From the Herald Community Newspapers
By Jackie Nash
Summer's first official day is June 21, and parents who are now beginning to think about sending their children to summer camps can be assured that local politicians are working to ensure more camp safety. An amendment that was introduced by Sen. Jack Martins (R-Elmont) to require directors of overnight, summer day and traveling summer day camps to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment was delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 10.
Martins’ amendment, S3777A, was introduced in March and passed the Senate, 56-0, in April. On June 1, the amendment was passed by the Assembly, after being substituted for companion legislation, A5519, sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright, of Suffolk County. Martins said that the legislation gives children yet another line of defense by requiring that camp directors report suspected child abuse, regardless of the location where the abuse may have occurred.
“It only makes sense that when it comes to our children’s safety, we take the guess work out of required reports of suspected child abuse cases,” Martins said. “We already require so many different professionals to report, and it is clear that camp counselors in their position of supervision of our children should be added to that list of mandated reporters.”
Martins said the impetus for the amendment was “a loophole” in the state’s current legislation regarding camp abuse. The New York Department of Health currently requires camp operators to report abuse or maltreatment that may occur at camp, but directors are not included as mandated reporters abuse that may be witnessed in other settings.
Under the current law, he added, directors that report suspected abuse could be liable for civil liability actions, such as slander or defamation. However, by requiring camp directors to report mistreatment, S3777A helps protect directors who witness abuse, making it easier for them to come forward.
“Camp directors are in a very unique position to see children over an extended period of time and see the signs that can help identify signs of abuse,” Martins said.
Helen Hoffman, a Franklin Square resident and longtime children’s advocate, said she believes that Martins’ amendment will help ensure needed protection for children, and that the measure came at an important time, since so many camps are currently planning for the summer months. Richard “Kiki” DeBrosse, president of the Elmont Youth Soccer Club, agreed. “Giving a camp director or camp coach the mandate to report abuse is critical,” he said.
Scott Cushing, Martins’ executive assistant, said he expects the amendment to be passed by Cuomo within the next couple of weeks. June 20 was the last scheduled day of New York’s legislation session.