National Camp Accreditation Program

National Camp Standards

Purpose

The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Camp Accreditation Program (NCAP) is to help councils elevate camps to new levels of excellence in delivering Scouting’s promise to youth. Councils will engage in a rigorous review of camps and properties, continuous improvement, and correction or elimination of substandard practices.

The NCAP achieves this purpose through:

  • National camp standards
  • A multi-year application and authorization to operate review
  • The continuous camp improvement program (CCIP)
  • An annual camp assessment process for accreditation

This process is supported by training through the National Camping School, supplemented by additional training modules, and provision of resources.  Only camps that successfully complete all aspects of the NCAP are BSA accredited camps.  

Updates to the NCAP standards and program are announced through periodic NCAP Circulars, which may be found at the bottom of this web-page.  You may direct questions about the National Camp Accreditation Program to ncap@scouting.org.

National Camp Standards

The BSA’s national camp standards are established to:

  • Maximize the likelihood that each camper and leader has a fun, high-quality program consistent with the BSA brand.
  • Minimize the risks to the health, safety, and well-being of every camper, leader, visitor, and staff member while participating in a BSA accredited camp.

The local council is responsible for maintaining the BSA’s national camp standards. The national camp standards are the foundation of the NCAP, which assesses council and camp conformance with the requirements set forth in the national camp standards. The national camp standards consist of standards, which are mandatory when applicable, and recommended practices, which represent practices recommended for all camps to improve program quality and safety. All camps that are operated by a Boy Scouts of America council are required to meet the standards that fit the type of camp being operated and activities offered.

Standards Resources

The Standards At-A-Glance have been updated in an Excel format for ease of use as working documents. The council camping leadership and the area assessment team leader should mutually agree on which standards are not applicable to the camp and delete them from the form leaving a cleaner document of only those standards which do apply for use during the assessment process. Area team leaders are charged with the responsibility to ensure that no applicable standards are inadvertently deleted.

Annual Assessment and Accreditation Cycle

All BSA accredited camps undergo an annual assessment process. Resident, trek, and specialty-adventure and high-adventure camps and stand-alone COPE/Climbing courses go through a third-party assessment process coordinated by the responsible BSA area. Day camps and family camping programs are subject to a thorough self-assessment annually. Based on the results of the annual review, each BSA camp—regardless of type—will receive an individualized accreditation decision. Accreditation is the mark that the camp program provides a fun, high-quality, and safe program consistent with what the public expects of Scouting. The annual assessment and accreditation cycle typically includes the following steps:

  1. Submitting of the Intent to Operate, usually in October of the year preceding camp opening;
  2. [Optional] pre-camp inspection (if a post-camp inspection was not done); 
  3. Recommended pre-camp meeting between camp director and camp assessment team lead, in person or by telephone; 
  4. Submitting the Declaration of Readiness, usually around May 15, to the camp assessment team lead;
  5. The camp assessment, usually in the first two weeks of camp, which typically concludes in the accreditation decision; 
  6. [Optional] post-camp inspection (required if pre-camp inspection will not be done); and
  7. Submitting the National Camping Report, usually in September or October.

Intent to Operate

As part of the NCAP process each and every camp (including stand-alone COPE and Climbing courses) must complete an Intent to Operate. 2018 brings a new method for submitting this data.

If a camp does not complete the Intent to Operate, it does not meet the NCAP standards so please make certain that your camp does not become “non-compliant” because of missing paperwork.

Pre-Camp Inspection by Council

Standard FA-701 requires the council to conduct either a pre-camp or post-camp inspection.  Councils may conduct both.  The purpose of the pre-camp/post-camp inspection is to evaluate the camp, identify any issues that need to be fixed, and to prepare a plan to ensure that camp can open in compliance with the national camp standards.  

Declaration of Readiness

Every camping season, typically May 15 for summer camps or as arranged with the area assessment team, each camp submits a Declaration of Readiness form about 30 days before the start of the camping season.  The Declaration of Readiness is an indication by the council that it has reviewed the camp staff, program, supplies, and facilities and determined that it can open camp in conformity with the BSA national camp standards. Camps and councils are encouraged to submit with the Declaration of Readiness as much of the administrative and staffing paperwork as possible.  This will expedite the on-site inspection and diminish surprises.

Pre-Camp Meeting

The pre-camp meeting is typically held shortly after the area camp assessment team leader receives the Declaration of Readiness.  The purpose of this meeting is to let the camp assessment team, camp director and council discuss any issues that are anticipated, to review paperwork submitted with the Declaration of Readiness and note any deficiencies so that they can be corrected prior to the assessment.  NCAP has found that assessments preceded by a pre-camp meeting generally go much smoother and with fewer surprises because both camp and assessment team know what to expect.  NCAP recommends that all camps and teams conduct such a meeting, either in person or by phone.

Camp Assessment and Accreditation

The camp assessment typically occurs about two weeks into the camping season.  For area-assessed camps, the area camp assessment team will come to the camp and spend typically between 3 to 4 hours reviewing the camp operation, including paperwork, staff, program, program equipment, facilities, communication and observing the camp in operation.  It will ask questions of camp leadership and staff about program delivery.  It will assess camper reactions to the program.  It will evaluate whether the camp conforms to each BSA national camp standard and to the terms and conditions of the council’s authorization to operate.  This information is compiled on the score sheet, which has both an objective and a narrative portion.  The objective portion is used for scoring conformity to the BSA national camp standards, while the narrative portion is used to explain any findings of non-conformity and to make recommendations to the camp and council on possible improvements.

A camp is accredited if it has no non-compliant scores and less than 20% of its standards are scored as a deviation.  A camp is conditionally accredited if it has any non-compliant scores or 20% or more deviations.  A conditionally accredited camp may be denied continued accreditation if it receives another conditional accreditation or did not meet the terms of its corrective action or camp improvement plan, if any.

For self-assessed camps, the same procedure is used.  Both area and self-assessed camps should submit the score sheet to the National Service Center with a copy to the area camp assessment chair.  

Post-Camp Inspection

Post-camp inspection is a voluntary step where councils assess the condition of the camp after the close of camp.  It may be used in lieu of pre-camp inspection or in addition to it.  Many councils have found that post-camp inspection provides a longer window to plan and budget for camp repairs and improvements.  Some camps that have significant snow may find that a post-camp is helpful when snow clears only a few days before camp opening.

National Camping Report

Each year, usually in October, the National Council sends a survey to all local councils asking about the number of youth camped in its camps.  Submittal of this information assists the National Council with new program development, monitoring of trends, and provides useful statistics for use with donors and benefactors of Scouting.  The National Camping Report is sent from the National Service Center to each Scout Executive and contains instructions on how to submit the information.

Continuous Camp Improvement Program

The Continuous Camp Improvement Program provides councils and camps the opportunity to review the program, facilities, finances, and staffing, then develop a process for improvements. In this document, the council commits to conduct an Annual Camp Continuous Improvement process, for each camp, which minimally:

  • Utilizes the feedback obtained from the previous year’s camp evaluations.
  • Involves council operating committees and camp management in the review, SWOT analysis, and prioritization/selection of at least three areas to be addressed for each camp.
  • Annually, creates specific, measurable, SMART goals with timelines and implementation steps for each of the areas to be improved. (Continuous improvement goals should include the following: program, communications, facilities, finances, staff, attendees/participation.)
  • Includes the desired CFET goal (see multi-year application and authorization process below) to be achieved within the proposed authorization term (five years) for each property and improvement goals for any camp facilities currently rated as fair (D) or poor (F), needing to be brought up to acceptable levels.
  • Provides a written overview of the process goals and results to the assessment team as part of the annual Declaration of Readiness and subsequently discusses the process and progress during each assessment.

The council includes an updated progress summary of each year’s CCI goals as part of its next NCAP application process.  

Multi-year Application and Authorization to Operate Cycle

The NCAP’s multiyear authorization cycle begins with the council submitting an application to the region through the NCAP Committee. This process is designed to help a council review its program and property and realize the true impact it has on its operation. The application contains a description of each of the council’s camps for which it is seeking an Authorization to Operate. The council will use the Camp Facilities Evaluation Tool, an objective assessment of council camp facilities from a brand perspective, and the Council and Camp Sustainability Data Sheets that provide an objective assessment of the contribution of the camps, individually and collectively, to the council’s financial sustainability. The council will then develop a Continuous Camp Improvement Program to review the programs, staffing, attendance, finances, and facilities, and then develop a plan to improve and grow in all areas. 

The application requires a review and approval by the council’s executive committee or executive board so that everyone understands the impact of the camp on the council. After completion of the documents, the region’s NCAP team will review all documents and plans, and then authorize the council to operate the various facilities.

Camp Facilities Evaluation Tool (CFET)

The evaluation of your facilities needs to be an ongoing process by a team from the council looking at every aspect of the camp and the program it offers. Evaluate the buildings to see if they are sound and can physically handle the wear and tear of the operations of the property. The team also needs to make certain that a building meets the needs of the program that is being offered. A building that doesn’t meet the program needs—and maybe hampers the program—isn’t a good fit for the camp.

Is the camp appealing to the people who come to it? When a parent or community member drives into the camp, do the buildings and grounds meet the BSA’s brand? Does the camp make them want to stay or does it make them want to take their child, turn around, and never come back? The BSA and your council have an image. Does this camp and its buildings meet the image that you are trying to project?

In the evaluation of the buildings and program areas, items to be considered by a team are:

  1. Is the building/program area in good physical shape (no structural problems)?
  2. Does the building/program area meet the BSA’s brand?
  3. Does the building/program area meet the program needs?
  4. Are the building’s maintenance needs covered?
  5. Are the grounds maintained, and do the buildings have a fresh coat of paint on them?
  6. Is the sign at the camp entrance inviting?

The council should use the following document at least every other year (if not every year) to assist in this process.

Training

Like all BSA programs, training is a critical part of delivering a successful, high-quality, high-impact and safe camping program to our youth participants and their leaders and families.  In this section, the NCAP outlines training programs and resources councils and camps to use to achieve these goals.

Camp Staff Youth Protection Training

The BSA has created this facilitator-led syllabus with accompanying PowerPoint presentation for BSA camp directors and program directors to train camp staff members.  This course covers how to prevent, recognize, respond to, and report inappropriate youth-on-youth behavior.  Understanding and Preventing Youth-on-Youth Abuse Training for Camp Staff, No. 430-149 replaces Camp Staff Youth Protection Training, No. 430-149 and meets the requirements of NCAP Standard SQ-402 B.  The training is designed to be delivered by the camp directors to staff.

National Camping School

National Camping School is BSA’s premier program designed to help guide camp leadership to have successful strong programs in all BSA camping programs.  It provides the training certificates required for camp management and leadership positions set forth in Standards SQ-401 through SQ-412.  See the link below for information on the schools that are scheduled in 2018 and a description of the courses that will be offered. Students are signed up by their council leadership. If you need the access link, please email ncs@scouting.org and request it.

Updated Training Requirements for Specific Positions

Camp Commissioners.  The camp commissioner’s requirement changed starting on January 1, 2017. To be certified to be a camp commissioner you have to have one of the following:

  1. Have a current certification in the Resident Camp Administration section of National Camping School.
  2. Have a current certification in the Resident Camp Director section of National Camping School.
  3. Have a current certification in the Resident Camp Program Director section of National Camping School.
  4. Be a registered active (for at least 6 months) and trained commissioner in your council, have your Council Commissioner’s approval, and complete the camp commissioner training materials set forth below with your Camp Director or his/her designee:

Camp Chaplain.  The camp chaplain’s requirement changed starting on January 1, 2017. Chaplains must be recognized as a qualified clergyman, seminarian, or layman by his or her own church body and are 21 years of age or older. The NCAP encourages chaplains to either complete the National Camping School section for chaplains, or complete the training below to understand the BSA and its camping program.

Council NCAP chair and NCAP assessor training

The NCAP has prepared several materials to assist councils and camps in understanding and implementing the National Camp Accreditation Program. Please refer to the resources below:

Additional NCAP Resources

Camp Health and Safety Information

The Health and Safety Support Committee has recently released or updated several resources to help your council and camp meet or exceed camp and regulatory standards. All of these can be found on the Scouting Safely Web page in the Guidelines/Policies/Model Plans section.

Additional Resources

NCAP Circulars

The National Council periodically issues NCAP Circulars to provide authoritative guidance to councils, areas, and regions in implementing the program. 

Please direct any questions about the National Camp Accreditation Program to ncap@scouting.org.