Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for State APS Systems

Download the 2020 Updated National Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for State APS Systems:

Background about the Guidelines

As the federal home for Adult Protective Services (APS), ACL is committed to supporting efforts to ensure adults are afforded similar protections and services, regardless of their state or jurisdiction. In 2016, ACL facilitated the development of the first National Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for State APS Systems (Guidelines) to assist states in developing efficient, effective APS systems. From 2018-2019, ACL facilitated the updates of the Guidelines, which incorporate information from new research and feedback from the field about effective APS practices and policies.

Overall, the Guidelines are designed to provide APS Administrators with recommendations from the field about quality practice. There are several ways that states may choose to utilize the Guidelines: as a model of comparison to existing APS systems offered, to identify new areas of interest, or to identify areas for improvement in current state statutes or policies. The Guidelines further inform ACL on many priority APS issues that it can then focus on through other programs, including the National APS Technical Assistance Resource Center and the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System.

As a field-developed, consensus-driven document, the Guidelines do not constitute any standard or regulation, and do not create any new legal obligations, nor impose any mandates or requirements. They will not create nor confer any rights for, or on, any person

Development of the Original Guidelines

To facilitate the development of the Guidelines, ACL applied the Office of Management and Budget (2016)  and National Institute of Standards and Technology (2001)  process for creating field-developed, consensus-driven guidelines. As part of this process, ACL helped obtain extensive input from stakeholders representing multiple professional fields and federal staff. Throughout the process, ACL’s stakeholder engagement and outreach endeavored to 

  • respect people’s history and experience with APS, and their other life experiences; 
  • empower the public and stakeholders to contribute to the development of national APS guidelines in a meaningful way; 
  • understand the public’s vision for APS and for ACL’s role in APS; 
  • build consensus on proposed guidelines by including representatives from materially affected and interested parties, to the extent possible; and 
  • incorporate a civil rights/personal rights perspective in developing the system guidelines. 

Updating the Guidelines

After the publication of the original Guidelines in 2016, ACL committed to revisit and update the Guidelines every two years, incorporating new research and evidence-based practices as available. In 2018, as part of that revision process, ACL contracted with New Editions Consulting, Inc. (a woman-owned small business) to manage updating the Guidelines, including updating the literature review, engaging stakeholders to revise the Guidelines as determined by the field, and producing a research agenda to build a stronger evidence-base of best practices for APS.

ACL used a similar multistep approach to update the original Guidelines, with each step building on the work from the previous step. These steps included: an updated literature review to identify new research evidence; draft revisions and additions to the Guidelines based on new evidence; a stakeholder engagement process to obtain feedback for the proposed updates; a comprehensive data analysis of the feedback received from stakeholders; and, finally, convening of a technical expert panel to refine and build consensus for the updates based on the proposed new research and feedback from stakeholders. 

Content and Structure 

To help ensure the updated Guidelines reflect the most recent evidence and best practices, ACL drew intentionally from published peer-reviewed research. ACL did not draw from current state laws or regulation to avoid limiting the Guidelines to practices currently in use. References to the child welfare system or child protective services are also included in the Guidelines to illustrate federal guidance for other analogous social services systems. These references are not intended to serve as guidance to the APS system, but rather, they serve as justification for providing federal-level guidance for APS programs, and they provide stakeholders with direct access to examples from child welfare system or child protective services for topics similar to those in APS (e.g., response times).

The 2020 and 2016 Guidelines have an identical overall structure, with the content organized by seven broad domains (or topics) and a number of specific elements (or subtopics) within each domain. For each element, the Guidelines contain a background section followed by the actual guidance statements. The background and guidance are informed by the research identified through the literature review. 

To eliminate unnecessary duplication and complexity in the development and promulgation of the Guidelines, ACL’s process remains consistent with the guidance of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology 15 CFR Part 287 (2020).


Last modified on 05/20/2020


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