The American Camp Association (ACA) is committed to the protection of children and youth. Because of societal events, significant news media regarding child abuse, and the expectation by parents regarding reasonable precautions for child safety, the ACA National Board of Directors worked with the National Standards Commission to consider whether the current ACA Accreditation standard regarding the screening of staff was in line with industry standards. Upon completing an environmental scan, which included other accrediting bodies, as well as national youth serving organizations, it became evident the 2006 version of the ACA standard regarding the requirement for criminal background checks (not mandatory) was NOT in line with these organizations and the industry standards. (A criminal background check is defined as a process of looking into the history of an individual to determine whether they have a criminal record.) Therefore, the ACA National Board of Directors has made the decision to require criminal background checks on new staff eighteen years of age or older beginning in 2011 — that is, Standard HR4-B is now a MANDATORY standard.
Standard HR4-B states:
Does the camp have written evidence of a policy in practice that requires screening for all camp staff with responsibility for or access to campers that includes:
HR4-B: For new camp staff eighteen years and older, paid, volunteer, and contracted, a criminal background check?
(Additional elements of standard HR4 mandate an annual check of the National Sex Offender Public Web Site and a Voluntary Disclosure Statement. Other non-mandatory parts of the standard include reference checks and a personal interview.)
ACA recognizes that conducting a criminal background check is just one method by which camps work to create a safe environment for campers, and we agree with other accrediting bodies and youth serving agencies that it is a very important practice. (The wording of the current standard has not changed and ACA does not dictate what type of criminal background check must be conducted.)
A full 96 percent of ACA-Accredited camps already meet this standard, so your camp may not need to make any changes in your procedures. For camps that have not complied with this standard yet, ACA has a number of excellent resources to assist you in choosing the criminal background check process that is right for your camp:
ACA Business Affiliates that provide criminal background check services to camps.