Picking the perfect camp for your child to spend their summer can seem like an overwhelming decision. After all, there are a ton of options at many different price points. One thing that every parent should be looking for when choosing a camp, whether overnight camp or day camp, is ACA accreditation. ACA accreditation signals that the camp has gone above and beyond the basic state compliances and have developed a safe and comprehensive program.
What is ACA Accreditation?
The American Camp Association (or the ACA) is the only national organization that offers accreditations for summer camps. The ACA's mission is to keep camp owners and directors well-informed and educated on camp programs and how to keep the campers and staffers safe for the duration of the camp experience.
The ACA offers accreditation for day camps, overnight (sleepaway) camps, short-term overnight programs, and leasing programs. The accreditation education focuses on fundamental camp procedures, administration, facility standards, health and wellness, activity design, aquatics, and staff training.
Is ACA accreditation different from State Licensing?
Yes, accreditation and licensing are completely different. Every camp that wishes to operate must be licensed with the state. This is a mandatory requirement and generally focuses on the bare minimum standards for safety. Licensed camps are subject to surprise inspections that look for basic adherence to maintenance and safety requirements. Standards vary by state.
ACA accreditation is a voluntary process that camp owners and directors can take part in. It signals that camp owners are dedicated to the safety and efficacy of their program. More than that, however, the American Camp Association is heavily focused on educating owners and directors on the newest research and latest trends in camping, ensuring that ACA-accredited camps are the safest and most comprehensive experience for campers and staff members.
What Standards are Mandatory for ACA-accredited Camps?
ACA-accredited camps must adhere to a set of guidelines to maintain their accreditation. These standards are reviewed each year prior to the camp season, and changes that need to be made must be made prior to the beginning of the first wave of campers arriving.
ACA-accredited camps must adhere to staff-to-camper ratios. The ratios differ depending on the age group of the campers, and the type of camp. The ACA requires there to be one staff member for every six children aged 6-8 years old and one staff member for every eight campers between the ages of nine and 14 years old.
The ACA also recommends that 80% of the staff members be at least 18 years of age and that all staff members are at least 16 years of age. This does not include campers who are enrolled in a CIT (counselor-in-training) program at the camp.
Additionally, ACA-accredited camps must have 24-hour emergency transportation, 24-hour first aid treatment options, and medical management procedures and protocol.
For more information about our ACA-accreditation and how we use the education to develop and enhance your camper's experience contact us.