Private Organization Accreditation

HeartShare assist individuals with developmental disabilities through education, day, residential and recreation programs, case management, and health services, and provides foster care/adoption services, counseling, after school and energy assistance programs, and programs for people with HIV/AIDS.


Audrey Coleman, RN-MSN

Volunteer Roles: Military Reviewer; Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

My first experience with COA was in 1999 with what was a NC Area Program. I started as a peer reviewer in 2005, doing two to four site visits a year. I am also a team leader and have recently been approved to be a military reviewer.
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Guardianship Services for Minors support the establishment of a court-appointed, long-term, living arrangement with a committed caregiver that ensures safety and increases stability and child well-being.

GSM 4: Homestudy

The homestudy process ensures that the prospective guardian is capable of providing a stable environment that promotes healthy child development.

Research Note: The Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act of 2006 (H.R.5403) requires that full faith and credit be given to any homestudy completed by another state or Indian tribe with respect to the placement of a child unless it is determined that placing the child on the basis of the contents of the report would be contrary to the child’s well-being.

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
    • Description of homestudy process
    • Homestudy tool and/or procedures
    • Procedures for background checks
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel

  • GSM 4.01

    The information gathered for homestudies is limited to material pertinent to establishing a guardianship.

  • GSM 4.02

    Homestudy assessments are conducted in a culturally-responsive manner and identify potential strengths and opportunities to promote service participation and success.

    Interpretation: Culturally-responsive assessments can include attention to geographic location, language of choice, political status, tribal affiliation, and religious, racial, ethnic and cultural background. Other important factors that contribute to a responsive assessment include attention to age and sexual orientation.

  • FP
    GSM 4.03

    The homestudy is a collaborative process to determine if guardianship is an appropriate goal and includes:

    1. one or more visits to the prospective guardian’s home;
    2. reference checks;
    3. criminal background and child abuse and neglect registry checks for all adults living in the home according to applicable federal and state requirements; and
    4. preparation of a homestudy report with a recommendation regarding the prospective guardian’s ability to meet the needs of the child.

    Interpretation: Homestudies are conducted in accordance with all applicable federal and state requirements. The worker can consider additional information offered by the prospective guardian after they review the homestudy. The organization should develop criteria for the review of criminal background checks that specifies how the organization evaluates and responds to reports indicating criminal offenses. Prospective guardians should be informed of the organization’s policy regarding criminal convictions at the beginning of the process. If guardianship is being established for a child already in placement with the prospective guardian or for a sibling of a child already in placement with the prospective guardian, background checks that were conducted as part of that arrangement may not need to be conducted again.

  • GSM 4.04

    An assessment is conducted to evaluate the:

    1. relationship between the prospective guardian and the child;
    2. child’s relationship to individuals already living in the home;
    3. prospective guardian’s cultural sensitivity and willingness to support the child’s cultural ties;
    4. history of maltreatment and prior placements; and
    5. prospective guardian’s commitment to the child.

    Interpretation: Evidence of a strong commitment to the child can include functioning as the primary caregiver of the child prior to the guardianship arrangement.

  • GSM 4.05

    The homestudy explores the guardian’s capacity to provide a lifelong home for the child and includes an assessment of:

    1. the prospective guardian’s ability to meet the needs of the child;
    2. the family’s ability to support the child;
    3. the needs of children already living in the home;
    4. physical and mental health status; and
    5. education, employment, and financial status.

    Interpretation: Elements a) through e) should be considered collectively when assessing the guardian’s capacity to provide a lifelong home for the child and a placement determination should never be made based on one single factor.

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