COA Accreditation

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

The timeline for achieving full-organization accreditation takes on average 12-18 months. There are multiple variables that affect this timeline depending on the type of organization and existing resources and processes currently in place. To get an idea of the various milestones and timing for first-time accreditees, check out our Site Visit Date Calculator.

There are only two fees – the accreditation fee and site visit fee.  The accreditation fee depends on the type and size of the organization. If you are a member of one of our Network Champions, you are eligible for a 25% discount off your accreditation fee.

As always, our standards remain free and are openly available to review at any time.

Contact us directly if you are looking for accreditation fee information.

While there is overlap, accreditation, licensing, and certification are not interchangeable terms – they each have a unique meaning and implication.


  • Accreditation is both a process and a credential
  • The accreditation process is voluntary
  • Only organizations, agencies, or programs can be accredited
  • Accreditation signifies that an organization or program is effectively managing its resources and providing the best possible services.


  • Licensing exists primarily for public safety and the well-being of consumers
  • Typically, licensing is involuntary
  • Individuals, facilities, programs, organizations or agencies can be licensed

Individuals are often licensed by their respective state to practice counseling, social work, psychology, or nursing. Organizations may need to be licensed in order to provide a specific service such as services for substance use disorders or residential treatment. Practitioners and programs are required to be licensed or face penalties, including suspension or closing of the agency.


  • Certification demonstrates the capability to provide a specialized service or particular program
  • Typically, certification is voluntary, but sometimes regulatory bodies require certification in order to provide a specific service
  • Individuals, facilities, programs, organizations or agencies can obtain certification

Certifications at the organizational level can definitely vary, including the terminology. Some structured evidence-based models require certification. In these cases, the certification can be called “authorized provider” or “approved site.”

As always, our standards remain free and are openly available to review at any time.

We accredit the full continuum of child welfare, behavioral health, and community-based social and human services. We currently accredit more than 1,700 organizations and programs serving more than 11 million individuals and families.

We have separate accreditation programs for private organizations, public agencies, Canadian organizations, child and youth development programs, and adoption home study programs.

Regulators, such as funders, insurance providers, contract administrators, and legislative bodies, use COA Accreditation to set the bar for quality service delivery.

A recognition is created when an oversight entity, such as a regulator, funder, insurance provider, contract administrator, or legislative body, acknowledges, accepts, or requires the accreditation of an organization or program. The regulator may use accreditation to determine licensing, certification, contracting, or funding, among other things.

Human services organizations can realize additional benefits of COA Accreditation by taking advantage of applicable recognitions, including deemed statuses, mandates, and quality rating improvement systems/tiered reimbursement systems. COA Accreditation is currently recognized by oversight entities in 50 U.S. States and in Canadian territories.

Yes! COA Accreditation is an approved accrediting body for QRTPs under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).

We’ve had a number of organizations report that they find the Performance and Quality Improvement (PQI) process challenging. Not to worry–we have a robust cache trainings available to help guide you through the process.

We are glad you asked. Finding the right fit for your organization is paramount. We’ve created this handy comparison guide to help better inform your decision.

It all starts with a conversation about what accreditation takes and which accreditation program will be right for you. Simply fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch.

For Public Agencies

You can view a full overview of the accreditation process here.

This varies significantly by agency, and is impacted by the agency’s readiness for accreditation, including the capacity that it can devote to the accreditation process and the degree of alignment that it has to COA Accreditation’s standards. Because these factors can vary, COA Accreditation works collaboratively with each agency’s point-of-contact to establish an achievable accreditation timeline, including the due date for its submission of the Self-Study.

Some agencies choose to use COA Accreditation’s Readiness Assessment (ARA) to gauge readiness for and identify critical investments that can support the accreditation process. Find more information about the readiness assessment here.

The decision about whether additional staff is necessary is specific to each agency. COA Accreditation does not require that additional staff be hired for the accreditation process. However, COA Accreditation asks that each agency designate a point of contact. In many instances, current staff from various departments lead the accreditation process. Frequently, the responsibility to lead this process falls to staff in an agency’s quality assurance department, if one exists.

While your agency may or may not choose to hire staff, high-quality engagement in the accreditation process can facilitate other agency goals. Accreditation reviews an agency’s administration and management, service delivery administration, and service delivery practices, and, as result, prompts an agency to engage staff at all levels and across functions. Working in this way can help an agency to facilitate interagency dialogue and serve as a basis for continuous improvement arising from the accreditation process.

COA Accreditation standards, as a reflection of research-informed best practices within their related field of service, often overlap with the practices that are assessed in external reviews. However, given important differences in the scope of practices reviewed and the length and frequency of both types of reviews, COA Accreditation and external reviews serve different, but complementary purposes. Accreditation provides an agency with a comprehensive review of its operations that can help the agency to better align its policies, procedures, and practices and fuel systemic change across an agency’s administrative and service delivery practices. This approach can complement the sole focus on service-level practices that are often the target of external reviews.

Agencies that are mandated to become accredited have the option to a) have the entire agency (including all programs for which COA Accreditation has service standards) participate in the accreditation process or b) only have those programs that are required to be reviewed by the mandate participate in the accreditation process. In either instance, the agency will respond to all applicable administration and management, service delivery administration, and service standards.