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  • Frequently asked questions

    CARF International is dedicated to your success. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the accreditation process. We encourage you to Contact Us as you further explore the value of accreditation. We look forward to assisting you.


    How will accreditation improve the quality of our organization's services? 

    Accreditation assures the public that you have made a commitment to continually enhance the quality of your services and programs and that your organization's focus is on the satisfaction of the persons served.

    How long does it take for a service provider to prepare for accreditation? 

    A service provider seeking accreditation for the first time generally needs nine to twelve months to prepare for a survey. If a provider already has accredited services and is preparing for a resurvey, six to eight months of preparation time may be sufficient. We must receive the survey application at least three full months prior to your requested survey date.

    How do I apply for accreditation? 

    The survey application is completed online. This provides an easy and convenient way for you to complete, save, and submit your survey application using our password-protected Customer Connect web portal. Because the survey application is saved on a secure server, it does not need to be downloaded and saved on your computer. You can fill out one part of the application, save it, and return at a later date to work on it again.

    What assistance does CARF provide in helping us prepare for a survey? 

    CARF provides assistance throughout the entire survey process. You will have the opportunity to speak with your designated resource specialist, who will be glad to answer your questions, give you ideas on how to meet the standards, and direct you to other relevant resources. We also conduct training sessions and presentations online, in our offices, and at conferences.

    What are the possible accreditation decisions? 

    For CARF: Three-Year Accreditation, One-Year Accreditation, Provisional Accreditation, Nonaccreditation, and Preliminary Accreditation.

    For CCRC: Five-Year Term of Accreditation and Nonaccreditation.

    What are the costs of a CARF survey? 

    CARF accreditation is an investment in your company's future. A CARF survey is competitively priced against other accreditors. We will be glad to walk you through our survey fees and demonstrate how our accreditation will benefit your staff, persons served, and other stakeholders.

    What is a blended survey? 

    Service providers may seek to become accredited for programs or services included in more than one standards manual. This is possible through a blended survey. Blending takes standards relevant to specific programs or services from one standards manual and incorporates them into a survey being conducted using a different standards manual.

    Do we have to submit all our program/service areas for accreditation? 

    Your organization determines which programs will seek accreditation. We encourage service providers to consider obtaining accreditation for every eligible service area, but it is not required. All sites that provide the services seeking accreditation must be included in an on-site survey.

    If we have one service area that is just beginning and we aren't thoroughly comfortable with it yet, will it potentially affect accreditation of our other services? 

    If a service area is functioning at a lower level than other surveyed programs or services, the accreditation decision will be based on the lower level. You do not have to include the new program in the survey until you are ready. It may be added in a supplemental survey at any time during the accreditation term.

    Can CARF accredit programs and services provided by an individual? 

    Yes! When the standards refer to an “organization,” they refer to any business entity, such as an individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, or corporation.

    Can CARF accredit a service provider serving only one person? 

    Yes. Microboards (small, nonprofit corporations that function as a provider agency to serve an individual with a disability) and other entities serving one or a few persons can be accredited for their programs and services.

    Is it okay if we contract for certain services, or do we have to hire staff members to provide these services? 

    The CARF standards do not require that services be provided only by staff members who are employees of the service provider. A service provider can provide necessary services by contractual agreement. If part of a service for which the service provider seeks accreditation is provided by another agency or individual, this would be included in the review by surveyors during the survey. In all cases, the service provider is responsible for the quality of the contracted services.

    How does CARF define the leadership? 

    These are the persons in the organization responsible for policy development and approval and decision making concerning the human services areas seeking accreditation--for example, the board of directors, management, or owners. In some cases, this may be a governmental entity.


    What assistance does CARF provide in helping providers prepare for a survey? 

    A CARF resource specialist will answer your questions about the accreditation and survey processes, standards interpretation, fees, and survey application. This individualized consultation is provided at no charge. Please Contact Us with any questions.

    In addition, we offer the Survey Preparation Workbook in the Online Store New window icon to help organizations identify what practices must be in place to demonstrate conformance to each standard.

    Can my organization apply for a survey immediately? 

    The process of preparing for accreditation, filing the survey application, and scheduling a site survey usually takes a service provider nine to twelve months. This is because each program or service needs to implement and operate in conformance to the standards and direct services toward the persons served for a minimum of six months prior to the survey.

    How far in advance do we need to request a survey? 

    We begin to work on scheduling a site survey when your survey application is received. The site survey is typically scheduled to occur within three to five months from the date of the application. This time line should be considered before you submit an application to ensure that you will be able to demonstrate a full six-month record of applying the standards before the site survey.

    Will I have advance notice of the on-site survey date? 

    Yes, we will schedule a time that does not conflict with any problem dates you identify.

    What are the survey findings? 

    The survey findings identify those standards to which the provider has not satisfactorily demonstrated conformance, as well as any exemplary practices. The survey findings are included in a report we send to you with the accreditation decision.

    Must service providers meet all standards to be accredited? 

    No. The accreditation decision is based on the balance of a service provider’s strengths and areas for improvement. Even service providers that achieve the maximum term of accreditation will likely have areas for improvement identified in their report.

    The survey is a tool for quality improvement within organizations that identifies the level of conformance by an organization to a set of standards. Standards identified as not in full conformance are addressed through a Quality Improvement Plan.

    Do all community employment sites have to be visited during the survey? 

    It is usually not possible to visit all employment sites in the community due to time constraints. The surveyors will plan to visit a sampling of sites. They will visit with employees, job coaches, and persons served. The surveyors will not be intrusive.

    Do all community housing sites have to be visited during the survey? 

    If the sites are owned, rented, leased, or operated by the service provider, they all must be visited during the service provider's first survey of this service category. On resurveys, a sampling is conducted.

    If your organization provides supported community housing services in the individual home or apartment of the person served, the community housing core program refers to the support services, not the residence, and a sampling of these sites will be visited.

    Do all residential sites have to be visited during the survey? 

    If the sites are owned, rented, leased, or operated by the service provider, they all must be visited during the service provider's first survey of this service category. On resurveys, a sampling is conducted. If the sites are privately owned by the persons served, the surveyors will visit by invitation only.

    Who conducts the site survey? 

    CARF surveyors are among the industry's most knowledgeable and respected experts in the field of health and human services, with extensive background in services administration and a variety of service areas. Surveyors are committed to the principle that accreditation is essential in ensuring that service providers offer programs and services that are of demonstrated value to the persons served.

    How does CARF decide how many surveyors will be needed and how many days the survey will take? 

    The information in the survey application is carefully reviewed, as is any feedback from the previous survey, if applicable. Many factors are considered, such as the number of persons served, number of service areas seeking accreditation, number of sites to be visited, and the geographic spread of the service locations.

    How can I apply to be a CARF surveyor? 

    Visit the become a surveyor page for more information and to apply.


    Does an organization need a standards manual before beginning the accreditation process or applying for a survey, and how is it obtained? 

    Yes, you need a standards manual. However, we encourage you to speak with a CARF resource specialist before purchasing any standards manual so that your services will be correctly matched to the publications you order. You may Contact Us with any questions. Standards manuals are available for purchase on the Online StoreNew window icon.

    Which edition of the standards manual should we use? 

    Standards manuals are published in January and become effective on July 1st to allow organizations sufficient time to implement the standards. They remain effective until June 30th of the next year. Your resource specialist will be able to verify the current edition.

    How are standards developed? 

    CARF’s field-driven standards have evolved and been refined over 50 years with the support and involvement of providers, consumers, and industry experts. Reflecting input from stakeholders around the world, the standards are recognized as "international consensus" standards.

    How can I obtain education regarding the standards and the accreditation process? 

    CARF offers a series of educational and training sessions to assist service providers to prepare for accreditation, help them remain current with changes in the standards and learn about new standards, and discuss current field practices. CARF also offers web-based educational events. The training dates are listed on the events page.

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    If you have additional questions, please Contact Us.

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