Youth Camps:

Nationwide and State Data on Safety and Health Lacking

HRD-89-140: Published: Sep 20, 1989. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed information on youth camp safety and health, focusing on: (1) how many accidents, illnesses, and fatalities occurred at youth camps each year; (2) to what extent states developed youth camp safety and health standards; (3) how and to what extent states enforced those standards; and (4) the effects of proposed federal youth camp safety and health legislation on states.

GAO found that: (1) except for Maryland, which enacted but did not implement new youth camp legislation, there were no major legislative or regulatory changes to state laws since 1982; (2) nationally, and in five of the six states reviewed, there was very little information available on youth camp accidents, illnesses, and fatalities; (3) youth camp safety and health standards varied widely in the 50 states, and no nationwide information existed on state enforcement of those standards; (4) although four of the six states required camp operators to report accidents, illnesses, and fatalities, only New York summarized these data in annual reports; (5) the Centers for Disease Control survey found that 12 states had comprehensive laws and regulations that met 65 percent or more of its model standards, 12 states met between 50 and 64 percent, and the other 26 states met less than 50 percent; (6) of the six states reviewed, only New York compiled data on enforcement activities; (7) three of the states carried out enforcement activities centrally, while the other three shared enforcement activities with local governments; and (8) if the federal government enacted legislation, states would have to expand the number of camps that their laws covered, develop reporting systems to collect required data, broaden the scope of regulated activities and services, and provide additional staff and funding resources.

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