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American Camp Association (ACA)

What is ACA Accreditation, and why is it important?

Organized camps in California must be licensed by the California Department of Public Health. California legislature defines organized camps as "a site with program and facilities established for the primary purposes of providing an outdoor group living experience with social, spiritual, educational, or recreational objectives, for five days or more during one or more seasons of the year." While such a license is not required for day camps, day camps in California  may choose to be licensed. When selecting a summer camp in California, you will want to be sure it is a licensed facility. 


Many quality summer camps in California and around the country take it a step further, choosing to become accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA)ACA is the only nationwide organization that accredits children’s camps. Unlike state licensing, ACA Accreditation is a voluntary commitment by camps to uphold the highest standards of programming, leadership and staffing, health care, business and risk management, safety and emergency management plans. Many California legislative rules for organized camps have been developed according to the standards set forth by ACA.

While California state regulations focus on the enforcement of minimum standards, ACA accreditation focuses on education and the evaluation of camp operations, using standards that go beyond the minimum requirements of licensing. ACA collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. ACA standards have been recognized by courts of law and government regulators as the standards for best practices in camp.

As of 2019 there are 251 ACA accredited camps in California. Accredited camps are required to pay an annual membership fee and have an on-site visit every five years. During non-visit years, ACA requires that camps complete an Annual Accreditation Report. 

"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."

John Muir