Private Organization Accreditation

Lutheran Social Services of New England is a high-performing nonprofit organization. LSS is a powerful difference maker and go-to resource, driving ourselves to constantly anticipate futures that are different from the past. For 140 years, LSS has been caring for people in need in New England.


Harry Hunter, MSW, MBA, Ph.D.

Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

Peer Reviewer for the month of January 2013, Dr. Hunter has been volunteering for COA since 2005, conducting five site reviews.
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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 7: Developing and Maintaining Connections

The organization promotes the development of social and emotional well-being and positive support systems for all children by facilitating connections with family, peers, and community.

Interpretation: If the organization does not facilitate or supervise in-person contact it should maintain documentation of all in-person contact between children and families, children’s response to contact with family, and all efforts to support other forms of contact between children and their families and networks of support.

Interpretation: When the organization is working with Indian children, tribes or local Indian organizations are included in planning for family and community contact to ensure children’s connections to extended family and the tribal community.

NA The organization provides informal Kinship Care Services only.

NA The organization does not provide case management services for children.

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
    • Guidelines for ensuring ongoing, meaningful contact
    • Procedures for visitation planning and implementation
    • Visitation plan template or sample
    • A description of services that support family, peer, and community connections
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Foster parents
      4. Parents
      5. Children and youth
    • Review case records

  • FP
    FKC 7.01

    Planned, ongoing contact occurs as frequently as possible between children, parents, and siblings, unless contraindicated, but at a minimum in-person contact occurs:
    1. weekly between children and parents, and
    2. monthly between siblings.

    Interpretation: Implementation of the standard will be assessed by determining the organization’s compliance with the required frequency and length of in-person contacts as outlined in court or administratively-determined visitation plans. The frequency and length of in-person contacts should be occurring according to children’s age and developmental needs, and in line with permanency goals and reunification planning; however, other factors such as children’s and parents’ schedules and distance may factor into visitation arrangements. Infants and toddlers, in particular, need in-person contact as frequently as possible in order to develop and maintain strong attachments with their parental figures.  

    Children and parents are entitled to in-person contact unless parental rights are terminated and in some cases after termination, and incarcerated or detained parents are entitled to in-person contact unless restricted.

    The standard requires engagement of parents whenever possible. In addition to in-person contact, organizations can support resource families to help children maintain contact in other creative ways. Web-based technologies and other electronic communications are increasingly used to facilitate family connections.

    Research Note: Positive, frequent in-person contact between children and families enhances the well-being and positive development of the child; reduces the trauma of separation and placement; promotes placement stability; increases the likelihood of reunification; and facilitates the timely achievement of permanency goals. Research indicates that youth in out-of-home care often maintain relationships with their families and return to them upon exit from care. Supportive relationships should be fostered when possible and youth should receive assistance to cope with or avoid unhealthy relationships.

    NA By virtue of law or contract, the organization does not develop or facilitate the implementation of visitation plans.

  • FKC 7.02

    Children are assisted to develop social support networks by building and sustaining relationships with caring individuals of their choosing, including: 
    1. extended family; 
    2. peers;
    3. individuals with whom they had a prior relationship; and 
    4. members of their community, ethnic group, faith group, clan, or tribe.

    Interpretation: Children have the right to determine who they maintain relationships with. The organization should work with children to identify individuals with whom they have supportive relationships. 

    In situations with known or suspected concerns about human trafficking, organizations should be aware that traffickers may pose as a boyfriend, older relative, or communicate through another individual and utilize in-person contact to continue the exploitation of the victim. 

  • FKC 7.03

    Written visitation plans are: 
    1. developed in collaboration with parents, resource parents, and children;
    2. informed by assessment information; 
    3. focused on relationship-building; and 
    4. determined by children’s developmental needs and permanency goals.

    Interpretation: When the organization is working with Indian children and families, representatives from their tribes or local Indian organizations should be included in the development of the visitation plan. 

    Interpretation: For organizations that operate an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Foster Care Program visitations plans may exist for contact with siblings and are typically developed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and applicable judicial bodies.

    Note: Visitation plans are typically part of the permanency plan and/or the service plan and are modified in accordance with planning for reunification or an alternate permanency goal.

    NA By virtue of law or contract, the organization does not develop or facilitate the implementation of visitation plans.

  • FKC 7.04

    Written visitation plans include:  
    1. start dates, frequency, time, length, and location of in-person contacts; 
    2. participants; 
    3. transportation arrangements;  
    4. supervision or monitoring requirements, if any; 
    5. developmentally-appropriate  and interactive activities; and
    6. cancellation arrangements.

    Interpretation: Workers can help families determine how to involve appropriate extended family and friends to support regular contact and maintain families’ support system. These supports can serve as supervisors, provide transport, offer their home for parents and children to spend time together, involve children in cultural or community events, or provide respite for resource parents.

    Research Note: The more detailed and collaboratively determined a visitation plan is, the more likely that in-person contact will be positive and occur consistently. A fixed schedule is considered best practice and has been linked to helping children and families spend time together more frequently. 
    Research has found that in-person contact tends to be more consistent and positive when it occurs in a comfortable home location, such as parents’ own homes, resource parents’ home, or another home setting, compared to when in-person contact is at the organization or another location.

    NA By virtue of law or contract, the organization does not develop or facilitate the implementation of visitation plans.

  • FKC 7.05

    Workers or d