Future of Accreditation

May 2018 Update 

The National Standards Commission of the American Camp Association (ACA) is moving forward with revisions to the ACA standards and the accreditation process after collecting input from a wide variety of experts (internal and external), key volunteers, other accreditation organizations, assigned work groups, focus groups, and history. We are excited to begin to communicate about the revisions with currently accredited camps and camps planning to seek accreditation in the future. The revisions will affect ACA accreditation visits in 2019 and later.

Key Points

  • The intent of the ACA standards has not changed; the standards focus on health, safety, and risk management. 
  • While standards have been reorganized and combined to remove redundancy, we expect that camps currently in compliance with the standards will maintain compliance through annual updates and reviews.
  • Camps must review, update, and reorganize their written documentation to correspond to the reorganized and revised standards, in preparation for their next scheduled accreditation visits in 2019 and beyond.
  • The revised standards will be available beginning in September 2018 and will be used for ACA accreditation visits in 2019 and beyond.
  • Currently accredited camps that are not being visited in 2019 will continue to follow the standards in the Accreditation Process Guide, 2012 Edition. Keep your current standards book until your camp has its next visit!
  • A few revisions to the standards will require compliance from all accredited camps for 2019, including some existing standards that will become mandatory. Currently accredited camps that are not being visited in 2019 will demonstrate compliance with these new mandatory standards via questions on the 2019 Annual Accreditation Report.
  • Resources related to the revised standards will be available beginning in fall 2018. Camps that are not being visited in 2019 but wish to start preparing for a future visit may also use these resources.


  • ACA accreditation will be relevant for current and emerging audiences.
  • The rigor and integrity of the standards, hallmarks of a valid accreditation program, remain.

Overview of Revisions


Standards have been reorganized into sections based on the operational area addressed. This reduces the number of standards. Duplicate standards have been deleted, and closely related standards have been combined. 

The sections are:

  • Core Standards
  • Administrative Standards
  • Facilities Standards
  • Health and Wellness Standards
  • Staffing and Supervision Standards
  • Program Area Standards (including specialized activities, challenge course, horseback riding, and some trip/travel activities)
  • Program Aquatics Standards

Modes of Operation (used for determining applicability of standards)

  • Short-term Camp:
    • Resident camp: three nights or less.
    • Day camp: less than 25 hours in a five-day period. NEW!!!
  • Resident Camp: Camp assumes responsibility of the campers 24 hours a day. Program is operated and staffed primarily by the camp.
  • Day Camp:  Campers go home at the end of the day with an occasional overnight. Program is operated and staffed primarily by the camp.
  • Rental: Involves other camps, groups, or programs that rent or lease the camp’s facilities to operate their own camping programs or retreats. The rental facility may provide and staff some program services.

Who ACA Accredits

Updated criteria for who ACA accredits follows:

  • US-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 and one-night/two-day programs are not considered for ACA accreditation.

The Home Stretch

  • June 2018: Text of the standards to ACA publisher for production.
  • Summer 2018:  Program revisions and development of training completed. Standards Administration Manual revised as necessary to reflect changes to the process.
  • Summer 2018: Final testing of the technology to be used by camps and visitors.
  • Late Summer 2018: Roll out of all aspects of new ACA accreditation (standards, process, etc.) for implementation during the 2019 season.
  • Fall 2018: Training for volunteers and camps begins! 

Please keep reading for additional information. 


Frequently Asked Questions

History of Accreditation Process Updates