Sen. Seminara: “A good bipartisan product to better protect our children.”

April 18, 2024

CT Senate approves crackdown on summer camps with violations

Hearst CT Media

Connecticut’s summer camps could face additional oversight under a bill that passed the state Senate unanimously Wednesday.

The bill, sparked in part by CT Insider reporting on a lack of state discipline for camps with serious statutory violations, now advances to the House of Representatives.

Under the new legislation, Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood would be required to inspect camp facilities not only before they receive licenses but also within 72 hours after they begin operating and after the state approves a corrective action plan to address previous violations.

The bill would also require the OEC to prioritize new camps and one-week camps for inspection, while de-prioritizing those with national accreditation or that have received no complaints or violations over the previous five years.

Further, it would establish a Youth Camp Safety Advisory Council within the OEC and allow the agency to deny a license to a camp operated by someone who has had a license revoked in another state.

In a statement Thursday, Sen. Lisa Seminara, R-Avon, called the legislation “a good bipartisan product which will better protect our children.”

“Every parent in Connecticut should feel comfortable sending their children to a camp,” Seminara said. “Parents should know that their kids are going to be well taken-care of and that the camp is going to run in its most efficient and safe manner possible.”

The bill emerged from the legislature’s Committee on Children, where it received support from both Democrats and Republicans.

During a brief discussion of the bill on the Senate floor Wednesday, both Seminara and Sen. Ceci Maher, D-Wilton, praised the measure.

The legislation follows CT Insider reporting that showed camps are rarely disciplined even when state officials uncover significant issues. In one case, a camp closed for the summer due to allegations that counselors mistreated children but reopened the following summer with no additional state oversight. In another, a program faced no discipline after allegedly hiding an incident in which a child almost drowned after being coaxed by a counselor to jump into the deep end of a pool.

In one rare instance when a camp had its license revoked, it reopened the next year in Pennsylvania.

Under current procedures, the OEC asks camps with violations to submit corrective action plans but doesn’t always follow up to ensure the plans are being followed.

The proposed changes to the law drew mixed response from camp administrators, some of whom testified against parts or all of the bill, arguing current regulations are sufficient to ensure safety.