Essential Standards

Essential standards are the foundation of NTSA’s Accreditation. These standards were developed by a team of experts under advisement from survivors working in residential service.

You can learn more about NTSA’s Accreditation here.

PLEASE NOTE: As of October 6, 2021, NTSA has updated the Essential Standards. All changes were made under advisement from survivors, the review panel and field experts. Any questions about changes to the standards can be emailed to

In order to be a GENERAL member with the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance, you must have an open facility and consent and adhere to the following requirements:


  • Your agency has a Board of Directors, with a minimum of 5 members with the majority being independent
  • Your agency has a designated Executive Director


  • Your agency is federally registered as a 501(c)3 organization
  • Your agency is incorporated as a nonprofit entity in its state
  • Your agency can demonstrate they are in compliance with all state regulations and, if applicable, are in good standing with state licensing body
  • Your staff and client-serving volunteers sign confidentiality agreements with your agency
  • Your agency has documented protocols to ensure that client records are confidentially maintained and secured
  • Your agency is accredited by a financial accreditor, such as ECFA or BBB, or your agency utilizes an outside CPA as an external auditor

Risk Management

  • Your agency conducts criminal backgrounds and sex offender registry check on all staff, including those who are not working directly with clients
  • Your agency complies with State mandated reporting policy
  • Your agency has a written non-discrimination policy which meets state and federal requirements related to employment
  • Your agency has a documented grievance protocol for clients to report maltreatment
  • Your agency carries general liability insurance as well as insurance for board, staff, and property
  • Your agency has a policy for the dispersal of medication to clients that complies with state and federal regulations


  • Your agency adheres to state and local regulations for fire safety
  • Your facility has a clearly defined safety evacuation plan that is practiced at least twice a year
  • Your agency has policies in place to prevent or deter clients from having contact with unsafe persons — this may include (but not limited to) limiting access to cell phones, setting internet filters, developing safety plans with clients
  • All your agency’s staff are CPR and first aid certified within 90 days of employment
  • Your agency has a safety protocol that includes incident response measures, up to and including contacting law enforcement


  • Your facility is approved by its local regulatory body for occupancy
  • Each client is provided with a personal bed
  • Your agency has a documented set of practices for ensuring a clean and healthy residential environment


  • Your agency has adequate staffing to cover intended supervision levels
  • Your agency ensures that all client-serving staff are trained in Human Trafficking victimization
  • Your agency educates and implements policies to care for residential staff on the effects of this work, which may take a toll on mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health

Client Care

  • Your agency has a documented trauma-informed protocol for client intake
  • Your agency uses informed consent procedures for obtaining client information
  • Clients are provided with the necessary orientation to be informed of program rules, schedule, and consequences, and the rules are easily accessible after orientation
  • Your agency has an established process and intervals for monitoring and communicating client progress related to program objectives and client’s self-identified goals, with the client directly
  • Your agency has a means by which clients can provide constructive feedback to the program
  • Your agency has documented protocols for processing different forms of client exits

Client Services

  • Agency provides for basic physical, emotional, and social needs of all clients in the program (i.e. food, housing, emotionally supportive environment)
  • Your agency ensures the client’s well-being by providing information and access to medical/dental/mental health service providers 
  • Your agency is informed on the most common mental health issues associated with victims of trafficking
  • Your agency has a clearly communicated policy on substance use by clients
  • Your agency has a protocol for client drug/alcohol testing
  • Your agency has a documented referral process in place for referring agencies
  • Your agency provides case management for clients, which includes identifying needs and increasing access to services and resources to meet those needs in support of the client’s recovery and goals

Media/Public Relations

  • Your agency agrees to the Alliance Media/Public Relations Guideline: Agency will take active measures to ensure clients are not endangered, triggered, re-traumatized, and/or exploited in any way either through private or public agency communications or marketing, nor by inviting clients to participate in sharing their stories or images or creations

Faith-Based Considerations

  • Faith engagement and/or spiritual formation activities may be offered as part of programming, but are explained in advance of intake so prospective clients can make an informed decision about entering the program
  • Your agency does not deny care or adapt the quality of care based on the faith convictions or spiritual beliefs of the client
  • Your agency provides appropriate referrals for clients who are not comfortable with the faith perspective and/or expressions of the agency to ensure each client has the opportunity to receive care
  • Your agency utilizes trauma-informed approaches around faith programming and does not force clients to personally engage in faith, but will respect each client’s individual journey as it relates to faith exploration and personal convictions
  • Your agency will make reasonable efforts for clients to engage in their personal faith expression in a manner that lines up with the client’s self-identified goals for healing and recovery

Minor-Serving Considerations

  • Your agency has a state-approved provision for meeting General Education requirements for minors
  • Your agency is legally permitted to assume (temporary) custody of minor children
  • Your agency has documented policy and procedures for family interactions with minors in placement
  • Your agency ensures that the medical/dental/mental health needs of minors are met

Agencies that are unable to meet these standards or currently working to meet these standards can join as an Associate Member or contact with questions or concerns. 

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