10 Steps to Selecting an Accrediting Body

Selecting a national accrediting body is a significant commitment for an organization that goes beyond the initial accreditation cycle. In most cases, it continues for many years, often for decades. Because of the investment in time, money and effort involved, the selection process should not be taken lightly.

Accrediting Bodies

Child and family service agencies and behavioral healthcare organizations overwhelmingly choose from three main accrediting bodies: CARF International, Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Joint Commission (formerly known as JCAHO). Each accrediting body emphasizes the critical elements of performance improvement, risk reduction, financial controls, client rights, and health and safety for staff and individuals served. And each also conducts an onsite survey[1] to determine the organization’s level of compliance with the accreditation standards. However, there are significant differences between the three that impact the process and determine their “fit” with an organization.

Choosing an Accrediting Body

So, how do organizations choose between the accrediting bodies? Here are 10 key steps to help with the selection process:

  1. Determine if the accrediting bodies being considered are approved by federal or state authorities to meet your organization’s applicable mandates or recognitions.
  2. Check partner or “sister” organizations for accreditation status and decide if it would be helpful for all to use the same accrediting body.
  3. Look for any potential mergers or acquisitions on the horizon.
  4. Determine if your organization is medically based or looking for partnerships or referrals from the physical healthcare market.
  5. Determine the direct accreditation costs. Each accrediting body will be happy to give you an estimate.
  6. Determine if your goal is to accredit a specific program or service or all your programs/services.
  7. Know your baseline — Take Accreditation Guru’s free Accreditation Readiness Assessment online at https://accreditationguru.com.
  8. Obtain and review the accreditation standards from each accrediting body.
  9. Check with your payers (Medicaid, private commercial insurances, Title IV-E for QRTPs) to verify which accrediting body is approved for reimbursement.
  10. Contact accredited entities providing similar programs/services or other accredited members of any national or state association that you are a member of and ask for the pros and cons of their accrediting body.

Once these steps have been completed, you should have a better understanding of which accrediting body is suited for your organization. Then the real fun of preparing for accreditation can begin!

For assistance navigating the road to national accreditation or if you would like to discuss which accrediting body would be the best fit for your organization, please contact us at info@accreditationguru.com or 212-945-8504.

Best of luck!

[1] During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the accrediting bodies moved to their own virtual survey method. At the writing of this article, they are presently conducting a mix of onsite, virtual and hybrid visits.

Accrediting Bodies Offer New Ways To Continue Accreditation Efforts

(Re)accreditation is often an important component of an organization’s strategic planning.  For congregate living facilities (residential or group home settings) seeking reimbursement under Title IV-E as a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP), achieving or maintaining accreditation by an approved accrediting body is a required component of strategic planning.    

Likewise, (re)accreditation may also be required to obtain/maintain license/certification for an organization to operate/deliver services or for reimbursement through commercial or public health insurance.   

Fortunately, all three accrediting bodies have found efficient and meaningful ways to continue their work so organizations can continue in their accreditation efforts.  

CARF International:   

CARF’s Digitally Enhanced Site Surveys have been occurring since mid-May and CARF advises Accreditation Guru (AG) that this process has been met with very positive responses from its programs.   

Council on Accreditation (COA) 

Effective July 1, COA is providing virtual options for site visits and will work with each organization to determine most appropriate option.  Having an onsite presence is part of some of the COA options. 

The Joint Commission:  

The virtual survey option offered since June by The Joint Commission for behavioral health care accreditation of Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) will be expanded to include a virtual survey option for organizations meeting Joint Commission eligibility requirements (including certain technology capabilities).  On-site survey is also an option for some organizations in geographic areas identified as low risk by Joint Commission leadership – details here. 

All three accrediting bodies are asking organizations to confirm with applicable federal/state/local regulators that virtual site visits/surveys are acceptable.  (AG has been advised by The Joint Commission that the US Administration of Children and Families has approved virtual surveying for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) if accepted by any related state regulatory authority).   

Accreditation Guru assists organizations in creating a customized (re)accreditation timeline based on its strategic planning and provides support along the way to successfully meet each milestone.  A re(accreditation) calendar provides a visual tool to keep leadership and staff focused for an efficient process. 

If you have questions on (re)accreditation please contact us – 212.209.0240 or email info@accreditationguru.com

Pine River Institute CEO, Vaughan Dowie, Sits Down with Accreditation Guru

Located near Shelburne, Ontario, Pine River Institute is a residential treatment center and outdoor leadership experience for youth 13 to 19 years old struggling with addictive behaviors and often other mental health issues. Shelburne is approximately 60 miles northwest of Toronto.

Pine River Institute’s decision to apply for and maintain national accreditation was based solely on internal drivers – commitment to quality and safety and to increase parents’ confidence.

Why did Pine River utilize a consulting service?

Eight or nine years ago, Pine River Institute was getting ready for its Council on Accreditation (COA) first re-accreditation on-site survey and the key staff involved in the original, initial accreditation process was no longer with Pine River Institute. Pine River Institute’s CEO, Vaughan Dowie, met Jennifer Flowers, Founder & CEO of Accreditation Guru, Inc. at a COA training event in New York City.

During a conversation with Jennifer that he learned that there were accreditation consulting services available for organizations like Pine River Institute.

Why did Pine River engage Accreditation Guru?

Knowing that the pre-work is most important and wanting good support, he engaged Jennifer. He selected Accreditation Guru, Inc because he found Jennifer to be very open to help; very knowledgeable; and, she had a good understanding of what was being asked of Pine River Institute by COA.

What was Pine River’s experience with Accreditation Guru like?

Vaughan’s experience with Accreditation Guru was very positive. With Accreditation Guru’s support, Pine River Institute was able to successfully navigate the accreditation process. Jennifer was always available; always able to answer questions; always came through! Her approach was down to earth with realistic answers. In fact, his initial experience led to “repeat business” and Pine River Institute has partnered with Accreditation Guru several times for COA re-accreditation. Each time, less support was needed as Jennifer helped PineRiver Institute to learn to “walk by itself.

Uniqueness of Pine River

Pine River Institute is unique in that it provides a “traditional” residential as well as an outdoor wilderness therapeutic program. Although both programs involve risk and exceptional risk management, the wilderness program has greater risk.

All programs are somewhat unique and special, but accreditation is as close as you are going to get to a third-party oversight/as close as you can get to a proxy for quality. Parents must have faith in an organization keeping their children safe. Other quality indicators (such as testimonials) can only go so far. When you are placing your child in a place where you know no one, you want some assurance of safety and quality.

Pine River Institute has 36 beds with a current waiting list of 200 children. If parents cannot wait for a Pine River Institute opening and ask Vaughan for advice on selecting another organization, he always advises the parents to only consider accredited programs. In order to be a “grown-up” you need to be nationally accredited.

To learn more on accreditation consultation, call us at 212.209.0240 or email Rocio@AccreditationGuru.com for assistance in setting up a commitment-free phone call with our CEO, Jennifer Flowers.

Accreditation’s Significance in Time of Crisis

Since late February 2020, child welfare agencies and behavioral health care organizations have been forced to focus on two critical functions – infection control and emergency management. Depending on the services provided and location of the organization, providers have been forced to change their operations in ways that include having all employees work remotely, provide telehealth services or even “closing the gates” and delivering residential services without people going on or off the property.

In these trying times, the framework provided by implementing national accreditation standards certainly helps service providers better manage the necessary pivot in operations and service delivery in this time of crisis.

Accreditation Standards – Detailed Plans and Strategic Safety Net

Accreditation standards that address risk prevention and management, infection prevention and control, performance and quality improvement, technology and information management and staff training are all being put to the test these days.

Effective risk management controls include, but are not limited to, emergency response preparedness. An accredited agency is required to have a written disaster plan for evacuation and relocation of staff and clients, parent-child reunification following a disaster, as well as specific plans to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and other special needs during emergencies. The organization must also address coordination with governmental authorities and emergency responders. Further, staff needs to be trained on how to respond to medical threats and emergencies and how to handle potential safety risks they may encounter on the job.

Accreditation (maintenance and preparation) guides an organization through a thoughtful, structured and planned process to create an infrastructure for risk management and performance improvement that can be seamlessly implemented during times of crisis like this one.

The accreditation process also helps organizations review and strengthen their policies and practices through compliance with national standards of care. This includes creating processes for gathering and using data for continuous improvement of the quality of the services provided. It is not enough to collect and analyze data related to outputs such as the number of clinical sessions provided or the total number of clients served, but they also must identify, observe and measure the effects of a program’s services on clients.

“Plan and procedures for disaster readiness are a lived concept for CARF-accredited organizations. The readiness mindset of our programs has helped organizations and their staff to transition services to better support children and families during this pandemic.” – Leslie Ellis-Lang, MMFT, Managing Director, CARF Child and Youth Services *

Technology-Based Service Delivery – AKA Telehealth

Due to the pandemic and resulting COVID-19 funding legislation that now expands coverage for telehealth services for Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, a vast number of service providers were given the opportunity to make a seemingly overnight shift to employees working remotely and providing telehealth services.

The existing accreditation standards in place that address the management of technology-based service delivery allow companies to reference their strategic plan and immediately embrace the full-time use of this technology.

Any accredited organization that engages or plans to engage service recipients in technology-based service delivery needs to develop policies and procedures to guide telehealth service delivery to address privacy and security measures. They must also assess the appropriateness of technology-based service delivery for each individual and monitor effectiveness of using this model.

Accreditation standards further address competency-based training for personnel on the use of equipment and software, privacy and confidentiality issues, and recognizing and responding to emergency or crisis situations from a remote location.

While many organizations may not have developed a detailed pandemic response plan, wouldn’t it have been helpful to have already addressed and planned for the use of telehealth services and having employees work remotely under the framework of accreditation standards?

Accreditation Drivers

“Accreditation is not just a box to tick and this is even more apparent during times of crisis,” says Jody Levison-Johnson, President and CEO, Council on Accreditation (COA). “COA has standards that address key preparedness and response issues. These fall under the broad standards categories of human resources management, safety and security, and emergency preparedness – all of which are critical during times of crisis.” *

The three major accrediting bodies for human service organizations (CARF International Council on Accreditation and The Joint Commission) research and develop their unique set of accreditation standards that address a commitment to helping child welfare and behavior health care organizations provide safe and high-quality care, treatment or service. Applying the standards often leads to an increase in consumer confidence in service delivery. Read “Increasing Consumer Confidence Through Accreditation“.

“(The Joint Commission) recognizes the challenges behavioral healthcare organizations are facing during this difficult time and we want to hear from all behavioral health care providers what else we can do to help.” – Julia Finken, Executive Director, Behavioral Health Care Accreditation *

This Too Shall Pass

“This too shall pass” is comforting and indeed it will (or be better controlled). But, as the pandemic stretches on and businesses start to develop a “new normal” for addressing the various health and economic needs of the public at large, a pre-laid foundation of strategic plans and detailed response initiatives can provide a more effective pivot for a company.

Is your organization one of them? By scheduling time to focus on accreditation, you can address key initiatives now and stay ahead of the game in the future. Don’t delay your preparation for achieving accreditation. Develop a work schedule that includes accreditation preparation whether you are applying for the first time or maintaining your status.

Keep Your Momentum Going!

*For additional information from the accrediting bodies:

CARF International

COA “Preparing for Response to COVID-19”

The Joint Commission

Lutheran Child and Family Services Receives Council on Accreditation 2019 Innovative Service Award

The Council on Accreditation is one of the nation’s premier accrediting bodies for human service organizations. Out of 75 applicants for the agency’s prestigious 2019 Innovative Practices Award, which recognizes “successful approaches to management and service delivery practices adopted by our accredited organizations,” the Regenerations program at Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois received the distinction.

The program aims to get “dually-involved” youth – foster care children who are also caught up in the criminal justice systems – on the right track. In Illinois, many detained or imprisoned foster care youth remained incarcerated long after their sentences expired because the state lacked the appropriate resources to serve them.

Attesting to the program’s success, 300 participants have been released from detention or prison an average of 42 days beyond their sentences, compared with 116 days for a comparable population. Nine out of ten youth in Regenerations avoid re-incarceration and the program places 100% of its population outside of residential care – versus 37% for the comparison group. And, the program costs $118 per day per youth served as opposed to $300 to $500 a day for residential care.

Accreditation Guru spoke with Mike Bertrand, president and CEO of Lutheran Child and Family Services and a co-founder of the Regenerations program.

Accreditation Guru: How did this program get started?

Mike Bertrand: There was a large hole and an under-served population that was being dealt with in an inappropriate way. At the time in Illinois, we had an extensive amount of youth either in juvenile or adult prison being kept past their release date because there was no program or place for them to go.

AG: So you came up with specific strategies.

MB: We knew that we had expertise in the child welfare world, but we didn’t have expertise in the criminal justice or juvenile delinquency realm. So we sought partners, including Youth Advocate Programs, with more experience in the criminal justice arena around the country. From there, we did a search with the assistance of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to find programs that we could learn from and we couldn’t locate anything. So Chapin Hall and LCFS – in consultation with Youth Advocate Programs, as well as the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services – put our heads together and used what we felt were state-of-the-art interventions in terms of how we could achieve successful outcomes for youth.

AG: If you were to boil down the keys to success, what would they be?

MB: The culture we built in the program comes down to Never Give Up. Most of these kids are used to having promises made and then they screw up and people walk away. You can dislike the behavior but not the individual doing the behavior. It’s not like we excuse it when we have a youth re-offend or do something inappropriate, but that doesn’t devalue the person.

AG: Can this program be replicated?

MB: To be successful, you have to have a significant risk tolerance with this population because you have significant behavior that needs to be dealt with. You also need to have a strong belief in kinship care. Our success in deflecting youth from residential placement has largely relied on relatives. The most important things are having a real heart for the population and the problems that come with them, as well as having a belief in kinship care and the willingness to adhere to the code of No Rejects, No Ejects.

AG: You also license foster families.

MB: Not all youths are placed with relatives. About half are placed with licensed foster parents that we recruited and trained and take through the state’s licensing process. We make sure they have the heart and the willingness to provide a home and support for kids who are trying to go a different route. We’ve selected and recruited people for this population and we also have longstanding foster parents that we felt would be good with these youth.

AG: Regenerations provides a lot of assistance. Is some of that financial on top of counseling and other services?

MB: We create individualized services for each youth in terms of what they need. So yes, if needed, we may have to move a family out of a certain neighborhood either to avoid gang territory they need to walk through or if they’re at risk in that territory that has some gang activity and want to get out of it and avoid a peer group that may use violence. We also hire folks who know how to navigate the communities and the informal structures that exist in those communities within Chicago. If necessary, we will provide monetary assistance. We will rent a truck and have staff help move or provide a first month’s deposit if a family doesn’t have that. We have also supported work efforts. If a youth is trying to build on his or her strength, say be an auto mechanic, for example, if they have done well in a traditional structured environment and can tolerate that type of program, we’ll send them to community college. But if they cannot, we’ll go to a community resource. We’ll ask the local repair shop around corner if they’re willing to give them a chance and we’ll pay their salary for the first couple of months and if they work out, then they pick up that salary. That’s the only time we put money into the youth’s pocket, other than the allowance they’re required to receive under state standards.

AG: How long have you been accredited by COA and how has accreditation contributed to the program’s success?

MB: That’s a good question. I know we were one of the first in Illinois to be accredited but we’ll have to check [37 years]. Meeting the national standards for quality and the standards of what a human services organization that’s focused on quality should look like helps provide a yardstick and a guide in all of our programs. When we designed Regenerations, [being accredited] helped to ensure that quality people with the proper education and background, that the proper mix of professional services are in place and that the administrative standards that we have and the metrics are in place to support the staff that is doing very difficult work.

AG: The avoidance of residential care mirrors the goals of the 2018 federal Family First Prevention Services Act.

MB: We realized that residential treatment was not the appropriate services for our primary population. That is what Illinois was doing – sending every kid who came out of prisons straight into residential, but many of the kids did not have serious mental health issues that needed residential treatment. It was really more, for lack of a better term, the street behavior. So they didn’t do well in residential. In fact many of them ran away, which violated their parole and they’d go back into prison. What we did was say “let’s put them where they want to go.” We know in foster care and child welfare that when kids run away, 99% of the time we know where they go – right back to relatives or whomever they deem as their family. So Illinois would cut them off from services, but we said “let’s give them the same level of service no matter where they’re at and put them where they’re going to run away to anyway.” Any time a child can be cared for in the least restrictive environment possible, that’s what’s appropriate.

Happy Birthday FFPSA! Now in Effect, New Law is Changing Child Welfare Services

Individuals, agencies and associations in the child welfare space have been preparing for the initial implementation date of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) even before it was signed into law in February of last year.

This act, which aims to change the face of child welfare in the United States, required implementation by October 1, 2019, unless a particular state opted to delay enforcing its provisions for up to two years. At last count, only nine states, plus the District of Columbia, are planning for early (2019) implementation of FFPSA.

For more than a year, Jennifer Flowers, CEO of Accreditation Guru, has delivered numerous presentations around the country about FFPSA’s accreditation mandate for a new category of congregate care providers: Qualified Residential Treatment Providers (QRTPs).

In addition to solo speaking appearances, she has moderated numerous panels with top administrators from the three accrediting bodies approved under FFPSA (CARF International, Council on Accreditation and The Joint Commission) at a variety of major conferences. Specifically, Jennifer has spoken for the Association of Children’s Residential Centers, Family Focused Treatment Association, Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Children’s Defense Fund, among many others.

It’s fitting that on October 1, the birthday of FFPSA’s implementation, Jennifer moderated a panel at the Texas Child Care Administrators Conference, which included panelists representing the three approved accrediting bodies as well as Kristene Blackstone, Associate Commissioner for Child Protective Services in Texas – one of the largest CPS programs in the nation. Following Jennifer’s summary of FFPSA and what it means to become a QRTP, the panel launched into a lively discussion about accreditation and the rollout of FFPSA in the State of Texas.

For more information about FFPSA, visit AG’s webpage devoted to this topic. And, for inquiries about assistance with preparing for national accreditation or for information about Jennifer Flowers speaking at your event, please contact Rocio@AccreditationGuru.com.

Why Hire a Consultant?

Individuals reach out to relatives, friends and other trusted advisors for relationship, financial or career help all the time. So why are many businesses reluctant to hire a consultant?

Some reasons for this resistance include institutional inertia, fear of seeming weak or ineffective and a lack of awareness that a different perspective can provide big dividends.

Companies that consider – or are required – to seek accreditation may think that the process is just a rubber stamp and underestimate the task ahead.

Though many boards and executives only contemplate hiring a consultant when things go south, there are many good reasons to get advice from an experienced consultant when the situation warrants.

Growing Pains

Here’s a familiar scenario in the non-profit world: the board is raising money, staff is hired and the vision is being executed. However, growing demand for services outstrips the capacity of the organization to scale up.

In other cases, the mission expands into new, related opportunities that pull non-profits into unforeseen directions.

These seem like good problems to have, but when you’re faced with an unexpected crisis or an overload of decisions to be made, having a consultant who can see through the fog and help vet options is invaluable.

Few non-profits possess the capacity to undertake their own competitive and/or market research to support decision-making, help your team develop an action plan and set goals and priorities.

Conflict Resolution

It happens all the time: two powerful individuals or factions within an organization clash over direction or policy. Is providing human services to the vulnerable enough or should the non-profit lobby for new laws to deal with the underlying issues causing the problems?

There is a reason why arbitrators, mediators and the court system exist: to serve as neutral, unbiased third-party judges to either make a decision or help develop an agreement for moving forward.

When different opinions hinder the ability of board and staff leaders to settle on priorities, paid consultants can help organizations move beyond the debate, try to develop a consensus and get back on track to fulfill the organization’s original mission. And they cost a lot less than lawyers.

Navigating the Unknown

Leadership transitions or succession issues can tear non-profits apart. This is one reason why sports teams have coaches: when the top players move on or retire, the deck has to be reshuffled. Professional facilitators can help develop a strategic plan and prepare your board and staff leadership for seamless change and determine the best path to ensure future stability.

Through the Viewfinder

When competing priorities or sudden crises emerge, consultants can help focus on the most important ways to deal with adversity. They can be tasked with developing a ranked, detailed action plan throughout the collaboration so that there’s buy-in from every level of your organization.

For help getting everyone to share goals, implement effective tactics, develop timelines and achieve measurable outcomes, consultants are in a unique position to rally the forces and foster lasting growth and sustainability.

Time Savings

When it comes to navigating the accreditation process, hiring the right consultant can save time (and money).

At Accreditation Guru, our team experts have gained valuable and actionable experience in the field. They know exactly what the accrediting bodies are looking for and how best to compile organization data and information.

But achieving accreditation is an involved process that will require your employees to spend less time on their day-to-day responsibilities. To ensure efficient time management, our consultants go beyond providing training functions and serve as sounding boards to answer questions from staff so no one is spinning their wheels or getting lost in a rabbit hole trying to figure out what the accreditation standards mean.

Rather than serve as a sign of weakness, hiring consultants marks a bold, brave move that can provide lasting benefits far beyond the immediate cost. And achieving accreditation will help increase credibility and stability. Don’t leave your destiny to chance!

To schedule a call with Jennifer Flowers for your accreditation needs, contact us at Info@AccreditationGuru.com or 212.209.0240.

Team Member Highlight – Bobbie Lison

Bobbie has been a peer surveyor and team leader at the Council on Accreditation for more than ten years. She has reviewed a variety of agencies, including nonprofit, religious and military organizations.

Her areas of concentration include, but are not limited to, Performance and Quality Improvement (PQI) programs and Financial Education and Counseling Services (FEC).

Since 2000, she has served as operations manager, program manager and PQI chair for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she led the agency through two successful re-accreditations. She also sits on several local boards and committees.

Bobbie believes that earning and maintaining accreditation allows agencies to affirm what they are doing well and offers organizations the opportunity to strengthen their services through nationally accepted best practices.

Outside of her work, Bobbie enjoys being with family, running marathons and embarking on new adventures. Her family consists of her daughter, Tina, two sons, Colin and McKenzie. She has an amazing son-in-law, Kevin, and a granddaughter, Annika, who has stolen her heart.

Bobbie is fortunate to enjoy travel through work and when doing so, she makes it a point to challenge herself by trying things outside of her comfort zone. She has surfed, paddle boarded, climbed mountains, zip-lined, flown in an gyro-copter and participated in disaster responses.

Bobbie shares this quote: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

We are fortunate to have Bobbie as an AG team member.

EAGLE Recognized now as an Approved Accreditor for QRTPs Under the Family First Prevention Services Act

On May 15, it was announced that EAGLE Accreditation Program is recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services as an approved accreditor for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). As we have discussed here, FFPSA, which passed in February 2018, allows federal funds to be spent on preventative services to help keep families together and also restricts funding on congregate care or group homes for children and youth who require removal from their families. In part, FFPSA mandates that all residential treatment providers convert to QRTPs, a new licensing category, in order to be eligible for reimbursement through Title IV-E foster care funds after the first two weeks of child placement.

One of the requirements to become a QRTP is to be accredited by CARF, COA, The Joint Commission and now, for the first time, EAGLE Accreditation.

EAGLE, which stands for Educational Assessment Guidelines Leading toward Excellence, is the only faith-based accrediting body in the country. It focuses on ministries serving older adults, children, youth and families, and those with developmental disabilities with emphasis on excellence, quality and how applicant organizations incorporate their Christian mission, religious heritage and values throughout the organization and its daily operations. EAGLE accreditation has provided an option for faith-based organizations since 1984.

The EAGLE Accreditation Program is operated by the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries (UMA).

“We are proud of this recognition for EAGLE,” said Mary Kemper, president and CEO of UMA. “As an accreditor of faith-based organizations for more than 40 years, EAGLE has a solid history of promoting excellence with the added focus on organizations’ faith-based mission, vision and values.”

For questions about EAGLE or other accrediting bodies and for assistance preparing your organization to become a Qualified Residential Treatment Program, please contact Accreditation Guru at Info@AccreditationGuru.com.

For more information about FFPSA, visit our FFPSA Resource Page and blog.

For full press release click here.

The Advantages of Accreditation

Some human service agencies view accreditation as a luxury. Others see it as a hassle. Yet the benefits are undeniable.

Achieving national accreditation announces to the world that your organization strives to be the best it can be. That’s hard work, but the process sets you on the course for long-term greatness.

Attempting to cultivate a culture of excellence and reach lofty goals enhances your reputation, but accreditation also offers more practical benefits: it’s a reliable way to increase revenue and decrease costs, objectives that are valued by almost every human service agency.

Accreditation Requirements

Due to the advent of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), many child welfare organizations that provide residential, out-of-home care and seek federal government funds are required to be accredited, a mandate that takes effect beginning in October of this year (though states have the option to delay the process for up to two years).

Several states also require that various types of service providers become accredited as a qualifying step toward earning their license or receiving higher reimbursement rates.

Culture of Excellence

Without question, accreditation signals to potential funders and clients that your organization adheres to high standards, internal cohesion and exemplary service delivery.

Other benefits include improved internal and external stakeholder communication and enriched staff training programs that, in part, lead to enhanced services to clients.

The results of a questionnaire sponsored by the Council on Accreditation affirm these assertions:

* 94 percent of respondents agree that the process “improves transparency and accountability”

* 86 percent contend that it “improved outcomes for the people they serve”

* 90 percent acknowledge that it “improved their quality of services”

Gaining accreditation from a prominent agency also demonstrates your commitment to reach beyond the minimum licensing standards and maintain strong management, program consistency, financial controls, outcome measurements and continuous improvement.

Financial Incentives and Quality Improvement

Beyond the cultural benefits to earning accreditation, there are more practical reasons to seek this distinction. According to The Joint Commission, a prominent accrediting agency, the accomplishment beefs up your bottom line by increasing reimbursement rates, in part by reducing paperwork preparation time.

Accreditation forces organizations to focus on quality improvement and measure outputs and outcomes of deliverables, which both funders and stakeholders are increasingly demanding.

Planning service offerings and maintaining meticulous documentation can attract additional recognition and funding sources from governments, foundations, grant makers and individual donors.

It also boosts referral volume. The Joint Commission contends that other positive outcomes include an increased “ability to work with a broad array of clients” that improves “an organization’s ability to participate in referral networks, thus potentially increasing the value of referrals.”

The Joint Commission further found that “payers want to work with organizations that provide high quality services, which helps elevate their brand” and pay public relations and marketing dividends.

Accreditation decreases risk due to the development of management plans, which in turn lowers liability and insurance costs. Data collection, an increased effectiveness of care and improved intake billing also streamline costs.

A recent study sponsored by CARF International, another accrediting body, compiled startling statistics demonstrating that CARF-accredited programs experienced a 26 percent increase in persons served annually, a 37 percent increase in conformance to quality standards and a 37 percent increase in annual budget dollars programs from before their first survey as compared to their latest survey.

Accreditation in Action™

“The accreditation and re-accreditation process helped us raise the bar for our staff and the population that we serve,” said Hughes Johnson, managing director of compliance and performance improvement at Memphis-based Youth Villages, which operates in 14 states across the country, shared his organization’s experiences with accreditation.

“It’s a tough process with a large number of standards, but it helped us develop a defined policy that holds us accountable.”

According to Elizabeth Carey, president and CEO at Starr Commonwealth, which offers programs for children and families in Albion, Michigan, her organization is dedicated to “performing at the highest levels for the children, families and communities we serve.” Therefore, “achieving and maintaining accreditation is a critical factor to ensuring high quality.”

The Payoff

Many human services agencies claim that they adhere to upholding high ethical and client service standards.

Far from being a chore, achieving accreditation has become a necessity for all human service organizations participating in today’s competitive environment. In addition to sending a definitive sign that quality and consistent professionalism permeate your organization’s culture, it offers tangible benefits that pay dividends every day.

For more information or for assistance with becoming nationally accredited, contact us at info@AccreditationGuru.com.