Planning for Camp

How to Afford Camp

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 20:43

The American Camp Association (ACA) believes the benefits of the camp experience are priceless, but we also realize that parents' pockets aren't bottomless.  ACA also believes there is a camp for every child and every budget, and we want to show you the opportunities available.

ACA's Find a Camp has the most complete list of camps available. Finding out how to afford camp is easy—and there's plenty of help. There's a camp for just about every budget. Fees range from less than $100 to more than $1,500 per week for ACA-accredited resident and day camps. There are a number of different options parents can turn to when trying to provide a camp experience for their child.

Camp Scholarships

ACA supports summer camp scholarships indirectly.

ACA does not grant scholarships directly to campers or camper families; instead ACA-accredited camps apply, through the UltraCamp Foundation, for support from the Send a Child to Camp Fund for campers in need. Through this fund, ACA provides scholarship dollars for day and resident camps to distribute to children whose families may not otherwise be able to afford a camp experience for their children.

How do parents find camp scholarships for their child?

Parents interested in receiving support for their child to go to summer camp will need to apply directly to the camp, as early as possible. Typically, camps identify funding for camperships and make decisions about which campers they will fund prior to the camp season. Almost all camps have some sort of financial support for families in need. We recommend that parents find the camps that suit their child's needs and ask the director what sort of summer camp scholarship options are available.

Emphasis is placed on children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Every child experiences some summer learning loss—the loss of skills learned during the school year, resulting from a lack of organized learning during the summer. Children whose families are not struggling financially have more opportunity to participate in camp and other educational programs during the summer to help their minds stay sharp. ACA believes children whose families are financially disadvantaged should have the same opportunity. Send a Child to Camp scholarships help children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds to constructively learn independence and safe risk-taking, build essential mentor relationships, and reap the benefits of connecting with nature.

What kinds of camps can participate in ACA’s Send a Child to Camp Fund camp scholarship program?

ACA accredited day and resident camps are eligible to take part in the program. ACA does not directly select the camps to receive funding. ACA partners with the UltraCamp Foundation who selects camps through a formal application process. 

Assistance offered from camps

Camps offer special discounts—for everything from early registration, full-season, multiple enrollments from one family, to late registration to fill an empty spot. For families who enroll early, many camps also offer a structured payment plan throughout the year, so camp costs are not incurred all at once.  In addition, many camps offer "camperships"—partial or total scholarships and financial assistance. Parents shouldn't assume their income doesn't qualify. Ask your camp what payment or assistance programs they offer. Ask early.

Assistance offered by other organizations

Many organizations offer financial assistance for camp. Here are some ideas. Your church or synagogue may have a fund that support campers. If the camper's parent(s) or grandparent(s) served or are serving in the military, there may be funds available for camp. Other civic organizations and clubs, sororities, and fraternities, may have available funds.

Assistance offered from the US government

  • Parents should inquire into whether the camp participates in income-eligible subsidy programs, for instance through Title XX.
  • For day camps:
    • A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account allows parents to be reimbursed on a pre-tax basis for child care or adult dependent care expenses for qualified dependents that are necessary to allow parents to work, look for work, or to attend school full time. Visit the FSA Feds Web site for more information. 
    • In certain circumstances, day care expenses, including transportation by a care provider, may be considered dependent care services and paid with pre-tax dollars. Visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more information.
    • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The IRS allows an income tax credit of up to $6,000 of dependent care expenses if you have two or more dependents (up to $3,000 for one dependent). The amount of the credit is based on your adjusted gross income and applies only to your federal taxes. This applies to qualifying day camp expenses. Visit the FSA Feds Web site for more information.

Fun & Safety: ACA-Accredited Camps Set the Standard

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 20:43

ACA Accreditation means that your child’s summer camp cares enough to undergo a thorough peer review of its operation — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at your child’s camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes growth and fun in an environment committed to safety.

ACA helps member camps provide:

  • Healthy, developmentally appropriate activities and learning experiences
  • Discovery through experiential education
  • Caring, competent role models
  • Service to the community and the environment
  • Opportunities for leadership and personal growth

Answers to Parents' Most Frequently Asked Questions About Camp Accreditation

What’s the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?

Accreditation is voluntary and ACA accreditation assures families that camps have made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for their children. If a state requires licensing, it is mandatory; licensing requirements vary from state to state. ACA standards are recognized by courts of law and government regulators as the standards of the camp community.

How do ACA standards exceed state licensing requirements?

ACA goes beyond basic requirements for health, cleanliness, and food service into specific areas of programming, including camp staff from director through counselors, emergency management plans, health care, and management. ACA applies separate standards for activities such as waterfront, horseback riding, and adventure and travel.

What are some of the ACA standards that camps rely on?

  • Staff-to-camper ratios that are appropriate for different age groups
  • Training for staff to minimize 1:1 camper/staff interactions
  • Goals for camp activities that are developmentally based
  • Emergency transportation available at all times
  • First-aid facilities and trained staff available when campers are present
  • Staff appropriately trained to lead program

Does ACA accreditation require criminal background checks?

ACA accreditation standards require a staff screening system, which includes an annual criminal background check on all seasonal staff and at least every five years on year-round staff. When talking to a camp director as you consider enrolling your child, ask what the screening process for that camp includes.

In addition to the criminal background checks referenced above, ACA standards require additional staff screening which includes an application, interview and reference checks upon initial hire (along with a criminal background check); annual checks of the National Sex Offender Public website and an annual voluntary disclosure statement.  Staff training and staff/camper supervision are also critical to ACA standards. 

How can I verify that my child's camp is ACA accredited?

Parents can (and should) verify the accreditation status of any camp at any time by visiting ACA's Web site at or by calling 1-800-428-CAMP.

If your child's summer camp isn't ACA-accredited, ask WHY NOT?

Keep in Mind — Informed parents are best prepared to select a camp that meets their standards for staff, programs, safety, and facilities and strives to promote the welfare of every child.

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