I’ve been elected to write about ACA because I’m the one who usually makes sure we meet all the requirements for ACA accreditation. ACA stands for the American Camp Association, and it is an organization that provides education, training, and professional development for camp staff. It also helps to connect families to the right camp to meet their needs.
The Heart chooses to become accredited by ACA, which is quite a long involved process. Accreditation is basically having two or three visitors from other camps come to the camp to inspect and score the camp on everything from the site and food service to program and activities.
These visitors come–while camp is in session–every five years to go review the accreditation requirements. The main purpose of the ACA accreditation program is to educate and aid camp owners and directors in creating and maintaining a safe and high quality program.
The standards to which the camp is held accountable help the camp review and scrutinize its policies and procedures in all areas of camp. It really impels us do the best possible things for our campers and staff.
Not all camps choose to go through this process, not simply because of the expense, but because it is a lot of extra, tedious work and it can be off-putting to have someone from the outside inspecting and questioning every detail of what you do. In fact, there are only 57 resident camps in Texas that can claim ACA accreditation!
We want The Heart to go through the process because it holds us to a higher standard and it forces us to question, train, and do things better every year.
My personal goal is for us to get a score of 100% every time. This is tough because there are more than 175 standards–and some of the standards have five to 10 different parts to them!
We do enjoy having those bragging rights though!
If you ever have any questions about what the ACA is looking for, or how we are scored, contact me. I feel like I know the information inside and out, I even have dreams about it!
Editor’s Note: Cristi Lee Ahern is The Heart’s assistant director every summer. She grew up in Wyoming, and began coming to The Heart as a counselor in 1994, and has only missed one summer since (her newlywed year). Cristi holds two bachelor’s degrees from University of Wyoming, and a master’s in special education from Northern Colorado University. She worked with children in residential treatment centers before becoming a teacher at Kerrville’s sixth grade school. She lives in Kerrville, Texas, with husband Rick and their children (Stewart and first-time-to-be Heart camper).