ACA Standards That Relate to Staff Screening, Supervision, and Training

The health and safety of campers is of utmost importance to the American Camp Association. Because of this, there are several standards that specifically address staff screening, supervision ratios, and topics to be covered during staff training. While there is no “silver bullet” to protect campers from abuse, ACA believes a systematic, multi-prong approach produces the desired outcome of camper protection. The following list is only a partial list of the ACA standards a camp must meet in order to be accredited. 

Staff Screening

Does the camp require annual screening for all camp staff — paid, volunteer, and contracted — with responsibility for or access to campers that includes:

  • A voluntary disclosure statement?
  • A check of the National Sex Offender Public Website?
  • A criminal background check for staff eighteen (18) years of age and older?

Does the camp require screening for all new camp staff with responsibility for or access to campers that includes:

  • A criminal background check for staff eighteen (18) years of age and older?
  • At least two (2) reference checks and verification of previous work (including volunteer) history?
  • A personal interview by the camp director or a designated representative?

Supervision Ratios

Does the camp require and/or advise rental groups that ratios of staff who are on duty with campers in units or living groups and in general camp activities should meet the following minimums?
5 years & younger 1 staff for each 5 overnight campers and 1 staff for each 6 day campers
6–8 years 1:6 for overnight, and 1:8 for day
9–14 years 1:8 for overnight and 1:10 for day
15–18 years 1:10 for overnight and 1:12 for day

Does the camp identify:

  • Exceptions (if any) to the general ratios for segments of the day when greater or fewer staff are required for supervision?
  • Activities, locations, or situations where a minimum of two staff members are required to be present?

Topics to Be Covered During Pre-camp Staff Training

Does the camp provide training for all camp staff directly involved in camp programming and camper supervision that includes at least the following topics:
A. Camp purpose/focus/mission/intended outcomes and how these are implemented in camp structure and program activities;
B. Developmental needs of campers to be served and the resulting differences necessary for program and structure;
C. Objectives, safety considerations, skills progression, operating procedures, and competencies required for program activities;
D. Age-appropriate behavior management and camper supervision techniques that can help to create a physically and emotionally safe environment;
E. Clear expectations for staff performance and conduct, including sexual harassment policies;
F. Recognition, prevention, and reporting of child abuse; and
G. Emergency procedures and the role of staff in implementation?

Is camp staff trained in areas relevant to creating a safe environment, including:
A. Focusing attention primarily on campers’ needs and interests rather than on other staff and themselves;
B. Speaking with and listening to campers in a manner that reflects respect for each individual, including those of different backgrounds and abilities;
C. Creating and supporting an environment that provides emotional safety; and
D. Guiding group behavior in a developmentally appropriate manner?