Just mention of the word ‘accreditation’ stirs emotions for the people involved in its undertaking in any organization. Some of the emotions, like frustration, exhaustion, elation and relief, are expected, and others, like anxiety and fear, are not. During the 14-month process, anything can happen—and it often does.
In this instance, however, we’re proud to announce we recently were awarded accreditation by the Council on Accreditation for a four-year term ending in 2025. Our organization was accredited for the first time in 2003 and we were re-upped in 2007. If you know our organization’s history, you know we suspended operations in 2009, so our last accreditation expired in 2011.
The first step in this 14-month process is the most involved and laborious—the collection of self-study evidence. During this period, Good Will-Hinckley combs over accreditation standards and pulls evidence of meeting each of them. Once we finish analyzing our policies, programs and systems, we upload the evidence onto the COA portal. In total, there are 13 standards and 105 required pieces of evidence to support the sets. It’s a lot of work!
The importance to GWH of becoming accredited through COA cannot be overstated. It allows us to carefully assess our current practices and elevate our work to national standards. Our delivery of services continues to improve, but that goes way beyond being licensed.
Accreditation builds better documentation of policies and procedures, and it demonstrates a high level of commitment to quality—and that gives our programs and organizations even more visibility. Being accredited is also helps recruit and retain highly qualified and credentialed staff.
Above all, being accredited ensures we fulfill our mission of helping boys and girls in need. The youth we serve each day are the direct beneficiaries of all we do.
Trust the Process
An exercise this significant involved the entire organization. Throughout the many months of evidence collection, we spent extra hours re-writing policies, adjusting protocols and revamping systems to meet the requirements of accreditation.
We submitted our last piece of evidence on New Year’s Eve 2020, a perfect cause for celebration. But there’s not a lot of time to bask, because once the self-study was submitted, we moved on to the collection of on-site evidence. Because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the site visit was virtual, and a team of two reviewers held 17 Zoom meetings with staff from different departments. Then, an accreditation team leader visited our campus in February—all the way from Nebraska.
There are two paths to accreditation: most organizations have findings, meaning the committee notes that there are things to be adjusted or improved before a specific standard can be met. In other, much rarer cases, findings are minimal or there are no findings at all, and accreditation can be expedited. I’m proud to say that the review team reported no findings to the Council and our accreditation was fast-tracked and approved.
It’s been a long, arduous process, but everyone at the organization can be proud. And in the end, the children we serve will benefit greatly from attending an accredited program.
Great job, everybody!