Future of Accreditation – February 2018 Update

Over the past 18 months, we have been providing you regular updates on the work of the ACA National Standards Commission (NSC) to implement the directive of the ACA board to develop a foundation of both accreditation standards and definitions that apply to all programs to be accredited, as well as develop modules for each program type (such as resident, day, campus-related programs, or others)

The NSC has been moving forward with revisions to all aspects of the accreditation process with input from a wide variety of experts (internal and external), key volunteers, other organizations with accreditation models, assigned work groups, focus groups, and history.  Over the next several months, we will be sharing additional information and inviting members (and others) to provide input on the proposed model and standards.  Implementation of all changes will be for the 2019 season.

  • Accreditation will be relevant for both current and emerging audiences.
  • The standards will be organized into sections more intuitively (by responsibility and operational area).
  • The rigor and integrity remains – those are hallmarks of a valid accreditation program.
  • The process will be streamlined through consolidation and organization of standards. Improved technology will further enhance the experience.

In November 2017, we shared an initial draft version of the ACA standards and accepted comments through January 26, 2018. Based on comments made, additional revisions to some standards have been made.  The National Standards Commission has also reviewed the applicability of the current Site/Food Service Standards and the Health and Wellness Standards for specific audiences. 

NEW! REVIEW and SHARE YOUR COMMENTS on this second round of revisions.

Information below provides an overview of key proposed revisions; they include:

1. Reorganization of the Standards

The current sections of standards have been reorganized into sections based on who is most likely responsible for writing and distributing as well as the operational area being addressed. A key benefit of this reorganization is the reduction of standards as we delete duplicate standards and combine closely related standards. 

The proposed sections are:

  • ACA Core/Foundational Standards: Is a small set of standards that helps articulate the values of ACA. 
  • Administrative Standards: Includes policies and procedures for which key administrative staff would be responsible for writing and distributing. It includes some standards from almost all current sections of standards.
  • Facilities/Operations Standards: Includes standards related to food service, transportation, and so on.
  • Health and Wellness: This section will be revised to include additional standards to be scored by short-term programs.  
  • Staffing: This section will include staff qualifications, staff training, staff supervision, and rations.
  • Program Areas to include general program, specialized program, aquatics, and extended trips

Initial Draft of Proposed Standards For Review

2. Modes

“Modes” are used to determine applicability of standards. Revising the definitions and terminology in modes is happening to better fit both current and emerging programs. Redefined modes include:

  • Long term: Session is at least eight days in length AND/OR the camp offers more than one session of any length with, at minimum, the same key staff. Program is operated and staffed by the camp, and the supervision of individual campers is a camp responsibility.  Resident: Camp assumes responsibility of the campers 24 hours a day.  Day:  Campers go home at the end of the day with an occasional overnight.
  • Short term: One session, seven days or less with same campers and staff. Program is run and staffed primarily by the camp. The camp staff for these programs is sometimes supplemented by adults from a participating group. Resident: Camp assumes responsibility of the campers 24 hours a day.  Day:  Campers go home at the end of the day with an occasional overnight.
  • Camp serves rental groups: Involves other camps, groups, or programs that rent or lease the camp’s facilities and perhaps some services, to operate their own camping programs or retreats.

3. Who ACA Accredits

Updated criteria for who ACA accredits follows:

  • US-based camps with at least one program that occurs on US soil.
  • Programs whose primary audience is campers five years of age and older.  NOTE:  We are aware that many day camps offer program that serve some three- to four-year-old campers.  If this is the primary audience, accreditation 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 in ACA accreditation.

4. The Accreditation Process

Revisions to the accreditation process include:

  • Streamlining the written documentation review process for operators with multiple camps
  • Will likely accept a health inspection in lieu of reviewing specific food service standards
  • Addressing challenges camps that use “public” facilities (schools, parks, universities, etc.) have related to some site standards

5. Technology

ACA has identified a new software on which to build the ACA web-based tool known as “My Accreditation/My Visit” for the future accreditation model.  A contract has recently been signed with the Armature Corp. We anticipate being able to use this product to collect the Annual Accreditation Report for the 2018 season. 

6. General

  • Reviewing the various levels of accreditation volunteers to better understand what specific training topics should to be addressed.
  • All training related to accreditation for both camps and accreditation volunteers is being reviewed and will be updated by late summer 2018. Training will begin in September 2018.
  • We continue to explore and have conversations with a variety of types of camps to determine our future model will be appropriate and relevant for emerging audiences (to include camps on campuses and medical needs camps).


  • Fall 2017:  Share the draft version of what standards will be place in what sections with staff and key volunteers (LCOLs/Affiliate Boards, Standards Chairs, Visitors) and begin the solicitation of input from various groups (both internal and external).
  • Fall 2017: New Technology to be used for the ACA web-based tool My Accreditation/My Visit will be identified.
  • Fall/Winter 2017–18: Continued review of and refinement of “product” to include the administration of the actual visit process.
  • Winter 2018: Present final “draft” of standards for review/comment from internal and external audiences.
  • Winter 2018:  Development of training materials begins
  • Spring 2018: Final writing of actual standards
  • Spring 2018: Final changes to visit process confirmed
  • Summer 2018:  All components of the visit process, associated process, and training completed.  Standards Administration Manual revised as necessary to reflect changes
  • Late Summer 2018: ROLL-OUT of all aspects of new ACA accreditation (standards, process, etc.) for implementation during the 2019 season.
  • Fall 2018: Training begins and will be required for Standards Chairs, Trainers, Instructors, Visitors, and camps. 

We will continue to provide key updates over the next year as we look at the introduction, training, and implementation aspects of the ACA Accreditation process.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Rhonda Mickelson at 765-349-3306 or rmickelson@ACAcamps.org.

Please keep reading for additional information. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Past Accreditation Process Updates