ACA Accreditation – What’s the Big Deal?
In my last blog, I mentioned that Jer, Kaitlyn, and I would be heading to the ACA National Conference in Atlanta for a week of camp business, education, and networking. Then I got to thinking…how much do you all know about ACA? Are you aware of the process we go through to be an ACA Accredited camp? So, you guessed…today I’m going to tell you all about it!
ACA Accreditation…what is it, why is it important, and why should you look for this logo when you are searching for a camp for your kiddos (or maybe why you should tell all your friends about how CN is not only super cool, but really dedicated to keeping kids safe, happy, and healthy)?
So what is the ACA?
The ACA, or American Camp Association, is the certifying agency for ACA accredited camps. It is a community of camp professionals working together to make sure that programs that serve children do so in a manner that provides for their healthy growth and development, while always putting safety first. The ACA provides an array of resources for those within the industry including professional development courses, conferences, networking opportunities, legislation updates, an industry magazine, and an online bookstore. They also serve as consultants at times and offer a camp crisis hotline for owners and directors to use when they need immediate assistance while in the field. One of the biggest contributions of the ACA to the camping industry is the development, and continued review and updating, of the ACA Standards. The Standards provide the ground-level best practices for our camp programs and ensure that we, as youth development professionals, are putting our best feet forward each and every day that we are working with your children.
What types of things do the ACA Standards cover? How does a camp become accredited?
There are nearly 200 individual standards within the ACA Accreditation Process Guide (yes, I just counted them…there are 197, not including sub-standards). The standards are broken down into sections: Site and Food Service, Transportation, Health and Wellness, Operational Management, Human Resources, Program Design and Activities, Program – Aquatics, and Program – Trip and Travel. Each camp that seeks accreditation must meet or exceed these standards, as determined by a thorough review of all related paperwork and site visits. Standards govern every facet of our camp operation, from how we hire and train our staff to supervision ratios to our dishwashing procedures. Ever wonder why you have to fill out so many medical forms before your camper heads to Nicolet? There is a standard for that! For a camp that is just starting out, there is an intense process of submitting an application, paying a fee, attending a Standards Course, reviewing and evaluating each area of camp, preparing mountains of paperwork and documentation, inviting Standards Visitors to your site for a thorough review of everything camp, and signing a statement of compliance. Camp Nicolet has been ACA Accredited since the inception of the program so we need to make sure to continually update documentation as new information or revisions are provided and ensure that we’re abiding by the standards in our day-to-day operation. We also have site visits every 3-5 years (ACA is transitioning from a 3-year cycle to a 5-year cycle currently).
Why is being accredited important?
Over 2,500 camps in the US are accredited by the ACA. Camp Nicolet believes that being accredited holds us to a higher standard of safety and well-being. Not that we wouldn’t be concerned about and abide by our own internal standards, but it arms us with a guide in developing those principles. We strongly feel that the standards are only the beginning and use them as a building block to ensure that we are always cognizant of the inherent risks of the summer camp experience. Being ACA Accredited provides us with the information and education needed to make informed decisions about the way our programs are operated.
Now, back when I said that CN has been accredited since the inception of the program, I wasn’t kidding. In addition, our esteemed leaders have held the following positions and received the following recognitions within the ACA organization (and a couple others, because how often do we get to brag about this stuff?):
Ann & Wendall Schrader – ACA Pioneers of Camping Award
Ann Schrader – ACA National Golden Quill Award
Wendall Schrader – ACA National Acorn Award, ACA WI Board of Directors, ACA WI Board President, ACA National Board of Directors, ACA Accreditation Visitor
Georgi Starz – ACA WI Board of Directors, ACA WI Board President, ACA National Council of Delegates, ACA Accreditation Visitor, ACA Golden Lens Award, ACA WI Photo Award (x3!!), USA Water Ski WI Service Award, Published in & Guest Editor of Camp Business Magazine (check out this link: http://myinsideraccount.com/publication/?i=165848)
Jeremy Starz – ACA WI Photo Award
Camp Nicolet – Pioneers of Camping Member, Markel Insurance Safety 1st Award (multiple years, including 2015!!)
And finally, why should you be concerned about ACA Accreditation?
Because your kids will be at camp. There are many camps that are not ACA Accredited and many of them are high quality camps. However, when looking for the people that are going to take in your child and invite them to become a part of their family, don’t you want to know that those people are willing to go the distance in preparing their summer home? It’s much the same as when you buy a car…you shop around, choose the options you want, read reviews, check industry standards, and then check the safety records of the vehicle in which you’re interested. ACA Accreditation is kinda’ like a Carfax report for camp! Haha!
Okay, wow! If you’ve managed to make it this far, I applaud you! That was a lot to digest. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an e-mail and ask. If you’d like to check out more about ACA, head on over to their website at www.acacamps.org. There is all kinds of good stuff over there.
Counting down the days until summer,
Our ACA Binders