Guardian Angel Community Services in Joliet, IL is a private, not for profit agency dedicated to helping children and families in need. They recently achieved expedited reaccreditation through COA, and here they outline how they have implemented Accreditation in Action.
- Which accreditation does your agency hold and for how long?
We were first accredited in 2001 and have been continuously accredited since then. Our most recent accreditation resulted in an expedited decision, which we are very proud of.
- What was the original reason(s) for becoming accredited?
Our goal in becoming accredited was to assure that our foster care program aligned with the standards of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, as DCFS was also going through the COA accreditation process. However, we didn’t just stop there! As a licensed child welfare agency, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to meeting best practice standards, not only in foster care but in all of our programs throughout the agency. Since we value and appreciate the process and what it means to be accredited, we successfully prepared for and earned agency-wide COA accreditation.
- How has accreditation positively impacted the operations or functioning of your organization?
We have consistently been able to highlight that we meet the best practice standards of an international accrediting body in all of our grant applications, development, and other key materials. This demonstrates to our community and supporters that we have processes in place throughout our organization for ongoing continuous evaluation and performance and quality improvement. Doing so allows us to celebrate our successes and assess areas that present opportunities for enhancement. As a result, we have experienced fantastic strategic and operational planning successes across all areas of governance and operations. We have significantly expanded programs to meet community needs, improved risk management measures, identified and helped individuals and families achieve meaningful and often life-changing outcomes, and created excellent feedback mechanisms by which to engage stakeholders.
- What advice would you give to an organization becoming accredited for the first time? Or, in other words, what do you wish that you had known when you were starting on the road to accreditation?
While the accreditation process is clearly defined, motivating staff to “buy-in” and understand its value is paramount, as well. We recommend establishing a special accreditation committee to review what will be needed during the process and to develop a strategic timeline in which to achieve accreditation milestones. Additionally, involve staff and stakeholders at all levels of an organization, since earning and maintaining accreditation impacts everyone, and everyone plays a role in its long-term success. It is imperative to demonstrate to all stakeholders an agency-wide commitment to adhering to all applicable best practice standards validated through accreditation.
- How did you motivate staff during the self-study and/or site visit phase?
Planning well in advance is key. We begin planning for the phases of re-accreditation during the year leading up to our onsite visit. We also host a staff retreat away from the office to brainstorm and plan together in a separate, and even fun, location. We incorporate performance measures that reflect COA standard implementation so we all engage in and appreciate the process, what it means to be accredited, and to ensure we are holding ourselves accountable in the four years between reaccreditation cycles, as well.
- What is one way that accreditation has added value to you organization’s name recognition in the community you serve or to your outreach/public relations efforts?
We proudly include our COA accreditation logo on all of our materials and media; in addition, we provide comprehensive explanations of our accreditation status in grant applications and appeals. This demonstrates to those seeking our services and to donors and funders supporting the agency that we have successfully gone through a vigorous and thorough accreditation process. Most recently we issued a press release announcing our outstanding achievement of EXPEDITED reaccreditation awarded because there were no findings or areas of concern related to standards compliance.
- Did your organization celebrate becoming (re)accredited? If so, how?
We always celebrate earning reaccreditation! We usually have refreshments of all kinds at the exit interview and, following the conclusion of the site visit, we enjoy a celebratory lunch.
- About Guardian Angel Community Services
It is the mission of Guardian Angel Community Services to help empower people to improve the quality of their lives.
Our programs include, but are not limited to:
- Adoption and foster care
- Adult protective services
- Domestic violence services
- Child and family support services