Written by: Paige White, Receptionist
Since this is a year that we will be “visited” by the American Camp Association (ACA), having our programs and protocols related to camp health, safety and risk management scrutinized by another camp professional in order to maintain our accreditation, I thought I would share a little bit about the process and meaning behind ACA accreditation.
ACA Accreditation means that your child’s summer camp cares enough to undergo a thorough peer 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-serving agencies to assure that current practices at your child’s 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.
ACA helps member camps provide:
· Healthy, developmentally appropriate activities and learning experiences
· Discovery through experiential education
· Caring, competent role models
· Service to the community and the environment
· Opportunities for leadership and personal growth
ACA accreditation is the foundational standard of camp health, safety and risk management. As a leading authority in youth development, ACA works to preserve, promote and improve the camp experience.
The mission of the American Camp Association is enriching the lives of children, youth and adults through the camp experience. You can find more information on the ACA and their work at https://www.acacamps.org/about/who-we-are.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, camps seeking to renew ACA accreditation were required to have a site visit every five years, where program activities could be witnessed in action and the site visitor could interview staff regarding camp protocols. This is in addition to the required annual written documentation review related to general camp operations and select protocols to determine annual accreditation status.
This year, the American Camp Association is offering a virtual site visit option, due to the pandemic and some camps’ vulnerability due to the populations they serve. At Camp Aranzazu, although we would have loved sharing the magic of camp in full swing with our visitor(s), we chose to go with the virtual visit in order to uphold our sharpened safety standards. We are here to serve children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses, and opening camp back up to these campers safely, operating through guidance from the CDC, ACA, and our medical professional partners, is our number one priority.
Prior to our virtual site visit which will take place in June, our visitor will review written protocols that we have uploaded to ACA’s accreditation portal documenting our compliance with roughly 184 standards set forth by the American Camp Association. These standards define expectations related to administrative policies, such as an emergency response plan, and background checks, as well as facilities-related documentation, including fire and safety equipment inspections, programs policies, such as program equipment safety checks, and staff and supervision requirements, like lifeguard certification and skills verification, just to name a few. Upon completion of this written review, our virtual site visit will be conducted. We have been advised to prepare for a full eight-hour day utilizing the Zoom platform, where our camp director and, potentially, other staff will be interviewed by our visitor! This visitor, by the way, is our friend, not foe. He/she is possibly a camp director for another ACA-accredited camp, with years of experience in the camp industry, and is volunteering time and wisdom in order to help us maintain our accreditation. If any of our written standards needs further evaluation or additional documentation, our visitor will make us aware, and will help us ensure full compliance with specific requirements.
The end result of much hard work is ACA accreditation, proof of our commitment and dedication to the wonderful campers we are fortunate to serve.
This task can be accomplished solely by our camp director, but we believe it should be a group effort, where all of our camp staff contribute to review and updating of our policies and protocols, so we are all on the same page and up-to-date with current processes. After all, we are “better together” — our summer theme!