Private Organization Accreditation

Heartland for Children is the not-for-profit agency responsible for the foster care system in Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties.


Family Services of the North Shore

Kathleen Whyte, Manager of Human Resources / Accreditation Coordinator

Family Services of the North Shore is about to enter our third accreditation cycle with COA. Accreditation has provided us with a framework that enables us to demonstrate accountability to our clients, our funders and our donors. There is no question that the accreditation process and COA have benefited our agency.
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Early Childhood Education facilitates appropriate child development and ensures the health and safety of children in care.

ECE 2: Enrollment

The organization responds to requests for care promptly and responsively.

Rating Indicators
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted, however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations (HR 6.02) and training (TS 2.03); or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • A number of client records are missing important information  or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing; or  
  • Two or more Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.

Table of Evidence

Self-Study Evidence On-Site Evidence On-Site Activities
    • Enrollment procedures
    • Parent handbook and other informational materials provided upon enrollment
    • Resource and referral list
    • Interview:
      1. Relevant staff
      2. Parents

  • ECE 2.01

    Prior to enrollment, parents are offered a tour of the facility and receive information regarding:

    1. the organization’s approach to education, child development, and behavior management;
    2. policies and procedures, including situations that can result in a child’s removal from the program;
    3. classroom rules and expectations;
    4. opportunities and expectations for parental participation;
    5. applicable child protection reporting mandates;
    6. established mechanisms for parents to report safety concerns or suspected child abuse and neglect;
    7. means of resolving differences or complaints; and
    8. fees, operating hours, and whether or not there is space currently available.

  • ECE 2.02

    Enrollment practices:

    1. ensure equitable treatment;
    2. support timely initiation of care; and
    3. provide for placement on a waiting list, if desired.

  • ECE 2.03

    When the organization cannot meet the parent’s need for care, it provides an explanation and appropriate referrals.

    Interpretation: Early childhood education providers are not expected to make referrals to specific providers, but should be able to direct parents to local child care resource and referral or relevant websites.

  • ECE 2.04

    The organization collects relevant information from families at enrollment and as needed throughout the year, including:

    1. identifying information, including name and date of birth;
    2. address;
    3. additional consent forms or permission slips, as needed; and
    4. authorizations for pick-up.

  • ECE 2.05

    The organization maintains files for all children that:

    1. contain relevant information;
    2. are specific, factual, and legible;
    3. are kept up to date;
    4. are signed and dated by authorized personnel, where appropriate;
    5. comply with any applicable legal requirements; and
    6. are maintained and disposed of in a manner that protects privacy and confidentiality.

    Interpretation: Relevant information includes the information specified in ECE 2.04, as well as information that would not have been available at the time of enrollment, such as accident report forms, payment receipts when applicable, attendance sheets, and evidence of ongoing communication with family members, when appropriate.

    Files and signatures can be paper, electronic, or a combination of paper and electronic.

    Interpretation: In addition to supporting program operations, files are an important risk management tool. Well-maintained files can help shield an organization from allegations of misconduct and negligence, while poorly-maintained files and improper documentation are a known liability.

  • ECE 2.06

    Access to confidential child files meets legal requirements, and is limited to:

    1. the child’s parents or legal guardians or designated legal representatives;
    2. personnel authorized to access specific information on a “need-to-know” basis;
    3. auditors, contractors, and licensing or accrediting personnel, consistent with the organization’s confidentiality policy; and
    4. others who are permitted access, as applicable.
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