t. And that’s something that we as an agency don’t have authority to regulate,” Pelletier said.

“Doesn't that loophole put kids at risk?” Beaudet asked.

“I think it potentially could, but again, I think time bears out that there doesn’t seem to be a high level of risk associated with this,” Pelletier said. “We have not had any complaints that I'm aware of about how sports camps are run.”

Sports camps can choose to get a license if they want, and are then subject to the safety standards like the mandatory background checks. The privately-run New Hampshire Camp Directors’ Association will only allow sports camps to become members if they're licensed.

“The camp association, they are diligent people,” Pelletier said.

“Is the state not diligent?” Beaudet asked.

“No,” Pelletier replied. “I think the state is diligent.”

Not everyone agrees.

“What the state of New Hampshire is doing right now is a cop-out,” said Laurie Myers, an advocate who works with victims of sexual abuse and their families.

“How many victims is it going to take before the state of New Hampshire says, you know, it’s time for us to start putting these kids first, and the safety of these kids first?” Myers said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by the Massachusetts father.

“My daughter is one. It'd be hard to believe that there aren't more out there. I hope there aren't. And by coming forward I'm hoping that we close the loophole so this doesn't happen,” he said.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is reacting to our investigation.

His office has now asked the New Hampshire Attorney General to review the law and make recommendations on how this should be fixed.

Unlike New Hampshire, sports camps in Massachusetts are required to be licensed.

 

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