ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The push for summer camp regulations may be hitting a snag, partly over concerns about a $14.53 fee and a one-week wait on paperwork.
FOX 2 learned there are concerns about the potential burden of new safety regulations following the July 2022 drowning at a St. Louis County summer camp. Those concerns came to light in a legislative hearing this week during an objection over a new proposed law from an association paid for by St. Louis County.
The association called out background checks as a burden that will cost time and money. However, no one in the hearing discussed how much time and money were involved.
Lisa Coulter, who runs a licensed childcare facility, the Apple of Your Eye Learning Center on Tesson Ferry, said background checks are not a burden.
“Just these few little things to check out can make a world of difference,” she said.
Coulter also said background checks are quick and cheap.
“$14.53 processing fee; that’s the Safety Family Care Registry, and it takes about a week,” she said.
Summer camps are not regulated like daycares, which do require background checks for employees. Olga and Travone Mister have been raising awareness about it ever since their 6-year-old son T.J. drowned at his summer camp in July 2022.
Last November, the Misters testified before the St. Louis County Council. They also took their case to Jefferson City in January.
This week, they testified before the Children and Families Committee.
“…a pool that should have never been opened, not enough counselors; and only one lifeguard to 60 children,” said Olga, T.J.’s mother.
“If there were regulations at the camp, then our son would be with us today,” said Travone, T.J.’s father.
A required background check is just one of many things they said should be required at a summer camp. After their testimony, Gary Gates with the Missouri Park and Recreation Association spoke out in opposition.
“We will never be able to regulate every accident away,” Gates said.
His association is a non-profit group that St. Louis County pays $3,030 a year to be its voice. Gates spoke specifically about background checks.
“That could be very troublesome in finding employees. How much does the background cost the operator of the camp?” Gates said. “How long does it take to receive the results?”
It was never answered in the hearing, which is why FOX 2’s team checked and found it’s under $15 and takes a week.
“Yep, that’s information that should be divulged,” Coulter said.
Coulter said she remembers when a background check result surprised her.
“I’ve had it happen,” she said. “They came in said they’ll check out just fine; ran their check, they did not check out, and we were not able to hire them.”
Representative Michael Burton, who’s been working with the Misters family in their push for camp safety, said despite confusion over facts, there’s still hope to pass T.J.’s Law this year.