Children’s summer camps and wilderness programs for boys and girls in the United…

December 11, 2013

How Can Summer Camps in the United States Become Accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA)?

acaWhat is the American Camp Association, also called the ACA?

The American Camp Association is a 501(3)(C) tax-exempt corporation. Since 1910 the ACA has acted as a community of summer camp professionals who come together to exchange ideas, share experiences, and build standards of quality for summer camp programs. The ACA has more than 8,000 members, and the programs help children and adults build character, develop skills, and learn to live a healthier lifestyle. The ACA Accreditation Program has created a set of standards designed to enhance, preserve, and market the summer camp experience. The vision of the American Camp Association is stated on the website as: “Enriching Lives, Changing the World”

The core values of the ACA include:

Value 1. Contribution – The ACA believes summer camps are an essential experience of growth and learning for every child, and it contributes to the camp industry by acting as a leader in child development. The ACA also encourages families to contribute to their own communities.

Value 2. People – They believe people are the center and heart of all camp programs. The organization’s goal is to offer positive support and partnership to parents and kids. All kids should value their own uniqueness and view themselves as part of the community. According to the ACA website, “Quality camp experiences help children develop the healthy emotional and social skills necessary to grow into strong, considerate, competent adults.”

Value 3. The World – The ACA believes every individual must preserve, respect, and care for the overall environment. It is important to teach children to appreciate the natural world.

What Are the Basics of an ACA Accreditation?

The ACA Accreditation Program accredits more than 2,400 facilities that meet as many as 300 health, quality, and safety standards. Members and camps are committed to providing:

  • Safe, supportive environments
  • Trusted adult role models
  • Healthy experiences
  • Examples of community service
  • Leadership training
  • Self discovery and personal growth opportunities
  • Education and learning

According to their website the purpose of the 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.” ACA Accreditation has established professional guidelines for the policies, procedures, and practices implemented by summer camps across the United States.

What Summer Camps are Eligible for Program Accreditation?

Programs that receive ACA Accreditation must complete a review of all operations including staff qualifications and training, as well as emergency management. The ACA works with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, as well as other agencies, to help organizations maintain the most recent set of standards and best practices. Many different kinds of camps can achieve ACA accreditation. Programs that are eligible include:

  • Trained leadership
  • Group activities that promote personal growth
  • Skill development
  • Planned instruction
  • Multiple and/or long term program timeframes
  • Outdoor activities and exercise in a natural environment
  • Fun

Summer camps may operate on owned, rented, or leased property and are often responsible for their own staffing and program development. Only those located in the United States can apply for ACA Accreditation. is a comprehensive online directory of summer camps for boys and girls throughout the United States and Canada. Parents and kids can find listings of arts, music, sports, adventure and technology summer camps