Accreditation is a big word that simply means quality and safety. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines accreditation as “official approval given by an organization stating that someone or something has achieved a required standard.” (Oxford) Outside of education or medicine, we don’t hear that word used a lot. However, summer camps are a natural extension of the school year. They are a place of learning and growth for campers and staff. Therefore, it only makes sense that camps have their own process for ensuring quality and safety. The American Camp Association, New England provides that service in our six states and proudly accredits over 350 camps.
official approval given by an organization stating that somebody/something has achieved a required standard
What are the nuts and bolts of ACA-Accreditation?
- Who gets accredited and does the accrediting? Day and overnight camps who welcome and complete an independent peer-review of their camp operations and program. ACA Visitors who perform these reviews are current and former camp professionals and others invested in the camp community. They volunteer their time, complete thorough training on the standards process, and continually update their understanding to better serve the camp community.
- What does this process look like? A camp begins by attending an Accreditation Process Workshop where they learn the ins and outs of standards and accreditation. Next, they review and evaluate each area of their camp according to the Accreditation Process Guide - a guide for camps featuring ACA’s camp programs and services accreditation standards and implementations guidelines. Camps then prepare written materials and documentation showing compliance with the nearly 300 standards covering areas such as health, safety, hiring, facilities, programming and more. Finally, the camp welcomes a Visit by a team of trained Visitors who come during their camp season to witness the camp in operation and review the documentation prepared by the camp.
- How often does all this happen? Once a camp successfully hosts their first Accreditation Visit, they receive another Visit three summers later. After the second successful Visit, that camp transitions to a 5-year Visit cycle. In years when camps don’t have summer Visits, they must submit an Annual Accreditation Report. This allows camps to demonstrate compliance with accreditation standards through a narrative report that is also reviewed by trained, ACA Visitors.
- Why: ACA Accreditation is dual-purpose. First, the program focuses on educating camp owners and directors in administration of key aspects of camp operation; particularly those related to program quality and health and safety of campers and staff. Second, Accreditation helps the public quickly identify camps that meet industry-accepted and government-recognized standards.
Don’t be fooled by the brevity of this description. Accreditation takes time and serious commitment from the camp and its staff. These organizations want their families, staff and the public to know how serious they are in providing safe, quality camp experiences for all.
For those curious whether a camp is ACA-Accredited, simply ask the camp, contact the American Camp Association, New England, or look for the ACA-Accredited logo on the camp’s website, materials and their listing in ACA’s Find-a-Camp tool.
Oxford. accreditation. Oxford Learner's Dictionary. [Online]