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I co-direct our church's summer camp ministry (South Olive Bible Camp). We have been operational for almost 50 years. We are certified with the State of Michigan. I have been accumulating a lot of camper registration forms over the years and want to thin out my file cabinet. I am wondering, legally speaking, how far back should we save camper registration forms before shredding them? I also have former staff applications, reference forms, health forms, etc. from many years back as well and was hoping to purge some of them. However, I want to do what is legally responsible. If anyone out there can offer some advice, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you! 


A little late to the table Michael, so my apologies. You may have already received directions, but if not may I offer a small suggestion. Before offering my suggestion, please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I know the Privacy Laws of the State of Michigan. I do however have a background in advising Financial Institutions in Canada on the safe storage and retention of records, both financial and non-financial. With that said, please note, that every State, and Province as well as Federal laws and regulations regarding Privacy have changed over the years (50 years have seen a lot of change on this subject). I would strongly urge you and the Camp and sponsors of the Camp to seek out guidance from Privacy and Retention Experts in your State and Federally as well. Should you have had children or staff from Canada or other countries, you may find that their laws may impact what you can do with these documents as well. 

This can be extremely expensive, to say the least. Thus a "simpler" suggestion is to digitalize the documents and place those digitalized records (minimum of three copies), at a recognized Retention Company - such as Safeguard, Mountain Storage or any Government recommended company. 3 copies, 2 would go to the company that you choose, but to be stored at different locations, for disaster recovery protection, and the 3rd at your organization or bank vault with very strong protection software to ensure prying eyes can not access the files. While the initial costs are high, the peace of mind is priceless. Many of these companies can do both the imaging and the storage and save you some money in the process. 

You may be wondering why ALL of the records, can't we just pick a random cutoff date; say 25 years, 10 years, or 7 years? Not with some of today's Privacy laws and laws on Civil Action - legal suits. Let's say that you had a staff member who was documented for having assaulted a child back in the 1970's. Depending on the State of where that child was from, they could request and obtain those records, and if you have intentionally destroyed the records because you pick the wrong cutoff date, you could be liable even if you did not intend to.

At one financial company, in Canada, we were required to maintain all records of clients who were under the age of 110 years old - Life Insurance policies. 

Going forward, remember to update the capture and storage of the new records with the old records. 

Again, this suggestion is offered freely and should not be deemed as legal advice, that can only come from authorized and notarized professional members of your State or Federal Legal Regulators. If you do have some questions I am happy to assist under those conditions. 


Jeffrey Thomson

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