Is Your Child's Summer Camp Accredited by the American Camp Association?
Parents certainly want their children to enjoy themselves at summer camp, but the camp’s safety and quality should be every parent’s top priority. If you want a tangible way to measure these attributes, look for camps with accreditation from the American Camp Association (ACA).
For more than 100 years, the ACA, a community of camp professionals, has ensured that campers and staff alike have opportunities for leadership, personal growth, experiential education and self-improvement. The organization accredits over 2,400 camps, providing guidelines for more than 300 standards in health, safety and program quality.
The American Camp Association's accreditation requirements
The rigorous accreditation process guarantees that camp staff have completed standards-related courses on safety and emergency procedures, leadership, building a child’s confidence, anti-bullying policies and communication with camp families. In addition, every new staff member must have passed a criminal background check, had a minimum of two references and been personally interviewed for the job.
ACA representatives visit camps to evaluate site and food safety, transportation, health, wellness, operations management, human resources, program design and activities, aquatics, trips and travel. For example, the camp must demonstrate that a staff member with training in first aid and CPR is on duty at all times. On-site visits recur every three to five years, but to maintain accreditation a camp must get annual approval from the ACA.
That accreditation is very important, insists Michael Lavner, one of the owners of Lavner Camps, which offers over 30+ camp programs in sports, technology and creative arts throughout the East Coast and Midwest, including 10 Philadelphia metro summer camp locations. “The organization’s standards act as a valuable baseline in strong camp practices,” he says. “For example, the ACA requires camps to maintain a 1:8 staff-to-camper ratio for proper supervision and personal attention. In addition to this requirement, our camp programs institute frequent camper head counts throughout each day and maintain a Buddy System, which creates a bond between campers, provides an added level of safety and also teaches campers accountability in watching out for each other.”
Benefits of American Camp Association accreditation
Lavner credits the ACA accreditation with helping Lavner Camps bring summer camp programming to the next level. “Beyond offering incredible summer camp opportunities in sports, robotics, Minecraft™, coding, game and web design, culinary arts, fashion design, filmmaking and much more, our additional focus is to create a camp environment where strong organizational camp processes are established and carried out,” he says. “This contributes to a high-level experience for our campers, parents and staff, which is a top priority at Lavner Camps.”
Mike Salmanson and Tobi Zemsky from Narberth, PA, whose 14-year-old son Noah and 11-year-old daughter Willa have attended Lavner Camps’ summer camps on the Main Line for five years, value the dedication and flexibility that the programs provide. “Our kids enjoy being able to pick and choose a different camp each week,” Salmanson says, adding that his children have engaged in everything from tech programs to cooking and acting.
Noah now works as a counselor-in-training for Lavner Camps. Salmanson notes, “The experience has given Noah some exceptional opportunities for personal growth.”
How to choose a camp
ACA accreditation can be a very useful tool for parents to decide on a camp. Factors like location, price, activities and special-needs services matter, but whether or not the camp has received ACA accreditation can really set a program apart.
Justin Lavner, Michael’s brother and acting CEO says, “At Lavner Camps, we believe that our ACA accreditation is a very important indicator to parents that we have put forth the time and effort to establish camps where their child can learn and grow, all while having an amazing summer in a safe environment. We all want the best for our children, and when it comes to choosing a summer camp, the ACA accreditation should be a very important factor in a parent’s decision-making process. Our mission is to offer the highest quality summer camps available, and our ACA accreditation, along with all of our exciting and cutting-edge camp programming, provides many of our campers with life-changing experiences, lots of skill building and happy memories.”
Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.