Do you know who's watching your children?
Michael LaForgia does, and it's not pretty. This past weekend, LaForgia, of the Palm Beach Post, published a story that began with this indelible sentence: "Palm Beach County paid a convicted child molester and other people with criminal records nearly half a million dollars to run summer camps for homeless and foster children during the past three years."
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The Division of Human Services of the Palm Beach County government has long been in the business of subsidizing summer camp for children from poorer families. Parents select the camps from a list provided by the county. Incredibly, the county never ran background checks on the camp operators. The Post did.
Reading the Post story, you can almost hear the gears screeching as city officials stammer to summon explanations for the lapse. The lapse, alas, isn't really their fault: A baffling assortment of state legislation, working at cross-purposes, sets summer camp operators in a legal no-man's land wherein, yes, they are supposed to undergo background screening, but there is no agency responsible for ensuring that they do.
The sex offender mentioned in the story is Ronnie Green, pastor of the J.I.T.A. Outreach Center on Okeechobee Boulevard, which also runs a religious-themed summer camp. In 1994, Green was convicted of sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl. Green abused the child over the course of several years and "left tell-tale scarring on the child's body," according to the article. Green now claims he is innocent and is trying to have his sex-crime conviction overturned. The Post story doesn't mention if he is also claiming innocence of his other convictions, which include burglary, cocaine possession, and failure to register as a sex offender.
Green's case is the most colorful of those discussed in the Post, but it is far from the only one. Depending upon where you send your child to camp, she may have been supervised by a credit card fraudster, a scam artist, or a crack dealer.