Frequently asked questions


How long does the accreditation process take?

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

How much does accreditation cost?

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

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

Contact us directly if you are looking for private, public, or military family readiness program accreditation fee information. Feel free to email us with any questions.

What is the difference between accreditation, licensing, and certification?

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


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


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

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


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

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

Who does COA accredit?

COA accredits the full continuum of child welfare, behavioral health, and community-based social and human services. We currently accredit more than 1600 organizations and programs serving more than 7 million individuals and families.

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

What do most organizations find most challenging with the accreditation process?

We’ve had a number of organizations report that they find the Performance and Quality Improvement (PQI) process challenging. Not to worry–we have a robust cache of tools and resources available to help guide you through the process. We even created a whiteboard video that explains PQI in 90 seconds.

What is the difference between COA and the other major accrediting bodies?

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

How do I get started?

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


Will there be a resource or crosswalk that outlines all of the 2020 standards changes?

We are still assessing how to best communicate that information. Our plan is to develop a resource by early spring.

In the meantime, you can take a look at the overview of standards that changed by downloading our Standards Enhancements Summary document.  Please also see our 2020 Edition Standards Self-Paced Training, which walks through the changes in detail.

What standards sections have been retired as a result of the 2020 updates?

We refined the suite of Service Standards to better align with COA’s mission and the missions of the organizations we accredit in the different sectors. This included:

  • Retiring one (1) Private service section in January 2020: Child Protective Services
  • Retiring eight (8) Canadian service sections in January 2020: Adult Protective Services, Disaster Recovery Case Management, Opioid Treatment, Wilderness and Adventure Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services, Youth Justice Case Management, Youth Justice Day Services, Child Protective Services, and Community Change Initiatives
  • Retiring six (6) Public service sections in January 2020: Financial Education and Counseling Services, Primary Care Services, Wilderness and Adventure Based Therapeutic Outdoor Services, Experiential Education Supplement, Refugee Resettlement Services, and Immigration and Legal Services

This list can also be found in our 2020 Edition fact sheet.

When will other tools, self-paced trainings, and other resources be updated?

We are still in the process of updating our tools and resources. Thank you for your patience as we work to get these live.

Will there be a training available specific to logic models or Performance & Quality Improvement (PQI)?

Yes, we will be creating training materials specific to the updates to the PQI standards and client-centered logic model. Thank you for your patience as we work to make these available.

Where can I find more information about the benchmarking initiative and changes to the MOA process?

We’re glad you asked! For more information on our new benchmarking program, please visit our microsite

Don’t see what you’re looking for here? Contact Us with your questions.

For those already working with us, you can also reach out to your Accreditation Coordinator or submit a case using your MyCOA portal or VIP account.