2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services Definition

Purpose

Youth who participate in Wilderness and Adventure-based Therapeutic Outdoor Services expand individual capabilities, develop self-confidence and insight, ameliorate symptoms, and improve interpersonal skills and relationships.

Definition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services are day or residential programs that provide an intensive, therapeutic experience based on outdoor, educational, clinical, and other activities that involve physical and psychological challenges.

Note:WT Standards do not apply to day or summer camps that do not have a strong therapeutic focus.


Note:Please see WT Reference List for the research that informed the development of these standards.


Note:For information about changes made in the 2020 Edition, please see the WT Crosswalk.


2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 1: Person-Centered Logic Model

The organization implements a program logic model that describes how resources and program activities will support the achievement of positive outcomes.
NotePlease see the Logic Model Template for additional guidance on this standard.  
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.

Logic models have been implemented for all programs and the organization has identified at least two outcomes for all its programs.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,  
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • Logic models need improvement or clarification; or
  • Logic models are still under development for some of its programs, but are completed for all high-risk programs such as protective services, foster care, residential treatment, etc.; or
  • At least one client outcome has been identified for all of its programs; or
  • All but a few staff have been trained on use of therapeutic interventions and training is scheduled for the rest; or
  • With few exceptions the policy on prohibited interventions is understood by staff, or the written policy needs minor clarification.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Logic models need significant improvement; or
  • Logic models are still under development for a majority of programs; or
  • A logic model has not been developed for one or more high-risk programs; or
  • Outcomes have not been identified for one or more programs; or
  • Several staff have not been trained on the use of therapeutic interventions; or
  • There are gaps in monitoring of therapeutic interventions, as required; or
  • There is no process for identifying risks associated with use of therapeutic interventions; or
  • Policy on prohibited interventions does not include at least one of the required elements.
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Logic models have not been developed or implemented; or
  • Outcomes have not been identified for any programs; or
  • There is no written policy or procedures for the use of therapeutic interventions; or 
  • Procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation on therapeutic interventions is routinely incomplete and/or missing; or
  • There is evidence that clients have been harmed by inappropriate or unmonitored use of therapeutic interventions.
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • See program description completed during intake
  • Program logic model that includes a list of client outcomes being measured
  • Procedures for the use of therapeutic interventions
  • Policy for prohibited interventions
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel

 

WT 1.01

A program logic model, or equivalent framework, identifies:
  1. needs the program will address;
  2. available human, financial, organizational, and community resources (i.e. inputs);
  3. program activities intended to bring about desired results;
  4. program outputs (i.e. the size and scope of services delivered); 
  5. desired outcomes (i.e. the changes you expect to see in service recipients); and
  6. expected long-term impact on the organization, community, and/or system.
Examples: Please see the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide and COA’s PQI Tool Kit for more information on developing and using program logic models.  

Examples: Information that may be used to inform the development of the program model includes, but is not limited to: 
  1. needs assessments and periodic reassessments; 
  2. risks assessments conducted for specific interventions; and 
  3. the best available evidence of service effectiveness.

 

WT 1.02

The logic model identifies client outcomes in at least two of the following areas:
  1. change in clinical status;
  2. change in functional status;
  3. health, welfare, and safety;
  4. permanency of life situation; 
  5. quality of life; 
  6. achievement of individual service goals; and 
  7. other outcomes as appropriate to the program or service population.

Interpretation: Outcomes data should be disaggregated to identify patterns of disparity or inequity that can be masked by aggregate data reporting. See PQI 5.02 for more information on disaggregating data to track and monitor identified outcomes. 


 
Fundamental Practice

WT 1.03

The organization:
  1. ensures personnel are trained on therapeutic interventions prior to coming in contact with the service population;
  2. monitors the use and effectiveness of therapeutic interventions;
  3. identifies potential risks associated with therapeutic interventions and takes appropriate steps to minimize risk, when necessary; and
  4. discontinues an intervention immediately if it produces adverse side effects or is deemed unacceptable according to prevailing professional standards.

Note: Therapeutic Interventions do not include restrictive behavior management techniques, which are addressed in Behavior Support and Management (BSM ). Please see the glossary definition for Therapeutic Interventions for additional guidance on this standard.


 
Fundamental Practice

WT 1.04

Organization policy prohibits:
  1. corporal punishment;
  2. the use of aversive stimuli;
  3. interventions that involve withholding nutrition or hydration, or that inflict physical or psychological pain;
  4. the use of demeaning, shaming, or degrading language or activities;
  5. unnecessarily punitive restrictions including cancellation of visits as a disciplinary action;
  6. forced physical exercise to eliminate behaviors;
  7. unwarranted use of invasive procedures or activities as a disciplinary action;
  8. punitive work assignments;
  9. punishment by peers; and
  10. group punishment or discipline for individual behavior.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 2: Personnel

Program personnel have the competency and support needed to provide services and meet the needs of youth.
Interpretation: Competency can be demonstrated through education, training, or experience. Support can be provided through supervision or other learning activities to improve understanding or skill development in specific areas.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,  
  • With some exceptions, staff (direct service providers, supervisors, and program managers) possess the required qualifications, including education, experience, training, skills, temperament, etc., but the integrity of the service is not compromised; or
  • Supervisors provide additional support and oversight, as needed, to the few staff without the listed qualifications; or 
  • Most staff who do not meet educational requirements are seeking to obtain them; or 
  • With few exceptions, staff have received required training, including applicable specialized training; or
  • Training curricula are not fully developed or lack depth; or
  • Training documentation is consistently maintained and kept up-to-date with some exceptions; or
  • A substantial number of supervisors meet the requirements of the standard, and the organization provides training and/or consultation to improve competencies when needed; or
  • With few exceptions, caseload sizes are consistently maintained as required by the standards or as required by internal policy when caseload has not been set by a standard; or
  • Workloads are such that staff can effectively accomplish their assigned tasks and provide quality services and are adjusted as necessary; or
  • Specialized services are obtained as required by the standards.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.  Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • A significant number of staff (direct service providers, supervisors, and program managers) do not possess the required qualifications, including education, experience, training, skills, temperament, etc.; and as a result, the integrity of the service may be compromised; or
  • Job descriptions typically do not reflect the requirements of the standards, and/or hiring practices do not document efforts to hire staff with required qualifications when vacancies occur; or 
  • Supervisors do not typically provide additional support and oversight to staff without the listed qualifications; or
  • A significant number of staff have not received required training, including applicable specialized training; or
  • Training documentation is poorly maintained; or
  • A significant number of supervisors do not meet the requirements of the standard, and the organization makes little effort to provide training and/or consultation to improve competencies; or
  • There are numerous instances where caseload sizes exceed the standards' requirements or the requirements of internal policy when a caseload size is not set by the standard; or
  • Workloads are excessive, and the integrity of the service may be compromised; or 
  • Specialized staff are typically not retained as required and/or many do not possess the required qualifications; or
  • Specialized services are infrequently obtained as required by the standards.
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards.
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • List of program personnel that includes:
    • Title
    • Name
    • Employee, volunteer, or independent contractor
    • Degree or other qualifications
    • Time in current position
  • See organizational chart submitted during application
  • Table of contents of training curricula
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Review personnel files

 

WT 2.01

All group leaders, instructors, or persons assuming responsibility for individual or group supervision of youth must be at least 21 years of age.

 

WT 2.02

Clinical oversight is provided by a professional with:
  1. an advanced degree in a mental health field, therapeutic or experiential education, or another human service field;
  2. appropriate licensure; and
  3. experience in the field of therapeutic, adventure programming.
NA The organization does not provide clinical services.

 

WT 2.03

Individuals responsible for on-site program coordination and supervision of personnel are qualified by at least three years of progressively responsible experience in an outdoor adventure service for at-risk or troubled youth.
Examples: On-site program coordination and supervision of personnel can be provided by the individual responsible for clinical oversight.

 

WT 2.04

Personnel include at least one mental health professional in a management or supervisory role who:
  1. provides or arranges for the direct clinical services specified in the service plan; and
  2. facilitates collaboration with external service providers.
NA The organization does not provide clinical services.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 2.05

Individuals who assume responsibility for supervision of youth in the field are trained on, or demonstrate competency in:
  1. navigating and operating in a given terrain;
  2. using materials and equipment employed in the field;
  3. interpreting and responding to changes in weather and environmental conditions; 
  4. improvising solutions to unanticipated problems and emergencies in the field such as environmental hazards, harmful plants or animals, and extreme weather conditions; and
  5. conducting medical evacuation, when applicable.

 

WT 2.06

Group leaders and direct service personnel are trained on, or demonstrate competency in:
  1. providing an appropriate environment for youth to carry out their role in the overall service program;
  2. guiding youth in their development and their ability to use service resources;
  3. engaging in therapeutic interactions with youth;
  4. teaching experientially and serving as effective role models;
  5. communicating effectively with youth and personnel; and
  6. facilitating the transfer of learning and developing insight through the therapeutic outdoor experience.

 

WT 2.07

Direct service personnel are trained on, or demonstrate competency in:
  1. normal growth and development;
  2. behavioral and emotional problems typical of the service population including risks associated with suicide, eating disorders, cutting, and impulsivity;
  3. alcohol and other drug problems;
  4. behavior dynamics and needs of youth who have experienced abuse or neglect;
  5. how to identify youth at risk of being sexually victimized;
  6. how to manage acting out behavior of a sexual nature; and
  7. the effects of attachment, separation, and loss.

 

WT 2.08

Individuals responsible for on-site program coordination and supervision of personnel are trained on, or demonstrate competency in:
  1. knowledge of adolescent development;
  2. technical competence and safety skills;
  3. problem-solving and leadership skills, sound judgment, and capabilities in interpersonal communication and group facilitation; and
  4. skills in the use of outdoor experiences for therapeutic purposes.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 2.09

Personnel complete:
  1. 40 hours of orientation and experiential or classroom training and demonstrate competency in all skill sets before assuming primary responsibility for a group;
  2. 40 hours a year of ongoing clinical and therapeutic outdoor training; and
  3. additional training to address specific types of activities and to maintain certification in specific areas, as appropriate to individual responsibilities.
Interpretation: In the absence of state certification requirements, the organization should define criteria for certifying personnel and evaluating level of competence.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 2.10

Before assignment as a group leader or assistant, the organization provides and documents in the personnel record:
  1. supervised field experiences;
  2. competency testing; and
  3. certification in the area of assigned responsibility, when certification is available.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 2.11

Personnel must receive training at least every two years in first aid and age-appropriate CPR that includes an in-person, hands-on CPR skills assessment conducted by a certified CPR instructor before assuming primary responsibility for a group.

 

WT 2.12

Depending on the needs of youth, the organization provides or arranges for the services of qualified professionals in dentistry, medicine, education, nursing, speech, dietetics, and religion.
Interpretation: Thresholds for such services should be spelled out clearly in the program description, during informed consent, or in the individualized service plan. Consulting services from qualified professionals and specialists can be available on an informal basis or through linkages with community organizations. When the organization uses a consultant, it must ensure that consulting services are coordinated with services provide by the organization. Organizations in remote locations, where certain professional resources are unavailable, can demonstrate implementation of the standard if they make alternative arrangements such as transporting youth. If an extremely large number of youth have a need, the organization must recruit an employee to meet that need.

 

WT 2.13

Employee workloads support the achievement of client outcomes and are regularly reviewed.
Examples: Factors that may be considered when determining employee workloads include, but are not limited to:
  1. the qualifications, competencies, and experience of the worker, including the level of supervision needed;
  2. the work and time required to accomplish assigned tasks and job responsibilities; and
  3. service volume, accounting for assessed level of needs of youth.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 3: Access to Service

Services are available to youth with personal, social, or developmental needs that can be met through wilderness and adventure-based therapeutic outdoor activities.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Admission procedures
  • Policy on prohibited items
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 3.01

Prior to providing consent, parents or legal guardians, referral or placing representatives, and youth, whenever possible, receive information about:
  1. the type of adventure activities youth will undertake;
  2. program activity participation requirements;
  3. educational options; and
  4. any actual or perceived risks.
Examples: Program activity participation requirements can include whether (1) the program has a “challenge by choice” philosophy, (2) youth will be required to complete all or most elements of the experience, or (3) alternative activities can be used to accomplish the same goals to ensure that the person granting informed consent understands in advance this feature of the program.

 

WT 3.02

The organization engages youth and their families and/or legal guardians in an admission process that includes:
  1. helping youth and their families to understand the reasons for admission; 
  2. preparing youth to join the program, and providing a pre-admission visit whenever possible;
  3. obtaining written, informed consent from parents or legal guardians and, whenever possible, youth; and
  4. adherence to intake criteria, assessment requirements, and procedures for group integration, whenever admissions are expedited.

 

WT 3.03

The organization describes:
  1. personal items youth may bring with them, consistent with a safe, therapeutic setting;
  2. items that are discouraged or prohibited; and
  3. any safety procedures the program follows, or consequences that can result, when prohibited items are brought to the program site.
Interpretation: Given the rise in information and communication technologies, organizations must specify in their admission materials what electronic devices are permitted and prohibited.
Examples: Permitted personal items will vary as appropriate to the program’s design but can include photos, books, cellphones, computers, other electronics, or clothing.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 4: Intake and Assessment

The organization’s intake and assessment practices ensure that youth receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • In a few rare instances, urgent needs were not prioritized; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Culturally responsive assessments are the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Urgent needs are often not prioritized; or 
  • Services are frequently not initiated in a timely manner; or
  • Applicants are not receiving referrals, as appropriate; or 
  • Assessment and reassessment timeframes are often missed; or
  • Assessments are sometimes not sufficiently individualized; 
  • Culturally responsive assessments are not the norm, and this is not being addressed in supervision or training; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • Intake or assessment is done by another organization or referral source and no documentation and/or summary of required information is present in case record. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • There are no written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.  
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Screening and intake procedures
  • Assessment procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records

 

WT 4.01

Youth and families are screened and informed about:
  1. how well their request matches the organization’s services; and
  2. what services will be available, and when.
NA Another organization is responsible for screening, as defined in a contract.

 

WT 4.02

The organization determines if the service and specific activities are appropriate for each youth based on the following criteria:
  1. physical, social, developmental, and mental health status;
  2. interpersonal relationships and social skills;
  3. prior treatment history and experience with outdoor programming;
  4. the appropriateness of adventure-based therapeutic outdoor services to address the individual’s needs; and
  5. other significant factors.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 4.03

Prompt, responsive intake practices:
  1. gather information necessary to identify critical service needs and/or determine when a more intensive service is necessary;
  2. give priority to urgent needs and emergency situations;
  3. support timely initiation of services; and
  4. provide for placement on a waiting list or referral to appropriate resources when youth cannot be served or cannot be served promptly.

 

WT 4.04

Youth and families participate in an individualized, culturally and linguistically responsive assessment that is:
  1. completed within established timeframes;
  2. updated as needed based on the needs of the youth; and
  3. focused on information pertinent for meeting service requests and objectives.

Interpretation: The Assessment Matrix - Private, Public, Canadian, Network determines which level of assessment is required for COA’s Service Sections. The assessment elements of the Matrix can be tailored according to the needs of specific individuals or service design.

2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 5: Service Planning and Monitoring

Youth participate in the development and ongoing review of a service plan that is the basis for delivery of appropriate services and support.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • In a few instances, client or staff signatures are missing and/or not dated; or
  • With few exceptions, staff work with persons served, when appropriate, to help them receive needed support, access services, mediate barriers, etc.; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • In several instances, client or staff signatures are missing and/or not dated; or
  • Quarterly reviews are not being done consistently; or
  • Level of care for some clients is clearly inappropriate; or
  • Service planning is often done without full client participation; or
  • Appropriate family involvement is not documented; or  
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing; or
  • Individual staff members work with persons served, when appropriate, to help them receive needed support, access services, mediate barriers, etc., but this is the exception.
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.  
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Service planning and monitoring procedures
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records

 

WT 5.01

An initial service plan is developed with the youth, whenever possible, within 2 days of admission and a comprehensive, individualized service plan is developed within 30 days.

 

WT 5.02

An interdisciplinary team develops an assessment-based service plan with the full participation of the youth, and their family when appropriate, that includes:
  1. agreed upon goals, desired outcomes, and timeframes for achieving them;
  2. services and supports to be provided, and by whom;
  3. possibilities for maintaining and strengthening family relationships and other informal social networks;
  4. procedures for expedited service planning when crisis or urgent need is identified; and
  5. signatures from the youth and their parent or legal guardian.

 

WT 5.03

The organization addresses permanency planning in the service plan by:
  1. identifying permanency goal(s) and activities or supporting the permanency plan identified by the custodial agency;
  2. reviewing the permanency plan quarterly to assess progress towards agreed upon goals;
  3. providing the youth with age appropriate information about his or her parents and progress toward reunification; and
  4. providing parents or the custodial agent with information, resources, and support for reunification.
Interpretation: Public and private agency roles in the permanency planning process are defined by state rules, regulations, or contracts. When the organization is not responsible for facilitating permanency planning, it should document attempts to participate in the process.
NA The organization does not provide out-of-home care for youth in custody of a public agency.

 

WT 5.04

An interdisciplinary team works in active partnership with youth and their families to:
  1. assume responsibility for coordinating medical, social, psychological, and other evaluations; 
  2. share the service plan with other providers working directly with youth; 
  3. ensure that youth receive appropriate advocacy support;
  4. assist with access to the full array of services to which youth are eligible; and
  5. mediate barriers to services within the service delivery system.

 

WT 5.05

The worker and a supervisor, or a clinical, service, or peer team, review the case quarterly, or more frequently depending on the needs of youth, to assess:
  1. service plan implementation;
  2. progress toward achieving goals and desired outcomes; and
  3. the continuing appropriateness of the agreed upon service goals.
Interpretation: When experienced workers are conducting reviews of their own cases, the worker's supervisor must review a sample of the worker's evaluations as per the requirements of the standard.

 

WT 5.06

The worker and youth, and his or her family when appropriate:
  1. review progress toward achievement of agreed upon goals; and 
  2. sign revisions to service goals and plans.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 6: Family Connections

The youth, family, and organization work together to determine an optimal level of family connection including involvement in treatment activities.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Family handbook or other material describing family involvement
  • Procedures for communicating emergency messages
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records

 

WT 6.01

The organization encourages active family participation, and arranges for family counseling, unless such involvement is contraindicated by the service plan.

 

WT 6.02

The organization helps youth:
  1. resolve conflicts in family relationships;
  2. cope with family separation;
  3. identify family strengths to help members meet challenges;
  4. maintain relationships with family members through visits and shared activities;
  5. prepare for return to the family, if appropriate;
  6. participate in family and neighborhood activities; and
  7. connect with ongoing, post-discharge support services.

 

WT 6.03

When operating in remote sites, the organization:
  1. receives and transmits emergency messages from family members or the responsible placing organization to youth or personnel; and 
  2. immediately informs sender if this cannot be done promptly.
NA The organization does not operate in remote sites.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 7: Program Activities

Program activities are designed to meet individual needs, build on strengths, develop skills, and promote learning through experience.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Procedures for tailoring activities to the abilities of youth
  • Policy on coercion/force
  • Policy on religious and spiritual observances
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records
  • Observe group activities

 

WT 7.01

The organization provides a structured, therapeutic, interdisciplinary program that includes:
  1. an orderly, planned series of activities to help youth develop positive personal and interpersonal skills and behaviors;
  2. therapeutic, developmentally appropriate, experiential activities;
  3. individual, family, and/or group psychotherapy by qualified mental health professionals when indicated in the service plan and as appropriate to the youth’s needs, length of stay, and accessibility to clinical personnel; and
  4. educational services, when applicable.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 7.02

The organization tailors activities to the abilities of youth by: 
  1. planning, adjusting, and graduating experiences to a level of difficulty appropriate for the skill level and capacities of youth;
  2. teaching needed skills and techniques progressively;
  3. providing appropriate support and supervision for less-skilled youth; and
  4. pacing group activities according to the capabilities of the least able or fit member of the team.

 

WT 7.03

The organization prohibits:
  1. the use of coercion or force to induce youth to engage in a specific adventure-based activity; and
  2. deliberately limiting reasonable options or alternatives to participation.
Interpretation: Organizations are not required to obtain pro-formal verbal agreements for each activity and sub-activity, but must take any strong objections from youth seriously, and examine all implications, such as illness or skill level, and offer encouragement to participate, when needed. 

Interpretation: Organizations that make use of “escort services” to transport youth to any of their programs, sites, and facilities must provide: a complete description of the breadth and scope of such services; referral procedures; how the services are certified, licensed, or regulated by governmental authority or overseen by other mechanisms; and how the organization maintains compliance with this standard. The organization must use only services that are appropriately insured.

 

WT 7.04

Personnel help youth to learn from their experiences and integrate acquired skills into practice by engaging youth in daily debriefing sessions and formal and informal discussions.
Interpretation: Discussions focused on evaluating individual client needs should be recorded in the case record. Discussions regarding group dynamics and environmental concerns should be recorded in a guide or therapist log.

 

WT 7.05

The program accommodates the religious and spiritual observances of youth to the greatest extent possible given the service setting.
NA Services are not provided in a residential setting.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 8: Health Services

Youth receive a health assessment, needed health services, and guidance that promotes good health.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Initial health screening procedures
  • Procedures for the coordination and provision of healthcare examinations and services
  • Procedures for sharing health information with service personnel
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records
  • Verify employment or agreement with physician or other qualified medical practitioner

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 8.01

An initial health screening is conducted by a qualified medical practitioner for all participants within 24 hours of admission to identify the need for immediate medical care and assess for communicable disease.
Interpretation: Qualified medical practitioner refers to a licensed physician, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or other healthcare professional that is permitted by law and the organization to provide medical care and services without direction or supervision. For the purposes of this standard, qualified medical practitioners are distinct from other clinicians who are not permitted by law to provide medical care and services without direction or supervision (e.g., clinical social workers, licensed vocational/practical nurses, and medical assistants). To meet the standard, the initial medical screening must be administered by a qualified medical practitioner.

If the organization does not have a qualified medical practitioner on staff, it should research community resources and consider creating a formal arrangement or a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a local physicians group, local health department, federally-qualified health center, urgent care clinic, community-based health clinic, or telehealth provider.

When possible, the screening should be performed by the youth’s primary care physician who has knowledge of the youth’s medical history or a physician that can serve as the youth’s medical home while in care. 


Interpretation: When a youth returns following a runaway episode, a health screen should be conducted within 24 hours of entry back into care to identify whether he or she was victimized or otherwise harmed while on the run.
Examples: Conditions that require immediate or prompt medical attention include, but are not limited to: signs of abuse or neglect, serious or accidental injury, signs of infection or communicable diseases, hygiene or nutritional problems, pregnancy, and significant developmental or mental health disturbances.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 8.02

Each youth receives: 
  1. a comprehensive medical examination within three days after admission, unless the youth has received a medical exam within the last year; and
  2. dental, neurological, vision, hearing, and blood chemistry referrals if indicated.
Interpretation: A current medical examination must be completed if the prior medical examination is incomplete or cannot be substantiated with documentation.

Interpretation: The purpose of the medical examination is to identify and assess medical, developmental, and mental health conditions that require treatment, additional evaluation, and/or referrals to other healthcare professionals or specialists. The examination must be comprehensive, build on history gathered during the initial medical screening, and focus on specific assessments that are appropriate to the individual’s age and developmental level. Findings from the exam should be used to develop individualized treatment plans, as well as inform follow-up assessments and services.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 8.03

The organization obtains and maintains in each youth’s case record:
  1. medical history; and 
  2. written medical authorization stating that the youth is physically able to participate in program activities.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 8.04

Group leaders or other service personnel receive relevant medical or psychiatric information concerning youth including:
  1. immunizations and current health status; and
  2. pertinent medical information for off-site adventure-based activities.

 

WT 8.05

Youth receive appropriate support and education regarding:
  1. substance use and smoking;
  2. sexual development;
  3. prevention and treatment of diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases;
  4. family planning and pregnancy options;
  5. good health habits and healthy living;
  6. safe and healthy relationships; and
  7. pregnancy, prenatal care, and effective parenting.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 9: Educational Services

The organization provides or arranges for residents to receive education services and supports to help them achieve their educational goals.
Interpretation: The organization must meet the educational needs of service recipients to the extent possible given the service setting. Organizations that do not offer educational services on-site should coordinate with community-based providers to meet the educational needs of all participants. When organizations do not directly provide or arrange education services, individual case records should indicate that education plans are integrated into treatment plans and document advocacy for areas of unmet educational need.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Procedures for developing and/or integrating education plans
  • Procedures for coordinating education services, if applicable
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
    4. Local school district representative
  • Review case records

 

WT 9.01

Youth are enrolled in an appropriate education program on-site or in the community that is approved, certified, accredited, registered, or operated by or in conjunction with the local school district.

 

WT 9.02

A comprehensive, coordinated education plan is developed for each youth that is integrated into the service plan.
Interpretation: If the organization does not participate in the development of the education plan, it is responsible for integrating each individual’s education plan into their service plan.

 

WT 9.03

The educational program incorporates effective instructional practices, quality curriculum design, and educational tools and supports for diverse learning needs of youth.
Examples: Diverse learning needs can include youth who require support due to a learning disability, are learning English as an additional language, or are intellectually gifted.

 

WT 9.04

The organization provides or arranges, as needed:
  1. tutoring;
  2. preparation for a high school equivalency exam;
  3. college preparation;
  4. parent-teacher meetings; and
  5. advocacy and support.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 10: Privacy Provisions

The organization provides for youth comfort, dignity, and private communications.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Privacy policy
  • Privacy procedures
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records
  • Observe facilities

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 10.01

The organization prohibits the use of surveillance cameras or listening devices for routine observation unless required by judicial order, law, or contract.

Note: Please see the Facility Observation Checklist for additional guidance on this standard.


 
Fundamental Practice

WT 10.02

Searches of youth or their property are conducted in a trauma-informed manner that respects client rights, dignity, and self-determination and include, as appropriate to the frequency and invasiveness of searches:
  1. communicating to youth policies for searches of individuals or their property;
  2. timely notification of a parent and/or legal guardian;
  3. definition and documentation of reasonable cause and assessed risk of harm to self or others;
  4. trained, qualified personnel; and
  5. an administrative review process including documentation, notification, and the timetable for review.
Interpretation: Search procedures should correspond directly to the invasiveness of the search to be conducted. For example, more invasive searches should be reserved for higher risk situations with reasonable cause, should only be conducted by highly qualified personnel, and should always require an administrative review.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 10.03

The organization only reviews mail when a previous incident involving the youth indicates that:
  1. the mail is suspected of containing unauthorized, dangerous, or illegal material or substances, in which case it may be opened by the youth in the presence of designated personnel; or
  2. receipt or sending of unopened mail is contraindicated.
Examples: Mail may include letters and packages as well as email and other forms of electronic correspondence. 

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 10.04

Each youth is entitled to private telephone conversations, and any restriction is:
  1. based on contraindications and/or a court order;
  2. approved in advance by the program director or an appropriate designee;
  3. documented in the case record; and
  4. reauthorized weekly by the immediate supervisor of the direct service provider.

Note: Please see the Facility Observation Checklist for additional guidance on this standard.

2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 11: Safety and Risk Management

The organization ensures safe practice through advanced planning, safety procedures, and personnel and youth training.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Safety procedures
  • The table of contents for youth safety training curricula
  • Drug and alcohol policy
  • Program and activity discharge policy
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.01

A safety review committee, supervisory personnel, or external advisors:
  1. conduct ongoing safety reviews;
  2. promptly review incidents when emergency procedures are invoked; and
  3. recommend corrective action.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.02

When conducting offsite activities, the trip or activity plan includes:
  1. an itinerary maintained at the organization’s central location;
  2. weather conditions under which evacuation may be warranted;
  3. evacuation and search and rescue procedures for trips or activities in remote areas;
  4. detailed information regarding contact with the program director, or a designee, and rangers when appropriate;
  5. means of contacting rescue resources, medical facilities, and law enforcement; and
  6. any public or private entity notified of the itinerary.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.03

Safety procedures include:
  1. use of a written safety manual or equivalent safety plan for each type of activity offered;
  2. completion of a safety or risk-management plan before each trip or activity that contains safety preparations and other emergency planning information;
  3. a mechanism for bringing a youth’s relevant health and medical information into the field;
  4. providing trip leaders with funds or other means for obtaining emergency resources during trips or programs held off-site;
  5. providing appropriate equipment for emergency communication links from field personnel to outside medical and other resources for trips or activities in remote areas;
  6. filing incident reports for any accidents or incidents in which personnel or youth were injured or at risk; and
  7. notifying the chief executive office or his/her designee if emergency procedures are invoked or an unanticipated problem or incident occurs.

 

WT 11.04

Safety procedures for preventing missing and runaway youth that address: 
  1. creating an environment that provides a sense of safety, support, and community;
  2. identifying risks or triggers that may indicate likeliness to run away from programs; and
  3. welcoming, screening, and debriefing when children return to the program.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.05

Safety procedures related to missing persons address:
  1. search and rescue;
  2. public-safety agency involvement; and
  3. notification of all relevant personnel and parents/legal guardians when applicable.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.06

An organization that provides transportation in agency-owned vehicles, or in vehicles owned by personnel or contractors, has safety procedures that require:
  1. access to emergency roadside repair tools, spare tires, and parts;
  2. pre-trip vehicle checks;
  3. advance planning for supervision of youth during scheduled stops; and
  4. advance planning for appropriate breaks and rest stops, with a full day of rest scheduled following four consecutive days of vehicular travel.
NA The organization does not provide transportation directly or by contract.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.07

The organization trains all participants in planned trips or adventure based activities about the prevention of relevant risks including:
  1. sunstroke, sunburn, hyperthermia, dehydration, frostbite, and snow blindness as appropriate to the type of activity and weather conditions;
  2. dangerous plants, animals, situations, and other hazards that may be associated with adventure-based activities or locations; and
  3. allergic and anaphylactic reactions.
Interpretation: Youth only need to be trained on the prevention of risks associated with the type of trip or activities being conducted. For example, training on frostbite, snow blindness, or sunburn would not be needed for experiential activities conducted indoors.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.08

First aid, emergency response kits and emergency supplies, and medications needed by youth are available and under the control of the senior trip leader or other designated group leader at all times.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.09

Policy prohibits youth and personnel from using alcohol or other drugs while engaging in organization-sponsored activities.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 11.10

Participants may be discharged from a specific adventure-based activity or from the program if:
  1. their behavior or other problems make continuation unsafe or ineffective; or
  2. evacuation from remote locations is deemed necessary for health or mental health reasons.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 12: Physical Environment

The organization’s activities provide for land or facility use that is safe, hygienic, and respectful of the physical environment.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Environmental protection procedures
  • Health and safety procedures
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth and families served

 

WT 12.01

Outdoor activities are conducted in a manner that is respectful of the environment and minimizes harmful effects.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 12.02

To ensure the health and safety of youth and personnel, the organization provides for:
  1. a safe, hygienic environment; 
  2. adequate shelter from the elements;
  3. nutritious food; 
  4. clothing and equipment appropriate for the activities and environment; 
  5. infection control measures related to wilderness living including safe drinking water, toileting, food, and response to illness; and
  6. personal hygiene measures that ensure privacy.
Examples: Personal hygiene includes bathing, oral health, toileting, and feminine hygiene.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 13: Equipment Safety

Equipment is properly maintained and safe to use.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Procedures for maintaining equipment
  • Policy on field testing equipment
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Relevant personnel
  • Observe equipment

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 13.01

All sports and outdoor equipment, including equipment belonging to youth or personnel, meets national safety standards.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 13.02

Equipment maintenance procedures include:
  1. pre- and post-activity equipment inspections, routine servicing, preventive maintenance, and repair;
  2. rehabilitation or removal of substandard equipment; and
  3. documentation of inspections and maintenance.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 13.03

Field testing materials or equipment that are new on the market in order to provide feedback to the manufacturer is prohibited while conducting service activities.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 14: Activity Technical and Safety Requirements

The organization considers safety and technical requirements, competence of leaders, and the abilities of youth when engaging in potentially demanding or high risk activities.

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VIEW THE STANDARDS

1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Procedures for activity preparation, including assessing group safety and skill level
  • Procedures regarding use of protective gear and equipment
  • Fire safety procedures
  • Fire safety training curricula
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review personnel files

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 14.01

Before initiation of an activity, the organization:
  1. orients personnel to the terrain, sites, or waterways that will be used;
  2. verifies that personnel have direct experience with, and up-to-date information about, the conditions that may be encountered; and
  3. provides youth with complete information about geographic boundaries for the activity, rendezvous times and places, and emergency procedures.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 14.02

The organization evaluates potentially demanding activities for level of difficulty and undertakes only those within the competence of the leaders and the abilities of youth.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 14.03

When the activity involves travel or movement, youth receive instruction in pacing, fluid intake, clothing and footwear, equipment, and possible hazards.
Examples: Relevant activities may include hiking, running, climbing, canoeing, bicycle touring, or similar pursuits.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 14.04

Youth and personnel use protective gear and equipment as appropriate, including:
  1. personal flotation devices (Type III) for water activities;
  2. location devices and reflectors for dusk and night activities;
  3. helmets for biking, climbing, caving, or other appropriate activities; and
  4. other protective gear and equipment as appropriate to the activity to be undertaken.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 14.05

As applicable to the activity being conducted, the organization maintains clear guidelines and trains personnel and youth on safely building and extinguishing fires.
NA The organization does not conduct activities that involve building and extinguishing fires.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 14.06

Ropes courses, alpine or climbing towers, and artificial wall climbing activities meet the following requirements:
  1. the facilities and equipment used have been constructed by or are under the supervision of recognized experts in the field;
  2. personnel have been trained by recognized experts in the field and have a working knowledge of ropes course and climbing equipment elements, technology, construction, usage and inspection; and
  3. appropriate inspection and safety procedures have been fully implemented.
NA The organization does not offer ropes courses, alpine or climbing towers, or artificial-wall climbing activities.
Note: COA does not approve, certify, or accredit ropes courses, alpine or climbing towers, or artificial wall climbing programs. The organization must seek independent review by recognized experts for that purpose. The organization’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of youth and personnel. Therefore, WT 14.06 applies to facilities owned or operated by the organization as well as facilities used by the organization’s youth but owned and operated by others. In all cases, the organization must provide authoritative information regarding compliance with accepted standards for special program components.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 14.07

Organizations that offer high-risk activities, either directly or through an external provider, use certified instructors and maintain proof of accreditation, licensure, or certification with a nationally recognized authority for the activity being conducted.
NA The organization does not offer high-risk activities, either directly or through an external provider.
Examples: High-risk activities can include:
  1. white water rafting, kayaking, or canoeing;
  2. snow and ice climbing or glacier travel;
  3. mountaineering, bouldering, and rock climbing;
  4. top rope climbing and rappelling;
  5. caving;
  6. river crossing;
  7. solo expeditions;
  8. activities involving flying, hang gliding, gliding, and parachuting; and
  9. other high-risk activities.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 15: Care and Supervision

Youth are closely supervised, and group size is adjusted to promote safety and limit liability and risk.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Procedures for establishing and adjusting personnel/youth ratios and group sizes
  • Procedures for staffing activities
  • Procedures that address solo activities
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 15.01

Group size and personnel to youth ratios are adjusted according to:
  1. the nature of the activity;
  2. the level of the activity’s difficulty, risk, and distance from the organization’s central location;
  3. the skill and experience of personnel; and
  4. the ages, abilities, developmental level, and therapeutic needs of the group.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 15.02

Adventure-based group activities are supervised by:
  1. at least two group leaders or instructors; and
  2. additional personnel when known risks are present.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 15.03

For solo activities, a group leader or instructor:
  1. is responsible for the safety of that youth or group;
  2. maintains sight or sound contact 24 hours a day, or has a plan for making contact in the event of urgent or emergent situations; and
  3. adjusts the degree of supervision to the youth’s ability, the terrain, and environmental conditions.
NA The organization does not conduct solo activities.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 15.04

A coverage and supervision plan is developed for off-site groups that:
  1. indicates the reporting relationships and delegation of authority; and
  2. gives decision-making authority to a person qualified by a combination of education, field experience, technical and safety expertise, and maturity.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 16: Transition to Independent Living

Youth transitioning to independence are prepared with positive experiences and skills to move successfully to living and managing on their own.
NA The organization has a contract that does not include independent living services or the organization does not serve youth transitioning to independence.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.      
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Transition planning procedures
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records

 

WT 16.01

The organization prepares youth for a successful transition by providing:
  1. transfer or termination of custody information as applicable;
  2. information about rights and services to which the person may have access due to income level or a disability;
  3. information on availability of affordable community based healthcare and counseling;
  4. court and welfare systems information;
  5. child care services information; and
  6. support through community volunteers or individuals who have made a successful transition, as appropriate.

 

WT 16.02

During the transition process, and prior to case closing, the organization works with youth to:
  1. explore a range of housing options;
  2. evaluate risks and benefits of various options; and
  3. practice household management when possible.
Examples: Housing options may range from supported living to fully independent living environments.

 

WT 16.03

For every youth transitioning to independence, the organization ensures that basic resources are in place, including:
  1. a source of income;
  2. affordable health care;
  3. adequate living arrangements;
  4. access to at least one committed, caring adult; and
  5. access to positive peer support.

 

WT 16.04

The organization assists youth in obtaining or compiling documents necessary to function as an independent adult, including:
  1. an identification card;
  2. a social security or social insurance number;
  3. a resume, when work experience can be described;
  4. a driver’s license, when the ability to drive is a goal;
  5. medical records and documentation, including a Medicaid card or other health eligibility documentation;
  6. an original copy of the youth’s birth certificate;
  7. religious documents and information;
  8. documentation of immigration, citizenship, or naturalization, when applicable;
  9. death certificates when parents are deceased;
  10. a list of known relatives with relationships, addresses, telephone numbers, and permission for contacting involved parties;
  11. previous placement information; and
  12. educational records, such as a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and a list of schools attended.
2023 Edition

Wilderness and Adventure-Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services (WT) 17: Case Closing and Aftercare

The organization works with youth and family members, when appropriate, to plan for case closing and, when possible, to develop aftercare plans.
1
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
2
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,   
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • In a few instances, the organization terminated services inappropriately; or  
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent; or
  • A formal case closing evaluation is not consistently provided to the public authority per the requirements of the standard.
3
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Services are frequently terminated inappropriately; or  
  • Aftercare planning is not initiated early enough to ensure orderly transitions; or
  • A formal case closing summary and assessment is seldom provided to the public authority per the requirements of the standard; or  
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent. 
4
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or 
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing. 
Self-Study Evidence Site Visit Evidence On-Site Activities
  • Case closing procedures
  • Aftercare planning and follow-up procedures
No Site Visit Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth or families served
  • Review case records

 

WT 17.01

Planning for case closing:
  1. is a clearly defined process that includes assignment of personnel responsibility;
  2. begins at intake; and
  3. involves the worker, youth, a parent or legal guardian, and others as appropriate to the needs and wishes of the youth.

 

WT 17.02

Upon case closing, the organization notifies any collaborating service providers, as appropriate.

 

WT 17.03

If a youth has to leave the program unexpectedly, the organization makes every effort to identify other service options and link the youth with appropriate services.
Interpretation: The organization must determine on a case-by-case basis its responsibility to continue providing services to persons whose third-party benefits are denied or have ended and who are in critical situations.

 
Fundamental Practice

WT 17.04

As a continuing resource for information, crisis management, referral, and support, the organization provides youth transitioning to independence with:
  1. a transition plan summary including the youth’s options;
  2. a list of emergency and contact persons; and
  3. the organization’s contact information.
NA The organization does not serve youth transitioning to independence.

 

WT 17.05

The organization identifies counseling, mentoring, institutional, business, and information resources in the community that can promote positive ties to the community, networking and leadership opportunities, and readiness to assume responsibility for:
  1. activities of daily living;
  2. employment;
  3. use of community resources;
  4. serving as a resource to the community; and
  5. effective interpersonal communication and conflict resolution.

 

WT 17.06

When appropriate, the organization works with youth and their family to:
  1. develop an aftercare plan, sufficiently in advance of case closing, that helps youth to rejoin their families and communities, identifies short- and long-term needs and goals, and facilitates the initiation or continuation of needed supports and services; or 
  2. conduct a formal case closing evaluation, including an assessment of unmet need, when the organization has a contract with a public authority that does not include aftercare planning or follow-up.

 

WT 17.07

The organization follows up on the aftercare plan as appropriate, when possible, and with the permission of the youth.
NA The organization has a contract with a public authority that prohibits or does not include aftercare planning or follow-up.
Examples: Reasons why follow-up may not be appropriate include cases where the youth’s participation is involuntary, or where there may be a risk to the youth.
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