L.A. County Moves to Regulate Kids' Summer Camps

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - At the urging of a couple whose 8-year-old daughter drowned at summer camp in 2019, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to impose new regulations on camps and public pools.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger co-authored a motion calling for additional oversight.

“With the county reopening and summer on the horizon, we anticipate a return to activities that were enjoyed pre-pandemic like summer camps and swimming pools,'' Solis said. “These motions set the groundwork so that when summer camps and swimming pools reopen to the public, children can safely return with resources that provide life-saving support to prevent tragedies like drownings.''

County code does not require lifeguards at public pools and day camps are largely unregulated.

“The safety and well-being of the children and youth in Los Angeles County should always be our highest priority,'' Barger said. “Considering that drownings are the leading cause of injury or death among young children ages 1 to 14, we must enhance water safety measures and oversight of public swimming pools to eliminate any preventable deaths.''

Douglas Forbes and his wife Elena Matyas founded the Meow Meow Foundation after losing their daughter Roxie to drowning at a summer camp in Altadena where they say counselors were fraudulently certified as lifeguards.

“California day camps are not licensed or regulated, while overnight camps receive vastly insufficient oversight,'' Forbes said. “This is why Meow Meow Foundation is eager to work with Los Angeles County on substantive initiatives that finally afford critical protections to millions of vulnerable children.''

The motion directs county staffers to report back in six months with a draft ordinance that establishes enforceable regulations for day and overnight camps, including regular inspections.

A second motion calls for amendments to the county code including required training in CPR and first aid to prevent drownings at public and private pools. It also directs the county fire department and EMS to notify public health officials of drownings promptly to facilitate investigations.

Roxie's father told the board that the facility where his daughter drowned was not inspected until nine days after her death, when nine violations were found.

“The entire child care industry that serves millions of children operates like the Wild West,'' Forbes told the board.

In April, the family filed a wrongful death claim -- the precursor to a lawsuit -- against the camp, its owners, camp counselors, the American Red Cross and multiple other defendants.

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