Public Agency Accreditation

Public Agency Accreditation evaluates and endorses county, municipality, and state-administered human services agencies for their implementation of research-informed and field-approved national standards of practice. The process involves the review of administrative operations and all programs and services for which COA has applicable standards. Each agency is evaluated on its implementation of the accreditation standards, through review of policy, procedure, and other documentary evidence as well as an on-site review of an agency’s practices and service environments. Agencies that achieve COA Accreditation have demonstrated substantial implementation of the standards across administrative and practice areas and a commitment to continuous quality improvement. The COA Accreditation process links agencies with an Accreditation Coordinator who partners with the agency throughout the process of achieving and maintaining accreditation.  

For information about the value of accreditation, see the Accreditation Overview page.


  • Facilitative and collaborative partnership with an Accreditation Coordinator throughout the process
  • Complimentary access to accreditation standards, tools, and many trainings   
  • User-friendly, online process for navigating the process and demonstrating standards implementation
  • Customized timelines for achieving accreditation built  to meet agency needs and resources 
  • Assessment of  implementation of COA’s Administration and Management and Service Delivery Administration standards as well as any applicable Service Standards
  • Multiple opportunities to demonstrate standards implementation through documentation, on-site reviews, and improvement actions
  • Regular information from COA, and our national partners supporting excellence in human services, on changes in the field as well as to the Accreditation Standards and process

To top

Standards for Public Agencies

    The Standards for Public Agencies are comprised of three sections:

    • Administration and Management Standards
    • Service Delivery Administration Standards
    • Service Standards

    COA’s standards are free and accessible on the COA website. View the standards.

    Administration and Management/Service Delivery Administration Standards

    Agencies are expected to demonstrate implementation of both the Administration and Management and Service Delivery Administration Standards. These standards are applicable to all agencies regardless of service array as they provide the operational infrastructure necessary for quality service delivery and achievement of positive outcomes.  

    Service Standards 

    In addition to the Administration and Management and Service Delivery Administration standards, agencies are expected to demonstrate implementation of specific Service Standards applicable to the services the agency provides. The COA Service Standards include over 40 service areas, representing 125 services.

    • Child Welfare Services 
    • Youth and Family Development Services
    • Services for Mental Health and Substance Use
    • Adult Protective and Guardianship Services
    • Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities 
    • Residential Treatment, Group Living, and Shelter Services
    • A comprehensive array of additional human services

    To top

    Timeline and Process

    It is customary for many agencies to complete the accreditation process in 12-18 months; however, this is dependent on the size of the agency, priorities, resources, implementation needs, and many other determining factors.  Timelines are customizable and built to suit the agency’s needs and to allow sufficient time  for the active involvement of all stakeholders, including personnel, consumers, community partners and others—and  to support feasible and sustainable change in policy and practice improvements. 

    For a detailed look at the steps in the accreditation process, see part IV of the Accreditation Guidelines.

    To top

    Eligibility Criteria

    COA makes a determination of eligibility after receiving a completed application from an agency.

    Read COA’s Eligibility Criteria for Public Agencies.

    To top

    Fee Information

    The cost of accreditation varies in accordance with an agency’s size and service array. Fees associated with a four-year accreditation cycle cover the application, accreditation process, site visit costs, and maintenance of accreditation activities.

    Read the Fee Information for Public Agencies.

    To top

    Further Reading and Recommended Trainings

    Accreditation Guidelines

    For more information regarding the accreditation process, download and review the Accreditation Guidelines.

    Recommended Trainings

    Learning Plan

    For a comprehensive guide about the fundamentals of the accreditation process and COA standards, including links to recommended self-paced trainings and tools, download and review the COA Accreditation Learning Plan.

    To top

    Request Additional Information

    Please reach out with any questions or for additional information on how accreditation can accelerate your agency’s quality improvement goals.

    To top


    Private Organization Accreditation

    Heartland for Children is the not-for-profit agency responsible for the foster care system in Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties.


    Judy Kay, LCSW

    Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

    In administration for 22 of 24 years at Child Saving Institute, a COA-accredited not-for-profit child welfare agency in Omaha, Nebraska. Retired approximately two years ago, I moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I advocate for children's rights as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer to three young children.
    read more>>

    Copyright © 2017 Council on Accreditation. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy and Terms of Use