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Why does ACA accreditation matter?

Katie Warren Whitlatch

Every five years, in addition to the work that we do each year to create an engaging, inspiring and memory-making summer for all of our campers, we at J&R Day Camp and Emma Kaufmann Camp welcome visitors from the American Camp Association (ACA) to visit our camp.  As part of this visit, we compile a comprehensive file of information that is reviewed in great detail by these visitors about various components of camp operations including transportation, risk management, emergency procedures and policies related to camp staff, facilities, health & wellness, staff training and program quality.  In a summer that is already jam-packed with logistics and supervision (and, ok, the occasional gaga game), why do we submit ourselves to this kind of examination?

The American Camp Association accreditation process is the gold standard in the camp world.  ACA collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current policies at camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation[1].  The first set of camp standards was adopted by the ACA in 1948 and has been revised several times to reflect best practices in the industry as well as government-recognized standards.  Its goal is far more educational than it is regulatory.  Unlike inspections by state licensing bodies, ACA accreditation is voluntary process and a camp does not need ACA accreditation in order to operate.  ACA cannot close or otherwise penalize an entity that is not meeting its accreditation criteria, except for the removal of the accreditation status.  So, again, why do we submit ourselves to this kind of examination?

The answer is simple: We want our JCC camps to be the very best they can be. The ACA accreditation process is an objective tool for camps to evaluate adherence to the most current best-in-class operating standards beyond the minimum requirements of licensing.  The accreditation standards are broken down into seven sections ranging from camp administration to facilities to program design and staff qualifications.  Included in these are required staff-camper ratios, use and upkeep of safety equipment, and required health information that we have to collect for each camper and staff person to name just a few.  Self-evaluation is a necessary, every day, tool that we use, but bringing in trained outside eyes to make sure that nothing has been overlooked is invaluable.

By sending your child to an ACA accredited camp – like J&R Day Camp or Emma Kaufmann Camp – you are ensuring that the highest camping standards are in place and that those practices are reviewed at a minimum of once every five years.  ACA even gives parents a resource for how to choose a camp and what questions to ask, which can be found here.  We welcome the questions provided by ACA or any others you may have as you look for the camp that fits best for your family.

J&R Day Camp went through its latest accreditation process in the summer of 2019, and we just received word that we scored 100% on our visit.  Emma Kaufmann Camp is already looking forward to its next ACA accreditation visit in the summer of 2021.  In the meantime, we look forward to providing a top-notch summer experience for your camper and the entire family.

[1] “Introduction to Accreditation,”

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