Program Overview of Accreditation

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 21:48

Overview of Standards and Accreditation 

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:

  • Core/Foundational: Standards included in this section are “core” to a camp accredited by the American Camp Association. Users expect clean and repaired facilities and to be treated with respect and dignity. For day, resident, and short-term camps, clearly articulated goals, outcomes, and activities designed to assist in camper development are core to guiding the camp’s focus and programming.
  • Administration: Administrative standards include policies and procedures for which key administrative staff are most typically responsible for writing and distributing. Topics include transportation, risk management, emergency procedures, policies related to camp staff, and various program areas. For some key topics, the writing and maintaining of the policy/procedure is addressed in this section of standards, and the training and implementation of the procedure is in the staff training standards.  
  • Facilities: The camp’s facilities, safety protocols, vehicles, and foodservice safety should promote health and safety and minimize risk. Facilities make an important contribution to the overall experience and significantly affect the safety of participants.
  • Health and Wellness: All camps need a well-thought-out healthcare plan that provides for the needs of campers, staff, and rental groups. Potential health risks to the clientele need to be identified and evaluated, and plans for prevention and care need to be specified.
  • Staff Training, Qualifications, Supervision Standards: Staff qualifications, training, supervision ratios, and procedures. Camp personnel are expected to assume many responsibilities, deliver a wide range of services, and complete numerous tasks in an environment of constant close human interaction, all with quality results. Some persons may work with the site operation, some with the program, and some with both.
  • Program Design: The camp provides program activities as a means of achieving its developmental goals and outcomes, conducted in ways that protect the health, safety, and well-being of its campers.
  • Program Aquatics: Swimming and boating activities take place in and on pools, ponds, lakes, rivers, ocean fronts, and creeks. Safety is a central concern in all aquatic activities, and the purpose of the aquatic standards is to set an expectation for trained and certified supervision (scored in the Staff and Supervision section), appropriate safety precautions, and well-planned emergency procedures.

 Mandatory Standards

Compliance with the mandatory standards is required for accreditation to be granted, regardless of scores achieved in other areas of the standards.   If a standard has more than one “part” only the mandatory part of the standard is listed.  The complete standard along with the Contextual Education can be found in the full Accreditation Process Guide, 2019 Edition.  Current fee-paying camps can also access the standards through Accreditation Portal.

To see a brief summary of the standards, take a look at the Standards At A Glance.

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. However, they do not require all programs to look alike. The ACA accreditation program serves a broad range of facilities from primitive to highly developed and programs from basic to highly advanced.  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 that 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.

Questions? Call us 1- 800-428-2267


Camps Seeking Accreditation

Tue, 09/08/2015 - 13:50

Ready. Set. Go. 

We recommend you know as much about accreditation as possible before getting started. Please attend the free one-hour webinar called Ready. Set. Go. to learn more about what to expect. Learn more about the accreditation program and the benefits of accreditation.

Deadlines for Camps Seeking Accreditation

To Do List — To receive an accreditation visit, a camp must do the following.

  1. Fall - Attend a Ready. Set. Go. informational webinar. Submit an application and fees as early as possible. We suggest no later than September or October. If you submit your application after February 1, your camp will not receive a visit that summer. If your program occurs primarily outside of the summer months, please contact ACA.
  2. Fall/Winter - Complete an Accreditation Process Workshop as soon as you are able. The sooner the better. If you haven't taken a course by March 31, your camp will not receive a visit that summer.
  3. Fall/Winter - Prepare materials and written documentation required by the standards; review and evaluate each area of your camp's operation, using the guidelines noted in the standards.
  4. Fall/Winter - Take advantage of all preparation resources in the Accreditation Academy to support your work in preparing materials.
  5. Spring - By mid to later March, you'll have your visitor assignment.  
  6. Spring - Submit the written documentation required in the Written Documentation Review prior to May 1.
  7. Summer - Participate in the peer review process (the "visit").
  8. Fall - In early November, you'll receive notification of your accreditation. 


  • Begin early! It can take up to 18 months to prepare for your first ACA Accreditation visit. Significant written documentation is required.
  • Your ACA Accreditation visitor will reach out in early April for the Written Documentation Review and to set a visit date.
  • ACA's Accreditation Program is not intended to circumvent the licensure required to operate your primary business.
  • Compliance with legal requirements of the jurisdictions within which a camp/program is located is the responsibility of the camp.

Application Details

Applications for accreditation must be received by ACA by February 1 if you are expecting a visit in the upcoming summer. 

If your camp is interested in seeking accreditation, please contact the membership team.

  1. We will help you understand requirements, time commitment, and work involved
  2. We will discuss eligibility with you
  3. We will discuss camp fees and the application process with you

We look forward to assisting you!  Send us an email or call us at 765-342-8456 press 1.

Rates and Application

After you have spoken to someone on the membership team and you feel you are ready to take the next step:

  • Accreditation – You can calculate your fees and/or apply here. Choose "Seeking Members and Accreditation." You'll be asked to enter the zip code of your camp. The deadline for applications for camps seeking and accreditation visit in the upcoming summer is February 1. If you are interested in talking about the process and what to expect, we would love to talk with you. Rates are based on the camp's operating budget and begin at $700.  
  • Membership – If your camp will not be seeking accreditation but is interested in becoming a member camp, you can apply here
  • Payment – You can pay online via our secure forms or print your application and mail it with a check.


Certification, Training, and Skills Verification Resources

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 15:57

It is the responsibility of the camp to confirm the provider meets the needs of and is appropriate for their program, meets the requirements of their insurance provider, and aligns with what is required by their state regulations. Additionally, the camp is responsible for verifying and documenting the skills attained as part of the certification, as required for their job responsibilities and specific to their camp program.

Being on the list of recognized certifications means only a broad-level review of the course has been conducted (by ACA staff and/or volunteers); ACA does not accredit or endorse the certifying/licensing entities.  Considerations for review:

  • Does the course curriculum include the topics/methods identified by authoritative sources (when available) to include being the recommended length?
  • Is the curriculum and are the instructors updated in an established timeframe (every 3-5 years)?
  • Does the course include in-person skills review and skills verification?


Use the resources below as a guide in planning to staff for a variety of camp activities, including adventure/challenge, aquatics, first aid, CPR/AED, horseback riding, and specialized activities. When there is an ACA standard that requires certification, ACA offers a list of recognized certifications.
  • ACA is a 501 (c)3 for education purposes. 
  • The list is being provided as a resource to camps going through the ACA accreditation process. 
  • It is the responsibility of the camp to confirm the provider meets the needs of and is appropriate for their program, meets the requirements of their insurance provider, and aligns with what is required by their state regulations.
  • The camp leadership needs to make the final assessment as to what certification providers they choose to accept.
  • Not all lifeguard certifications include age-appropriate CPR/AED or spinal injury management.
  • ACA will review certifications on a regular basis, or if requested to do so.

If you have questions about a specific certification that is not listed, please contact To request a review of the certification and determine whether it can be recognized by ACA, fill out this formNOTE: ACA will only accept certification review requests directly from camp operators that are ACA accredited or have submitted an application for accreditation.

Certification or documented training alone is not enough to assure a camp director that a staff member can execute the necessary skills. Skills verification is also required to provide assurance that a staff member can perform site-specific rescue/emergency procedures, use equipment available at the site, and provide appropriate instruction and supervision to campers or assisting staff. It is important that camp personnel verify courses being completed by their camp staff are recognized by ACA, the state (when applicable), and are appropriate for the camp's program and operation.

Adventure/ Challenge

Aquatics: Program Resources

First Aid, CPR/AED


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