Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, Inc. provides residential and community-based services to children and families in need in Georgia and Alabama.
With a promise to “positively impact the lives of children, their families and support systems through the provision of multiple services of the highest quality,” Twin Cedars understands the impact that earning and maintaining accreditation has on the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission. Read on to learn how key staff view the accreditation experience.
1. Which accreditation does your agency hold and for how long?
Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, Inc. holds the following accreditations:
- Council on Accreditation (COA) – 1999 – present
- Georgia Accreditation Commission (GAC) – 2002 – present
- American Camp Association (ACA) – 2004 – present
- Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia – 2004 – present
- National Children’s Alliance (NCA) – 2005 – present
- The Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) – 2007 – present
- National CASA Association and Georgia CASA Association – 2009 – present
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) AdvancED – 2011 – present
2. What was the original reason(s) for becoming accredited?
Suzanne Saylors, PQI director: While COA accreditation wasn’t mandated in 1999, we felt an obligation to be the best for those we serve. Accreditation helped to achieve our Vision “to become the leading provider of quality services for children, youth, families and communities.”
John Harrell, assistant coordinator, Children’s Advocacy Center of Troup County: As a child advocacy program of Twin Cedars, we sought accreditation from National Children’s Alliance (NCA) to meet national standards and maintain best practices in our specific area of service.
Dr. Kim Bond, program director, Bradfield Center: Our SACS/AdvancEd accreditation is the ‘feather in our cap’ at Ault Academy. While it was not mandated, Mike Angstadt, our executive director, wanted to set our bar higher than required.
Dan Saylors, director of community services: For Camp Viola, earning accreditation from the American Camp Association showed the summer camp industry and campers’ parents that we were committed to meeting ACA’s rigid industry standards to provide the most enjoyable and safest camp experience possible.
3. How has accreditation positively impacted the operations or functioning of your organization?
Suzanne Saylors: One of the most significant ways accreditation has positively impacted our organization is by providing a standards framework that aligns our services and operations with current best practices. One key outcome was the establishment of a working PQI model that allowed us to integrate performance and quality improvement activities into our overall operations. Along with quarterly and annual risk assessments, this improved existing processes, yielding better outcomes for clients and staff. While PQI procedures may seem arduous, when implemented correctly these activities reduce duplication of work and help prevent future risks.
John Harrell: National Children’s Alliance accreditation has initiated maximum utilization of effective treatment methods including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and prompted further development of our forensic medical examinations.
Dr. Kim Bond: Ault Academy sets us apart as a residential center model school in Georgia. We proudly share our SACS AdvancED accreditation with prospective students, parents and Department of Family and Children Services/Department of Juvenile Justice (DFCS/DJJ) employees. While a student may not be placed at Bradfield Center solely because of Ault Academy, it is “icing on the cake!”
Dan Saylors: Our ACA accreditation allows us to provide a first-class, no-cost camping experience to a unique population in our regional area.
Rosalind Alston, coordinator, Chattahoochee CASA: Accreditation has helped us to develop a sound logic model for achieving desired outcomes for children. Going through the accreditation process has helped us to outline and articulate why/how our programs are successful as well as to identify service and performance standards for staff. It gives us a common language and unified goals.
4. What advice would you give to an organization becoming accredited for the first time?
Dan Saylors: I strongly recommend that any organization considering becoming accredited begin preparing policies and procedures as well as facilities at least 12 to 18 months prior to the scheduled accreditation site visit. Additionally, if the accrediting body sponsors pre-accreditation workshops, agency leadership should attend in preparation for the first official site visit. These workshops are beneficial in assuring that the agency understands the accrediting body’s standards and overall expectations, how the accreditation process works and what will be expected during site visits.
5. How did you motivate staff during the self-study and/or site visit phase?
Suzanne Saylors: We motivate staff by engaging them in the preparation process. This is done at staff meetings, through presentations, getting staff feedback at all stages of the process, through posting fliers for subtle reminders of how they can help and by implementing staff suggestions wherever possible. Employees are able to successfully engage in the process when they understand the reason behind the activities. It is extremely vital to our success to get staff buy-in. If they believe that management listens to their concerns/feedback, they are eager to participate in the process. Staff may be resistant to change when they feel like they don’t have a voice in that change.
Dan Saylors: We encourage staff from throughout the organization as well as our board of directors to offer input and suggestions to the entire team, promoting motivation and creating a sense of ownership over the entire project.
6. 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?
Our organization recently had an exceptional COA site visit. The hard work and preparation by our leadership team and staff led to encouraging comments from the site visit team including a description of our agency as “a special place, with special people, doing God’s work.” This has been a wonderful accolade to use when requesting funds for additional programs. Our local newspaper has printed a story on the successful site visit as well, giving our local communities and potential donors faith that they are supporting a worthy cause that is making a difference in their neighborhoods.
Dan Saylors: It is not surprising that most philanthropic dollars and grant monies go to organizations that have demonstrated longevity while providing quality services. By being ACA accredited, Camp Viola has achieved both community and regional recognition as a fiscally responsible nonprofit that provides quality client services and optimal camping experiences to hundreds of the community’s children every year.
Rosalind Alston: COA accreditation adds value to our programs, especially those without additional state or national governing boards or affiliations. The CASA program has earned and maintained continuing membership in both the National and Georgia CASA Associations, which are both required to receive funding. Membership at both the national and state levels assures potential funders that the agency meets the highest standards and provides assurance that we can deliver positive outcomes.
7. How did your organization celebrate becoming accredited?
Each of our three communities celebrated our COA reaccreditation with a Staff Appreciation Day. Our Columbus, Macon, and LaGrange employees each held a luncheon allowing time for food, fun and fellowship for staff members, as well as providing every employee a company t-shirt and a $50 bonus check for all full-time employees. These events were funded through the generosity of our Twin Cedars Foundation Board.
About Twin Cedars:
Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, Inc. has been recognized as a leader in the provision of the highest quality programs and residential and community-based services to the children and families of Georgia and Alabama. Connecting with our communities, we serve more than 1,800 babies, children, youth and families each year. Twin Cedars provides 25 programs in five cities throughout Georgia and East Alabama, including child advocacy, specialized foster care, residential programs, and prevention and summer camps, among others.
In April of this year, the Council on Accreditation, following review of our self-study and the recommendations of the on-site team, expedited our national accreditation. The team leader indicated that our agency “is the best of the best.” Our agency has developed and implemented over 25 programs and services to carry out our mission “to provide programs and services empowering children, youth, and families to achieve optimum potential.”
To learn more about Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, please visit www.twincedars.org or find us on Facebook!