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Frequently Asked Questions: ACA Communications Toolkit
- What is Accreditation?
- What is the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?
- Does ACA accreditation require a criminal background check?
- How can parents be sure their child will be safe at camp?
- What questions should parents ask to help them find the right camp for their child?
- Is the camp accredited?
- Will you (ACA) investigate?
- Will you (ACA) remove accreditation?
- Was accreditation ever removed from this/a camp?
- Are there complaints against this/a camp?
- What is your standard for ____?
- Should this have happened?
- Has this happened before? How common are drownings in camps? Abuse, fires, etc?
- Are background checks required for staff in camps? What about for international staff?
What is Accreditation?
ACA Accreditation means that a camp cares enough to undergo a thorough (over 300 health and safety standards) review of its operation – from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association collaborates with experts from The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth service agencies to assure that current practices at camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes growth and fun in an environment committed to safety.
What is the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?
Accreditation is voluntary and ACA accreditation assures families that camps have made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for their children. If a state requires licensing, it is mandatory; licensing requirements vary from state to state. ACA standards are recognized by courts of law and government regulators as the standards of the camp community.
Does ACA accreditation require a criminal background check?
ACA accreditation standards require a staff screening system which may include criminal background checks where permitted by law. When talking to a camp director, ask what the screening process for that camp includes.
How can parents be sure their child will be safe at camp?
Nothing substitutes for the vigilance and care of parents in determining a safe situation for their children. While no institution--schools, churches, youth programs, camps, or families--can absolutely guarantee a child's safety, parents should take an active role in determining that camps are fully committed to providing a summer of fun and growth in well supervised and nurturing camp environments.
What questions should parents ask to help them find the right camp for their child?
Talking to a camp director will give you a good idea about the camp's philosophy. It is also an opportunity to ask the director some questions including:
- What training do counselors receive?
- What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?
- What are desired qualities in camp staff?
- How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?
- How does the camp handle homesickness and other adjustment issues?
- Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association? Why? Why not?
Following a death/accident/abuse allegation, media questions are often pointed and difficult to field. Listed below are some of the common questions and general responses that can be tailored to address individual situations. As always, utilize proven key messages and the resources available within ACA for help.
Is the camp accredited?
Yes (or no) Camp ___ is (or is not) an ACA-accredited camp. You can find the current listing of ACA accredited camps on ACA's Web site at www.ACAcamps.org. [We do not provide this information unless directly asked.]
Will you (ACA) investigate?
We are an educational organization. State authorities have not granted us authority to investigate, gather testimony, secure confidential reports, or subpoena confidential records. We rely on officials with such authority to conduct investigations. ACA is always deeply saddened when we learn of any tragedy or allegation of wrongdoing that affects the life of a child. We are committed to finding new ways to educate camp staff on best practices, safety, standards, and risk management within the camp community.
Will you (ACA) remove accreditation?
Accreditation is normally granted or removed based on results of a full accreditation visit and verified compliance with accreditation criteria. This includes compliance with up to 300 health and safety standards covering health, safety, and program issues. When those authorized under state law to conduct investigations have completed their work, a re-accreditation visit may or may not be warranted.
Accreditation is not automatically removed from a camp based on an accident or injury. No accreditation process, no licensing program, no set of regulations or laws can guarantee safety. However, accreditation can be withdrawn from a camp if ACA is notified by appropriate authorities that laws which significantly affect the health and safety of campers or staff have been violated
Was accreditation ever removed from this/a camp?
Official records of a camp's accreditation history are maintained at our national office. We do not maintain that record. You may contact the standards department at the national office.
Camps can lose accreditation for other reasons, such as for non-payment of fees or for failure to get an accreditation visit in the required cycle. So, that information alone may not be helpful.
ACA has, however, removed accreditation from camps for significant health and safety violations. Therefore, though not a guarantee, current ACA accreditation is still the best evidence of a camp's commitment to providing a safe and nurturing environment for children.
Are there complaints against this/a camp?
ACA has a process for complaint resolution on issues about camps. This process focuses on finding resolution. The details of complaints are not available as a public record. However, violations of ACA's Code of Ethics may result in penalties for the camp, including removal of accreditation. View Complaint Resolution Process Manual.
What is your standard for ____?
A brief summary of all the requirements of ACA standards can be found on ACA's Web site. Answers to some of the frequently asked questions about standards can be found at www.campparents.org/funsafety.php.
Should this have happened?
All institutions in our world – churches, schools, youth programs, camps, families – recognize that no one has an impenetrable safety net from the ills of society or from harm. ACA training and guidelines are designed to educate camps to take all reasonable precautions to provide an environment that makes safety for children the top priority.
Has this happened before? How common are drownings in camps? Abuse, fires, etc?
Because “camp” is defined by society very broadly, we do not have specific data on crisis situations in the industry at large. Within ACA, we hear of few such incidents each year. But any tragedy that affects the life of a child is a concern for those of us devoted to the well-being of children through safe and positive camp experiences.
Are background checks required for staff in camps? What about for international staff?
Criminal background checks are just one piece of ACA's comprehensive approach to evaluating the background of applicants and their acceptability to work with youth. Our standards also require reference checks, personal interviews, and work history reviews. The screening requirements, along with strong training and supervision guidelines, combine to provide a comprehensive approach to child protection.
The screening and training requirements for international staff are no different than those for U.S. staff. International placement agencies, familiar with the resources and agencies in the countries from which international staff come, help with the initial application and screening steps.