Private Organization Accreditation

Catholic Charities alleviates human suffering and improves the quality of life of 100,000 people annually, regardless of religious background. A staff of 600 provides support and services related to housing, food, mental health, children's services, addiction treatment, and domestic violence services.


Bonnie Bagley

Volunteer Roles: Evaluator; Lead Evaluator; Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

I have found that being a COA Volunteer builds my professional skills and experience in ways that more traditional workshops do not. The opportunity to learn about best practices through the COA standards and then see how agencies implement them is truly a growth experience.
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Children in Family Foster Care and Kinship Care live in safe, stable, nurturing, and often temporary family settings that best provide the continuity of care to preserve relationships, promote well-being, and ensure permanency.

FKC 24: Personnel

Personnel are qualified and receive adequate support to provide culturally-responsive services that ensure the safety of children and promote the well-being of children and families.

Interpretation: FKC 24 applies to employees only. Resource parents are not considered personnel.

Note: When the organization is unable to fully implement one or more of the standards within this section, intensive efforts should be placed on fully implementing the other standards. For example, if the organization is unable to recruit workers with specific qualifications, it can ensure that appropriate supervision and workload standards are implemented.

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., 
  • With some exceptions, staff (direct service providers, supervisors, and program managers) possess the required qualifications, including: education, experience, training, skills, temperament, etc., but the integrity of the service is not compromised.
    • Supervisors provide additional support and oversight, as needed, to staff without the listed qualifications.
    • Most staff who do not meet educational requirements are seeking to obtain them.
  • With some exceptions staff have received required training, including applicable specialized training.
    • Training curricula are not fully developed or lack depth.
    • A few personnel have not yet received required training.
    • Training documentation is consistently maintained and kept up-to-date with some exceptions.
  • A substantial number of supervisors meet the requirements of the standard, and the organization provides training and/or consultation to improve competencies.
    • Supervisors provide structure and support in relation to service outcomes, organizational culture and staff retention.
  • With a few exceptions caseload sizes are consistently maintained as required by the standards.
  • Workloads are such that staff can effectively accomplish their assigned tasks and provide quality services, and are adjusted as necessary in accord with established workload procedures.
    • Procedures need strengthening.
    • With few exceptions procedures are understood by staff and are being used.
  • With a few exceptions specialized staff are retained as required and possess the required qualifications.
  • Specialized services are obtained as required by the standards.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards.  Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.
  • A significant number of staff, e.g., direct service providers, supervisors, and program managers, do not possess the required qualifications, including: education, experience, training, skills, temperament, etc.; and as a result the integrity of the service may be compromised.
    • Job descriptions typically do not reflect the requirements of the standards, and/or hiring practices do not document efforts to hire staff with required qualifications when vacancies occur.
    • Supervisors do not typically provide additional support and oversight to staff without the listed qualifications.
  • A significant number of staff have not received required training, including applicable specialized training.
    • Training documentation is poorly maintained.
  • A significant number of supervisors do not meet the requirements of the standard, and the organization makes little effort to provide training and/or consultation to improve competencies.
  • There are numerous instances where caseload sizes exceed the standards' requirements.
  • Workloads are excessive and the integrity of the service may be compromised. 
    • Procedures need significant strengthening; or
    • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Specialized staff are typically not retained as required and/or many do not possess the required qualifications; or
  • Specialized services are infrequently obtained as required by the standards.
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.,

For example:
  • 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
    • Program staffing chart that includes lines of supervision
    • List of program personnel that includes:
      1. name;
      2. title;
      3. degree held and/or other credentials;
      4. FTE or volunteer;
      5. length of service at the organization;
      6. time in current position
    • Job descriptions
    • Description of average workload per worker, including the average caseload size for the last four quarters
    • Procedures or criteria used for:
      1. assigning and evaluating workload, including criteria used
      2. overtime compensation
      3. case transfer
      4. peer mentoring, as applicable, including for recruiting, screening, training, and supervising mentors
    • Training curricula
    • Information and/or data describing staff turnover from the previous year
    • Training attendance records
    • Interview:
      1. Supervisors
      2. Personnel
    • Review personnel files
    • Review case records as needed

  • FKC 24.01

    Workers are qualified by: 
    1. an advanced degree in social work or a comparable human service field; or 
    2. a bachelor’s degree in social work or a comparable human service field with two years of related experience.

    Interpretation: Organizations should have specific plans for increasing the educational credentials of existing staff and hiring relevantly credentialed staff; however, exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis when a worker has an unrelated bachelor’s degree but has directly relevant experience and/or competencies.

  • FKC 24.02

    Supervisors are qualified by an advanced degree in social work or a comparable human service field and two years of experience working with children and families, preferably in family foster care or kinship care.

    Interpretation: Treatment Foster Care supervisors who do not meet these qualifications must be provided with additional regular clinical consultation at least monthly.

  • FKC 24.03

    Workers have the competencies and support needed to: 
    1. build positive, engaged relationships with parents that motivate them for change, help them identify their strengths and needs, and support family success;
    2. build trusting, engaged relationships with children to be a source of support, help them identify their strengths and needs, and advocate for their wishes;
    3. recognize and understand the impact of trauma, and work with both children and parents in a trauma-informed manner; and
    4. work with all children and families in an equitable, culturally-responsive, and empowering manner.

    Interpretation: Competency can be demonstrated through education, training, or experience. Support can be provided through supervision or other learning activities to improve understanding or skill development in specific areas. 

    Research Note: Training that focuses on anti-racism and addresses individual and institutional racism has been identified as a promising strategy for reducing the disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system by addressing implicit bias that impacts decision-making around such areas as investigation, separating children from their families, and permanency.

    Research Note: While immigration policy and law supports family reunification whether or not parents are deported, and child welfare policy prioritizes reunification whenever possible, practice shows that when parents are detained or deported family separation often lasts for extended periods and too often juvenile dependency courts terminate parental rights because of the length of separation.
    Caseworkers and all other relevant staff should receive training on immigration law and enforcement policies in order to best advocate for the children of immigrants and immigrant families.

    Research Note: In surveys of child welfare workers, many caseworkers reported challenges with discussing issues of sexual and reproductive health and pregnancy prevention with youth in their care due to the absence of defined roles, clear policies, or training in this area. Given the prevalence of youth pregnancy in foster care, a formal organization-wide policy, protocol, or training curriculum on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health and preventing pregnancy could empower caseworkers to more actively engage with youth on such issues. 

    NA The organizations provides Foster Care Home Services only. 

  • FKC 24.04

    Workers have the competencies and support needed to:

    1. assess risk and safety;
    2.  conduct comprehensive assessments of strengths, needs, and protective factors;
    3. identify children and families with special needs; 
    4. collaborate with families to develop effective service plans;
    5. conduct well-planned, quality home visits that focus on issues pertinent to service planning; 
    6. collaborate with other service providers, units, and systems, including the mental health, health, educational, and judicial systems; 
    7. evaluate progress on identified goals and the continued need for placement;
    8. facilitate permanency, family connections, and community supports; and
    9. follow the organization’s protocols for responding to allegations of maltreatment in resource homes

    Interpretation: Competency can be demonstrated through education, training, or experience. Support can be provided through supervision or other learning activities to improve understanding or skill development in specific areas.

    Workers should also have access to comprehensive, up-to-date information about culturally-relevant community services.  


  • FKC 24.05

    Workers who collaborate with resource families have the competencies and support needed to:

    1. recruit, assess, and engage with resource parents;
    2. work with resource parents in a culturally competent manner;
    3. help resource families provide a safe, nurturing environment and meet the needs of the children in their care; 
    4. provide timely and responsive support to resource families; and
    5. facilitate relationships between birth parents and resource families, when appropriate.

    Interpretation: Competency can be demonstrated through education, training, or experience. Support can be provided through supervision or other learning activities to improve understanding or skill development in specific areas.

  • FKC 24.06

    Workers who support expectant and parenting youth have the competencies and support needed to:

    1. present information in a manner that will resonate with expectant or parenting youth;
    2. understand adolescent development, including adolescent brain development;
    3. understand child development, including early brain development;
    4. address the dual developmental needs of adolescents and young children;
    5. promote youths’ transition to adulthood while parenting; and
    6. facilitate father involvement when appropriate and feasible.

    NA The organization does not serve youth 14 and older. 

  • FKC 24.07

    Workers demonstrate a belief that parents can safely care for their children, a commitment to children’s right to be part of a family, and dedication to achieving permanency for all children.

  • FP
    FKC 24.08

    Workers and supervisors, depending on job responsibilities, are knowledgeable about relevant provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), including: 
    1. the importance of ICWA and special considerations for working with American Indian and Alaska Native children; 
    2. the identification of American Indian and Alaska Native children; 
    3. determination of jurisdiction; 
    4. appropriate notice and collaboration with the child’s tribe; 
    5. placement preferences that support the child’s connection to their native culture and heritage; 
    6. active efforts requirements to reunify families; and 
    7. court procedures.

    Interpretation: All child welfare personnel should be trained in the basic requirements of ICWA with additional specialized training for staff in specialized service units, such as intake or permanency planning. All screening personnel must be trained on how to identify children with American Indian or Alaska Native heritage. Workers should also be informed of the cultural norms and historical trauma associated with Indian tribes.

    Research Note: Training resources on the Indian Child Welfare Act are available from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and the California Social Work Education Center.  

    NA The organization provides kinship care services only.
    NA The organization provides services for foreign-born children only.

  • FP
    FKC 24.09

    Employee workloads support the achievement of positive outcomes for families, are regularly reviewed, and are based on an assessment of the following: 
    1. the qualifications, competencies, and experiences of the worker including the level of supervision needed; 
    2. the work and time required to accomplish assigned tasks and meet practice requirements, including those associated with individual caseloads and other organizational responsibilities; 
    3. service elements provided by other team members or collaborating providers; and 
    4. service volume, accounting for the complexity and status of each case.

    Interpretation: Case complexity can take into account: intensity of child and family needs, size of the family, and the goal of the case. Generally, caseloads should not exceed:

    • 12-15 children in foster care or kinship care, and their families
    • 8 children in treatment foster care, and their families.
    When workers manage a blend of case types, caseloads should be weighted and adjusted accordingly. Caseloads may be higher when organizations are faced with temporary staff vacancies. New personnel should not carry independent caseloads prior to the completion of training. 

    Note: The evaluation of this standard will focus on whether the assigned workload is manageable for personnel, taking into account the factors cited in the standard and interpretation. Each organization should determine what caseload size is appropriate, and reviewers will evaluate: (1) whether the organization’s designated caseload size reflects a manageable workload, and (2) whether the organization maintains caseloads of the size it deemed appropriate.

    Research Note: Child welfare research shows that manageable workloads enable workers to conduct home visits where they can build positive relationships, which are necessary for achieving outcomes. Staff retention literature indicates that high caseloads and time-consuming paperwork are primary factors in child welfare workforce turnover. Research and literature also suggest that high turnover rates impact timeliness of reunification and resource parent retention.

  • FKC 24.10

    The organization prevents and counters the development of secondary traumatic stress by:

    1. educating both workers and supervisors about secondary trauma, its symptoms, and its potential effects on children, families, and the organization as a whole;
    2. helping personnel develop the skills and behaviors needed to manage and cope with work-related stressors;
    3. encouraging respectful collaboration and support among co-workers;
    4. using assessment strategies to determine when personnel have been impacted by secondary trauma;
    5. connecting personnel to the supports and services needed to address concerns; and
    6. considering how the organization’s culture and policies may contribute to or prevent the development of secondary traumatic stress.

    Interpretation: Regarding element (b), personnel should be helped to develop the skills and behaviors that will enable them to engage in positive thinking; increase their self-awareness; know their limits and needs; establish healthy boundaries; monitor and regulate their emotions and behaviors; identify and manage emotional triggers; and take time for self-care.  Regarding element (f), it may make sense to consider the organization’s culture and policies in areas including, but not limited to, supervision, caseload assignment, scheduling, and crisis response.

    Research Note: Given that child welfare workers routinely work with traumatized individuals, organizations should acknowledge and accept responsibility for addressing the risks and ramifications of secondary trauma.  In addition to diminishing a worker’s quality of life, secondary trauma can also negatively impact both the organization and its clients by compromising workers’ ability to serve clients effectively and by increasing turnover, which in turn can lead to both negative repercussions for clients and economic costs for the organization.

  • FKC 24.11

    The organization takes steps to minimize the number of times a case is transferred from one worker to another.

    Interpretation: In addition to addressing factors that may contribute to turnover by enforcing reasonable caseloads and providing appropriate training, supervision, and support, the organization should also examine any policies or procedures that require families to be passed from one specialty worker to another as they move through the system, and consider whether families would be better served by fewer transfers.

  • FKC 24.12

    When peer mentors provide support to birth parents or resource parents, the organization:

    1. clearly defines the role and responsibilities of the mentors;
    2. establishes guidelines for recruitment of prospective mentors, including how much time must elapse before a former client is eligible to participate;
    3. carefully screens prospective mentors to ensure they are a good fit for the program;
    4. trains mentors to work in a professional setting and fulfill the roles they are expected to perform; and
    5. provides ongoing support and supervision to ensure that mentors have the skills they need and address any issues that arise.

    Interpretation: Peer parent mentors typically provide social and emotional support, facilitate family engagement in services, help families better understand and navigate the child welfare system, certification process, or adoption process, connect families to needed resources, and help families advocate appropriately for themselves. 

    Research Note: While caseworkers are also expected to provide the type of support offered by parent mentors, parents who have similar backgrounds and firsthand experience with the child welfare system may be better positioned to empathize and build trusting relationships with family members. In addition to potentially benefiting families currently involved with the system, research suggests that programs such as these may also help the parent mentors by enabling them to build their job skills and resumes and increase their self-confidence and sense of self-efficacy.  However, literature also emphasizes the importance of ensuring that mentors are appropriately screened, trained, and supervised, noting that some may lack appropriate skills or be motivated by their own agendas. For example, while social support may be most effective when offered by someone with a similar background, some mentors may be motivated to downplay their similarities with families in order to boost their own identities and meet their own needs.  Similarly, while a mentor’s own experience may help the mentor empathize and connect with parents currently involved in the system, it will not necessarily provide the mentor with the skills or understanding needed to guide families through the process and help them access services.

    NA The organization does not use peer mentors to provide services.

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