Southwest Key Seeks Second Accreditation


Southwest Key is well on its way towards re-accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA). As of Friday, June 15th, 2012, a self study has been submitted and the organization awaits site visits from COA peer reviewers.

The Council on Accreditation was founded in 1977 by the Child Welfare League of America and Alliance for Children and Families. It currently accredits 47 different service areas and over 125 types of programs, and measures organizations by a thorough, rigorous, and extensive variety of standards. An independent not-for-profit accreditor, the COA’s mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

Accreditation from the COA does not come easily. The process involves a detailed review and analysis of an organization’s administrative operations and service delivery against national standards of best practices. The first phase is the comprehensive self-study, a written document that details Southwest Key’s performance on a number of measures, including 10 general standards and approximately 22 program-specific standards. This report examined the organization’s compliance with the COA standards and provides a plethora of supporting documents from individual Southwest Key programs. The thorough completion and success of this hefty self-study relied on the cooperation and collaboration of every level of Southwest Key staff. The initiative was led by Southwest Key’s Quality Assurance Department; special recognition goes to Ananda Moss, Jill Nilson, Melissa Villarreal, Diana Anzaldua, and LaKesha Pope for their dedication and hard work in this arduous process.

The second phase of the accreditation process involves extensive site visits to specific Southwest Key programs throughout the country and to its headquarters in Austin, Texas. After receiving notice of which programs will be visited, Southwest Key staff will prepare each of its program sites for the evaluation by peer reviewers, which will include a walk-through of the automated client database, a change from the paper-and-pencil document review of the past. Southwest Key staff look forward to hosting the COA peer reviewers; indeed, the accreditation process benefits the organization through its examination of organizational infrastructure, capacity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Southwest Key first received accreditation from the COA in 2008. At the time of their first site visit, peer reviewers had nothing but glowing praise for the organization:

“What I appreciated the most was the dedication to excellence from everyone at Southwest Key. The staff are incredible. They want to go beyond what is expected so clients get the very best opportunities and feel supported.”

“I was struck at how you [Southwest Key staff] identify exactly what is needed to have the best program, and you just find a way to do it. Even if it means the clinician comes in on Sundays in order to increase parental involvement.”

“What struck me most was the contrast in the kids’ pictures from when they arrived at Southwest Key’s shelter—very stark, sad, really like a mug shot…  And then meeting the same young men and women at the shelter during my visit. These same kids were playing around, acting like kids, smiling…they had a sparkle in their eyes.  I could see the transformation created by having a safe place to live, having basic needs met, and support from staff.”

“I have nothing but good things to say.  You guys really have a good thing going here.”

Four years later, Southwest Key is ready to re-confirm peer reviewers’ high regards for the nonprofit to earn its second accreditation.  Southwest Key is currently one of only three nonprofits in the Austin area to receive this honor.

One Comment

  1. As an employee at SWK in San Diego, I have truly seen the transformation of many clients throughout the years. It is well described above, the way these kids look when they first arrive is so very different to the way they look and appear to be and look after only a few day of staying at SWK. They seem to feel at home, this means a great deal to us. This means they see us as “family” in a way. AS they learn different skills of life, they seem to adapt quickly and are eager to learn more and to take advantage of schooling given to them, most of them leave the program with a sense of accomplishment and it is something they can take with them and apply to their future goals, which ever these may be. I thinks that is a “good thing”.

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