Cathy Barankin, executive director of the California Collaboration for Youth, said she believes there is a vast difference between child care and day camps. Her organization represents the American Camp Association, Girl and Boy Scouts, and the Western Association of Independent Camps.
Barankin said child care facilities operate during the school year, focus on child development and taking care of kids while parents are working, and are conducted mainly indoors by teachers. Day camps, she said, usually happen when kids are out of school, emphasize outdoor activities and are led by camp counselors who are usually college students.
Mike Stillson, president of the Western Association of Independent Camps and a camp operator in Los Angeles County, said the differences are also based on the activities of the camp and the duration.
“Unfortunately, there is not much clarity from the oversight bodies,” he said.
Within weeks of Roxie’s death, her parents started the Meow Meow Foundation, named after Roxie’s favorite stuffed animal. The mission: to increase awareness about drowning prevention and improve day camp safety.
The foundation recently pulled its support from Holden’s bill because it no longer requires licensing and regular inspections, and allows for the American Camp Association to potentially be involved in how day camps report to the state.
This is the second time the foundation and the family have withdrawn support for similar proposed regulations — the same thing happened two years ago after a bill was watered down and shelved by its author.
Forbes encourages parents to be wary of camps and ask questions. Roxie was born with a rare autoimmune disorder that kept her parents vigilant about her safety. So, he said, when they selected Summerkids, they asked a lot of questions about the protocols and workings of the camp — assuming state licensing and oversight was required.
Critics of proposed day camp regulations
Some camp operators say they welcome safety regulations but are opposed to the current proposal.
“We want to be regulated to make sure as an industry that we are able to provide the safest programs for children,” said Stillson, executive director of Valley Trails Summer day camp in Castaic and Tarzana. “Right now anyone who wants to set up a camp and call themselves a camp can do it, and no one is out there to tell them they can’t.”
Even so, Stillson vehemently opposes the bill. He believes the Department of Social Services is not the right agency to oversee day camps, that the bill is too broad and that it should include city- and government-run camps, which serve thousands of children each summer, and that the state should recognize accreditation by the American Camp Association
The California Collaboration for Youth also opposes the bill, saying it is too broad and onerous.
“Day camps should be narrowly defined and overseen, not open to every single program that services children in the entire state,” she said.
Instead, Stillson and Barankin say camps belong under the purview of Public Health, which already oversees and inspects “organized camps.”