The value of an ACA-accredited camp

By: Mollie Shauger | Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | Summer Camp

With the help of an adult, children use straws to build a bridge.

Choosing a summer camp is not always an easy decision for families. Brochures and flyers will advertise glowing details about all the great experiences your child will have. 

Some camps will publicize the fact that they are accredited by the American Camp Association

Here’s what that means and why it matters:

ACA accreditation is the best evidence parents have of a camp's commitment to a safe and nurturing environment for their children,” according to the ACA

In simplest terms, accreditation is further proof that the camp cares about the health and safety of the youth who are attending and people working there. Since accreditation is voluntary, it reflects the camp’s desire to go above and beyond in order to meet the highest of standards

To be eligible for this recognition, a camp must be based in the U.S. with at least one program that occurs in the U.S. or its territories, have programs mainly geared toward kids 5 years of age and older, and have program sessions at least three days in length, with a specific purpose and goals.

A camp must comply with ACA standards that surpass basic laws and regulations to address all aspects of camp management and operations, from the food service to the first aid. There are separate standards for activities like aquatics, horseback riding, adventure challenge activities, and travel and trips.

The ACA works with other youth-service organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Red Cross to develop these standards.

A camp works in partnership with the ACA to make sure they are providing:

  • Healthy, age-appropriate activities 
  • Hands-on learning
  • Caring, competent role models
  • Service to the community and environment
  • Opportunities for leadership and personal growth

The ACA accreditation has stringent standards for hiring staff as well. They include an annual criminal background check on all seasonal staff and one at least every five years on year-round staff. In addition to the application, candidates must go through an interview and reference checks upon initial hire, along with a criminal background check, annual checks of the National Sex Offender Public website and an annual voluntary disclosure statement.  

 
The Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges offers ACA-accredited camps at East Orange YMCA, Fairview Lake YMCA Camps, Greater Bergen County YMCA, South Mountain YMCA, Sussex County YMCA and West Essex YMCA.


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