Proposed Changes to ACA Standards — February 2014

The National Council of Leaders discussed the emerging issue of mass violence and how it might impact camps at their annual meeting in Dallas last February. Based on those discussions, the ACA National Board (BOD) requested the National Standards Commission (NSC) to review standards related to camper safety. In addition, the BOD had previously requested the NSC to review standards related to criminal background checks. In response to these requests, and being responsive to the emerging environment, the NSC recommends the following revisions and one addition to the ACA accreditation standards. Both the ACA BOD and ACA legal counsel have reviewed and are supportive of the revisions and one addition.  

All of the proposed revisions and the addition to ACA standards would become effective in 2015. 

The National Standards Commission values your thoughts regarding the revisions and addition. Please send your comments and/or questions to NSC Chair Judith Bevan at bevanjk@gmail.com or ACA Director of Standards Rhonda Mickelson at rmickelson@acacamps.org, OR complete the comment box below. 

Comments will be accepted through April 1, 2014.

HR.4 ANNUAL STAFF SCREENING 

All components mandatory and effective 2015

Background: The standard requiring criminal background checks was first introduced in in the 1998 Edition of the Accreditation Standards for Camp Programs and Services when the camp had the option of requiring a criminal background check or voluntary disclosure statement. In the 2007 Accreditation Process Guide, an annual disclosure statement was mandatory for all staff with responsibility for or access to campers, and a criminal background check was to be completed on all new staff eighteen years of age and older who had responsibility for or access to campers. The requirement for criminal background check for new staff meeting the above stated requirements became mandatory in 2010. 

After completing an environmental scan of other youth-serving organizations and insurance providers, the NSC feels now is the time to require a criminal background check on an annual basis and require this for all staff (year-round, seasonal, counselors, administrative staff, and support staff) — paid, volunteer, and contracted.

Text in italics is the new text; text appearing in red is to be removed.

HR.4 Annual Staff Screening
Does the camp require annual screening for all camp staff (year-round, seasonal, counselors, administrative staff, and support staff) — paid, volunteer and contracted — with responsibility for or access to campers that includes:

  • HR4.1 A criminal background check for staff eighteen (18) years and older to be initiated prior to the arrival of campers and prior to the start of employment for any late hires.
  • HR.4.2 A voluntary disclosure statement.
  • HR.4.3 A check of the National Sex Offender Public Web site (www.nsopw.gov).

Adjustments to other standards will be required. For example: (1) delete Criminal Background Checks from HR.5 NEW STAFF SCREENING and (2) verify the wording of HR.3 HIRING POLICIES supports this standard.  

As in the current “Annual Staff Screening” standard, guest program specialists who provide leadership in a limited area and are never with campers in an unsupervised situation would not be subject to screening. 

PD.25 ARCHERY SAFETY   

All components mandatory and effective 2015

Background: An environmental scan of the recommendations from organizations (Boy Scouts of America, 4-H, US Archery) that offer archery training and certification include and support all components of the standard outlined below. 

Text in italics is new text; no deletions. Currently no parts are mandatory.

PD.25 Archery Safety
Does the camp require the following for all archery activities?
PD.25.1 Archery range design that includes:

A. Arrow stop(s) and a supplementary backstop or specific safety zone behind the targets;
B. Clearly delineated rear and side safety buffers, known to the entire camp population; and
C. Clearly defined shooting line(s)?

PD.25.2 Clear safety signals and range commands to control the activity at the firing line and during the retrieval of arrows?
PD.25.3 When not in use, are bows and arrows stored in a locked cabinet or closet?

PD.26 RIFLE, PELLET GUN, AND AIR GUN SAFETY

All components mandatory and effective 2015

Background: An environmental scan of the recommendations from organizations (Boy Scouts of America, 4-H, NRA, Civilian Marksmanship Assoc.) that offer rifle, pellet, and air gun training and certification include and support all components of the standard outlined below. 

NOTE: There is no change to wording of the standard; the change is to make all parts mandatory. Currently, only PD.26.1 is mandatory.

PD.26 Rifle, Pellet Gun, and Air Gun Safety
Does the camp require the following for all firearm activities:
PD.26.1 When not in use, all rifles, pellet guns, and air guns are stored in a locked cabinet or closet, within a locked room or inaccessible area for redundant safety; and all ammunition stored in either a third location or container, requiring a separate key or access system.
PD.26.2 Shooting range design that includes:

A. A bullet trap or a supplementary backstop and specific safety zone behind the targets;
B. Clearly delineated rear and side safety buffers, known to the entire camp population; and
C. Clearly defined firing line.

PD.26.3 Clear safety signals and range commands to control both the activity at the firing line and during the retrieval of targets.

HR.XX (Number to be Determined) 1:1 CAMPER/COUNSELOR SITUATIONS

Mandatory and effective in 2015

NEW STANDARD

Background: Currently, ACA has a standard that provides camper/counselor ratio recommendations. Many other youth serving organizations (and some state regulations) also provide recommended ratios (National Association for the Education of the Young Child, Council on Accreditation, National Afterschool Association). As the awareness and reporting of abuse continues, ACA feels it is both appropriate and necessary to address the 1:1 camper/staff situation. If a staff member is not in a situation where they are alone with the camper, the opportunity for abuse and/or the false reporting of abuse is much less likely. 

ACA and the NSC are aware that in some settings (healthcare center, care attendant), there might be a need for a 1:1 situation. Most of the time, those situations can be anticipated and how to handle them can be addressed in training. 

HR.XX 1:1 CAMPER/COUNSELOR RATIOS
HR.XX.1 Does the camp provide training to all staff to minimize the potential of any staff member being in a 1:1 camper/staff situation when out of sight of other people?
AND/OR
HR.XX.2 Does the camp advise rental groups to provide training to all staff to minimize the potential of any rental group personnel being in a 1:1 camper/personnel situation when out of sight of other people?    

Areas of this standard to be addressed in the Contextual Education include (additional conversations and research will be conducted as the Contextual Education is written):

  • Consideration for restroom and shower protocols — designed to minimize the potential for staff being in a 1:1 situation with a camper.
  • Camp programming should be designed to minimize 1:1 situations between camper and staff.
  • Guidance for staff member in the event they find themselves in a 1:1 situation with a camper.
  • Special considerations for the healthcare setting and camps that serve individuals that need special attendant care.

***
Criteria for Mandatory Standard:
The requirement of the standard relates directly to the immediate threat to life or potential serious injury of campers and staff.

 

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Be Sure to Also Consider California Laws and Regulations

I always like to remind everyone that California typically has its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to employment and hiring. I am new to ACA, but I am hoping that ACA will keep this in mind as it suggests and passes new standards.

Items such as background checks can be complex; we absolutely want to be sure our youth are safe and that we employ people who are approved to be in an environment with them. My concerns are more from an organization/business perspective - knowing what to look for and reject in a background check and knowing what steps to take when we need to reject an applicant who hasn't passed a background check.

I also want to be sure that ACA standards support the state laws we are required to abide by as employers, so that there is not a conflict. Has the ACA looked into the laws already in place?

Thanks so much for your time.

Proposed Changes to Annual Staff Screening Standard

I would just like to agree with the previous comment regarding the proposed changes to the Annual Staff Screening Requirement. This change would instantly create an additional expense for camps, while checking the NSOPW registry is free, and voluntary disclosure statements are already required. If an employee is cleared by the NSOPW registry, which crimes would a camp really need to worry about that are worth paying for background checks on an annual basis? Jaywalking? If you feel the need to do a criminal background check on your year-round administrative staff every year, you've got bigger issues. These are the folks you trust inherently to run your camp, if you feel the need to run a criminal background check on them every 12 months, there might be a problem there.

I think it's important to consider not only the annual expense of conducting checks on your staff every year, but the long term costs. Even for a relatively small camp, we would end up spending nearly $6,000 over the next 5 years to meet this requirement.

Changes to staff screening

Mark,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns. This, along with all comments will be shared with the National Standards Commission as they make their final decisions for recommendations to the ACA National Board.

Annual Staff Screening

I am a director at a volunteer run Girl Scout camp. We are the only volunteer run girl scout camp in our association that is accredited by ACA. This requirement of needing annual criminal background checks would require us to re-check 160 volunteers annually and this expense would be passed on to our 330 annual campers.
We use volunteers to minimize expenses as much as possible. This is to make sure that it is not financially prohibitive for kids to come to camp. Changing the Standard, like this, would force us to choose between a major increase in camper fees or consider not maintaining accreditation in the future.
We always keep camper safety in the forefront of our mind, but this is an expensive requirement and there must be a cheaper way than requiring all camps to spend this kind of money on staff who are returning. We have had some staff who have volunteered for us for over 30 years.
Thank you,
Chris Miller

Annual Staff Screening

Christina,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding this proposed revision. It will be shared with the NSC (and others as appropriate) as we make our final decision.

Rhonda Mickelson
ACA Director of Standards