For over 50 years, the American Camp Association (ACA) has been offering many services to camps; one of which is an accreditation program. “The main purpose of the ACA-accreditation program is to educate camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. The standards establish guidelines for needed policies, procedures, and practices. The camp, then, is responsible for ongoing implementation of these policies.” (American Camp Association, n.d.)
The standards address all aspects of camp operation and are organized into six categories:
- Site – Food service, maintenance
- Transportation – Drivers, vehicle safety
- Health and Wellness – Medication distribution, staff qualifications
- Operational Management – Safety regulations, emergency communication systems
- Human Resources - Staff training, supervision ratios
- Program Activities – Aquatics, trips, horseback riding
This is just a sample of the specifics covered in each category.
How does a camp become accredited? First, the camp submits an initial application. The director(s) then attend (or take the online version) a standards course. They review and evaluate each area of camp according to the standards using the ACA’s Accreditation Process Guide. The directors prepare documents and written materials required by the standards. ACA trained visitors then visit the camp for a day during the camp season. They observe camp and work with the directors to determine compliance with the standards. To maintain accreditation, the camp must demonstrate ongoing compliance by submitting an annual narrative report (Annual Accreditation Report) and hosting ACA visitors at least once every five years.
There are many benefits to being accredited. All accredited camps are listed on the ACA Camp Database, which is a valuable resource for the public to use in selecting a camp that meets industry and government standards and regulations. There are endless resources available for camp staff. The ACA offers the monthly magazine, “Camping Magazine”, national and local conferences, round-the-clock support during the summer season via the Crisis Hotline, and research on camp practices conducted with experts in the field (American Academy of Pediatrics and American Red Cross). It is a great way to connect with others in the industry regarding new training and program ideas or new challenges camps face. The website offers specifics on state-by-state regulations and lists local authorities who can help ensure legislative compliance. “The American Camp Association (ACA) 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, n.d.)
Sierra Nevada Journeys' Grizzly Creek Ranch has been accredited since 2011. Our Campus Executive Director, Program Director and Director of Operations diligently maintain this accreditation and use the standards as a means to establish best practices for all our programs.
American Camp Association. (n.d.) American Camp Association accreditation…tell me more. Retrieved from http://www.acacamps.org/sites/default/files/page_documents/membership/Accreditation-Tell-Me-More.pdf
American Camp Association (n.d) Accreditation. Retrieved from http://www.acacamps.org/staff-professionals/accreditation-standards/accreditation