Earlier this year, Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch opened its doors wide to welcome a team from the Council on Accreditation to campus to evaluate the organization and its programs.
Recently, Boys Ranch received excellent news from COA.
“After intense in-depth interviews with board members, staff, alumni, business partners and, most importantly, our children, we received a notice that we received an ‘expedited reaccreditation’,” said Dan Adams, president and CEO of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. “We received zero non-compliances on the essential standards, those directly impacting the quality of care of children.”
Adams was understandably proud, saying the expedited reaccreditation affirms what Boys Ranch residents and employees see every day.
“It’s one thing for those of us invested in the mission of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch to say we are one of the best residential programs for children in the country,” he said, adding, “but, it’s something of a higher order for a national accrediting entity to announce it with a four-year stamp of approval. I’m proud to be part of such an incredible endeavor.”
As part of the COA accreditation process, an organization such as Boys Ranch is evaluated against best-practice standards. The process begins with an in-depth self-review, followed by an onsite visit by an evaluation team comprised of experts and a subsequent review and decision by the accrediting body.
Boys Ranch undergoes such an evaluation every four years and has been receiving COA accreditation more than 20 years.
“COA Accreditation is important in order to show the higher standard and quality of care we provide,” said Michelle Maikoetter, Chief Program Officer. “With there being so many different ideas of what it means for kids to live away from their families, it’s important for us to have an established, objective outside entity review and evaluate all of our programs and departments regularly.”
COA has been doing accreditation for human services since 1977. Headquartered in New York, COA sent a team of experts to the Texas Panhandle to evaluate how effectively Boys Ranch is managing resources. It also looked to see if the organization is providing the best possible outcomes to all stakeholders, but primarily the children and families it serves.
The accreditation team reviewed many areas of operation, looking specifically to make sure services meet best-practice standards and are being delivered by appropriately trained staff. The group gave careful attention to the campus environment, making sure services are provided in a safe and respectful way, where health and safety are protected, and risk and liability are minimized.
Longtime houseparents Kirk and Marie Thompson said Boys Ranch’s approach to creating a healthy, enjoyable living environment for our youth played a direct role in their choosing to seek employment.
“Kirk and I began looking around the world of childcare, and saw the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch website,” Marie remembered. “We were just in awe of what Boys Ranch appeared to be via the Internet pictures. However, how can one really know what is real? So, we got up one morning and just decided to make the trip out here to visit the campus and see if it was everything it appeared to be in pictures.
“From the moment we drove down from the pylon we were in awe with everything we saw, from the football fields to the rodeo arena,” she continued. “We toured the campus, and found out that because of policies and procedures in place and because of the incredible amount of experience in the field, Boys Ranch was a place where houseparents stayed for years and years instead of the industry-wide 6 to 18 months. It was a place we could retire from, to feel safe at and to know that we are working to make a change while still allowing the kids we serve to be the active and adventure-seeking boys that they are.”
The culture that drew the Thompsons to care for youth at Boys Ranch is no accident, Maikoetter explained.
“At Boys Ranch we go above and beyond what is required by the state in providing quality residential care to children,” she said. “It also means we are willing and able to consistently meet these quality-of-care indicators. We do not ‘tack on’ quality improvement, but rather integrate it into everything we do.”
A segment of the study looked at the financial management practices in place and evaluated effective performance quality improvement. The COA team also evaluated the organization from a donor’s perspective, looking specifically at the organization’s fundraising practices and ensuring they are ethical.
“I’m not at all surprised that this happened,” said Al, 18, who has lived at Boys Ranch four years. “This place is always trying to find ways to do everything it can better. I love Boys Ranch and I mean it when I say this place saved me.”
Fellow rancher Caleb, 17, echoed the sentiment.
“This is a good place, and it’s been pretty good to me,” he said. “My essentials are met, and my opportunities have been endless.”
According to Adams, in recent years, the out-of-home care of children has been under the microscope across the United States.
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “Child welfare has received some black eyes in years past, so the demand for excellence and quality is increasing.”
Because Cal Farley’s does not seek government funding for its work, its adherence to COA standards is self-imposed. Our leadership and board of directors believe independent oversight and evaluation is healthy for our children. The bottom line is that we hold ourselves, and expect others to hold us to the highest standards of caring for children.
“It is wonderful to have ‘fresh eyes’ looking at everything we do from paperwork to kid and staff interviews,” Maikoetter said. “They always give us good feedback about what they find here, and they have visited facilities all over the country. They also give us corrective feedback so we can continue to grow and develop.”