Purpose and Value of ACA Accreditation
Accreditation educates camp owners and directors in administering key aspects of camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. The camp's voluntary participation in the ACA's professional development and accreditation process demonstrates a commitment to providing the best possible camp experience.
Accreditation provides a framework to manage resources, offer best practices in policies and procedures, and strive for continuous improvement. ACA standards establish guidelines for designing and implementing policies, procedures, and practices. The camp is then responsible for implementing those policies and ensuring they are followed.
Accreditation indicates to the public that the camp administration has voluntarily allowed a peer review process in which its practices are compared to standards established by professionals and authoritative sources associated with the camp industry.
ACA's Accreditation Program is not intended to circumvent the licensure required to operate your primary business.
Eligibility for ACA Accreditation
The ACA accreditation program is appropriate for a wide variety of camp and out-of-school experiences. ACA accredits programs sponsored by various organizations. These organizations may be agencies, independently owned, faith-based, therapeutic, city or county governments, after-school programs, or other organizations. Day camps, resident camps, and travel programs have achieved ACA accreditation status.
Camps and programs may operate on their own property or on property belonging to another entity. Programs taking place in rustic settings, well-developed settings in the woods, at neighborhood community centers, on college campuses, and K-12 schools are all eligible for ACA accreditation.
Operations that lease, rent, or otherwise make available their site and/or facilities to other program operators or sponsors who are responsible for their own staffing and programming may also seek ACA accreditation.
- Deliver camp programs and/or provide camp facilities and services for other programs consistent with ACA’s mission of enriching the lives of children, youth, and adults through the camp experience.
- U.S.-based camps with at least one program that occurs in the United States or its territories.
- Programs with a primary audience of campers five years and older. (NOTE: Many camps offer programs that serve some three- or four-year-old campers. If this is the camp’s primary audience, accreditation or licensure through a different organization is most appropriate.)
- Program sessions must be at least three days in length, with a specific purpose and goals.
- Single-day programs, one-night/two-day programs, and virtual programs are not considered for ACA accreditation.
- Conduct activities or serve camps and programs that conduct activities which:
- Utilize trained leadership.
- Include planned and organized group interaction that contributes to participants’ personal growth, which may include skills development as well as mental, physical, social, and spiritual growth.
- Provide a sustained experience for participants attending for an established period of time.
- Will often include the outdoors and the natural environment as a setting for activities that teach environmental stewardship and recreational skills.
- Have a commitment to health, safety, and risk management.
ACA Camps Set the Standards
ACA accreditation is an educational tool, an industry benchmark, a best-practices solution, and a learning formula for your camp staff. Strategic planning for your camp is simplified; policies, procedures, and practices are established; and your staff is responsible for ongoing implementation – a dynamic instructional process for any camp!
It is proven that involvement in professional organizations in any field of expertise develops well-informed, better-educated staff. The accreditation process and membership in ACA are invaluable tools for success.
Professional ties and the opportunity to network with your colleagues are incredible benefits – get involved! Accreditation is administered by trained volunteers. Accreditation volunteers are trained, industry peers. Become an accreditation visitor and learn more, understand more, and discover more! Be part of ACA's greatest asset, our peer volunteers! You can give back to camps and witness how other camps operate.
Recoup your investment in accreditation through discounts on services you can't do without – group purchasing of food service contracts, propane, office supplies, building and cleaning supplies, staff recruitment, and product savings through ACA business partnerships and vendors.
Advertising / Promotion
ACA's Find a Camp database receives thousands of unique page views per day! ACA-accredited camps are recognized with the accreditation logo on this interactive search tool for parents. Find-A-Camp provides parents with a better choice in camps and a direct link to your camp. Camps should be proud and promote their accreditation to the public.
Parents nationwide recognize the importance of ACA accreditation when choosing a camp for their child, and they expect you to reach far beyond the minimum state and local regulations. ACA-accreditation status demonstrates a camp's accountability, credibility, and commitment.
Use key messages and scripts to keep parents tuned to the value of your accreditation status in every operational aspect of your camp, from programming to staff training.
Want to Learn More?
- Attend the Ready. Set. Go. – A one-hour webinar to learn more about what to expect.
- Set up a consultation with one of the staff from ACA’s membership team.
- Attend an Accreditation Process Workshop. 2023 course info coming soon!
- Review the information for preparing for an on-site visit.
- Check out the Accreditation Academy, your one-stop shop for learning and resources for ACA’s Accreditation.
Resources to Get You Started
- Application & Cost of Accreditation
- The Value of Accreditation – Helpful information for prospective camps, boards, parents, media (PDF)
- The Value of Accreditation for Day Camps - Helpful information for day camps (PDF)
- Overview of the Standards
- Standards-at-a-Glance – This is a summary list, and the use of the Accreditation Process Guide is required to accurately prepare.
- The Accreditation Process Guide is provided to camps once an application is submitted, but to prepare prior to your application submission, it can be purchased from the ACA Bookstore.
- State Laws & Regulations
- Sample Toolkit of Written Documentation Planning Tools – A sampling of the resources available to support written documentation development. A larger toolkit is available in the Accreditation Academy for members only.
Questions? Call us 1- 800-428-2267 Dial option 2.