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ACA Accreditation: Program Overview
For 50 years the accreditation process has grown to keep pace with changes in the camp industry, expectations of the public, and the challenges of operating a business in today's highly regulated society.
American Camp Association standards help you with every aspect of your camp management and operation:
- Site: fire protection, building maintenance, food service, sleeping quarters.
- Transportation: procedures concerning drivers, vehicles, and traffic on site.
- Health and Wellness: staff qualifications, facilities requirements, record keeping, storage and distribution of medicines, contact information, health forms.
- Operational Management: Safety regulations, emergency communication systems, procedures for intruders, personal property regulations.
- Human Resources: staff qualifications, training, supervision ratios, and procedures.
- Program Activities: aquatics, adventure/challenge, trips, horseback riding, staff qualifications for special programs.
Mandatory standards include requirements for emergency exits, first aid, aquatic-certified personnel, storage and use of flammables and firearms, emergency transportation, and obtaining appropriate health information.
To see a brief summary of the standards, take a look at the Standards At A Glance.
A variety of materials are available to help you understand and comply with ACA standards.
What Accreditation Can and Can't Do
While standards focus on health , safety and risk management practices, accreditation cannot guarantee that the camper will be absolutely free from harm. Accreditation can indicate to the public that the camp administration has voluntarily allowed its practices to be compared with the standards established by professionals in the camping industry. At least once every three years an outside team of trained camping professionals visits the camp to verify compliance with the standards.
Unlike inspections by state licensing bodies, ACA accreditation is voluntary. ACA cannot close or otherwise penalize an entity that is not meeting its accreditation criteria, except for the removal of the accreditation status. Licensing focuses on the enforcement of minimum standards. Accreditation focuses on education and evaluation of one's operation and can help you go beyond the minimum requirements of licensing.
ACA standards identify practices considered basic to quality camping. They cannot, however, require all programs to look alike. The ACA-accreditation program serves a broad range of facilities and programs: some primitive, some rustic, others highly developed. Each will have addressed in its own way the concerns identified by the standards.
Many types of camps and programs seek ACA accreditation such as camps who operate day and resident camp sessions, travel and trip programs, school camps and environmental education programs, and camps with special program emphases (e.g., sports, academic, therapeutic, religious). Many of these camps also offer facilities and services to other program operators.