Private Organization Accreditation

Family Services of Southeast Texas strengthens families through accessible, affordable counseling services and education for issues affecting family life, mental health and employment.  We also provide comprehensive domestic violence shelter and support services.


Family Services of the North Shore

Kathleen Whyte, Manager of Human Resources / Accreditation Coordinator

Family Services of the North Shore is about to enter our third accreditation cycle with COA. Accreditation has provided us with a framework that enables us to demonstrate accountability to our clients, our funders and our donors. There is no question that the accreditation process and COA have benefited our agency.
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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.

WT 14: Activity Technical and Safety Requirements

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

Interpretation: The activities listed below do not have to be certified or accredited by a recognized authority to achieve COA accreditation. However, organizations that choose to be certified to provide any of the activities listed below, can submit proof of certification as evidence of implementation for WT 14.

Note: An organization that engages in any of the following activities meets associated federal or state safety and technical requirements:

  1. initiative and problem-solving activities;
  2. orienteering;
  3. hiking or backpacking;
  4. camping;
  5. group expeditions;
  6. archery;
  7. environmental projects;
  8. running;
  9. bicycle touring;
  10. remote travel;
  11. flat water canoeing, kayaking, or rafting;
  12. sailing;
  13. cross-country skiing;
  14. ropes courses, climbing towers, and artificial wall climbing; and
  15. other activities with a limited degree of perceived or actual risk for which its personnel are appropriately prepared.
Rating Indicators
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.
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 (HR 6.02) and training (TS 2.03); or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
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
  • A number of client records are missing important information  or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 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; or  
  • Two or more Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.

Table of Evidence

Self-Study Evidence On-Site Evidence On-Site Activities
    • Procedures for activity preparation, including group safety and skill level requirements
    • Guidelines regarding use of protective gear and equipment
    • Credentials of experts
    • Inspection and safety reports
    • Material or procedures that address teaching skills progressively
    • Guidelines for safely building and extinguishing fires
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Youth or families served
    • Review personnel files

  • FP
    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 participants with complete information about geographic boundaries for the activity, rendezvous times and places, and emergency procedures.

  • FP
    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 participants.

  • FP
    WT 14.03

    When the activity involves travel or movement, participants receive instruction in pacing, fluid intake, clothing and footwear, equipment, and possible hazards.

    Interpretation: Activities addressed in this standard may include hiking, running, climbing, canoeing, bicycle touring, or similar pursuits.

  • FP
    WT 14.04

    Participants 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.

  • FP
    WT 14.05

    As applicable to the activities, the organization maintains clear guidelines and trains personnel and participants on safely building and extinguishing fires.

  • FP
    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.

    Interpretation: 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 participants and personnel. Therefore, WT 14.06 applies both to facilities owned or operated by the organization, and those used by the organization’s participants but owned and operated by others. In all cases, the organization must provide authoritative information regarding compliance with accepted standards for special program components.

    NA The organization does not offer ropes courses, alpine or climbing towers, or artificial-wall climbing activities.

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