Private Organization Accreditation

Debt Education and Certification Foundation (DECAF), a private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, provides high-quality financial education and counseling, with nationwide outreach throughout the U.S. DECAF is HUD-approved, and recognized as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in Texas.


Catholic Charities, Diocese of Covington

Wm. R. (Bill) Jones, ACSW, MDiv, Chief Executive Officer

Catholic Charities in Covington has been COA accredited since 1996. Though the time spent in completing the self study and hosting the site visit can sometimes feel sometimes daunting, the rewards far outweigh the effort. In our agency, the self-study is a group process that involves every member of the staff from the CEO to the building maintenance staff.
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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 5: Assessment

The organization conducts an individualized, strengths-based, culturally-responsive assessment to:

  1. identify present and future needs of the child and prospective guardian; and
  2. determine the child’s eligibility for available guardianship subsidies.

Research Note: Subsidized guardianship is the transfer of custody to a private caregiver or guardian who is provided with a monthly subsidy for the care and support of the child. Several states have begun using subsidized guardianship as a tool to expedite permanency for children who are in the child welfare system, and for whom reunification with birth parents or adoption are not viable options. As of December 2006, 39 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of a subsidized guardianship program. Currently, in Montana, state subsidies are available for children in both state and tribal custody. There also can be similar funds available to Indian children through tribal monies; however, the number of tribes offering such subsidy is unknown. Workers should familiarize themselves with subsidies available to the children and families with whom they work.

Research Note: Tribal representatives, or individuals with knowledge of the tribe and tribal customs, should be involved in the assessment to improve the quality of the assessment by ensuring that it is culturally grounded and involves the family and tribal community.

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
  • Culturally responsive assessments are the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations (HR 6.02) and training (TS 2.05); or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent; or
  • Diagnostic tests are consistently and appropriately used, but interviews with staff indicate a need for more training (TS 2.08).
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
  • Assessment and reassessment timeframes are often missed; or
  • Assessment are sometimes not sufficiently individualized;
  • Culturally responsive assessments are not the norm and this is not being addressed in supervision or training; or
  • Staff are not competent to administer diagnostic tests , or tests are not being used when clinically indicated; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • Assessments are done by referral source and no documentation and/or summary of required information present in case record; 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.,
  • There are 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
    • Procedures for conducting assessments
    • Assessment tools and/or criteria included in assessment
    • Procedures for identification and collaboration in ICWA cases
    • Indian Child Welfare Act information provided to families
    • Copies of tribal state agreements, when applicable
    • Information available to workers regarding available guardianship subsidies
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Service recipients
    • Review case records

  • GSM 5.01

    The information gathered for assessments is limited to material pertinent to meeting service requests and objectives.

  • GSM 5.02

    Assessments are conducted in a strengths-based, culturally-responsive manner to identify resources that can increase service participation and support the achievement of agreed upon goals.

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

    Research Note: When working with undocumented children it is particularly important that the guardianship worker assess the child for their potential eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Minors under 21 years-of-age who are involved in guardianship proceedings through the probate court may be eligible for SIJS if (1) they cannot be reunified with either parent because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and (2) it isn’t in the child’s best interest to be returned to their home country. SIJS allows the child to remain in the United States and eventually obtain lawful permanent residency. It also provides an employment authorization document allowing the child to work and serving as a government-issued identification card.

  • FP
    GSM 5.03

    The organization identifies American Indian and Alaska Native children and collaborates with the tribe or Indian organization to:

    1. determine the applicability of, and ensure compliance with, the Indian Child Welfare Act;
    2. determine jurisdiction;
    3. assess the child’s needs;
    4. provide the family with information regarding their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act;
    5. determine the most appropriate plan for the child; and
    6. maintain connections between the child, his or her extended family, and the tribe.


    • Revised Standard - 10/31/17
      Element (f) was revised to include the child's extended family. The interpretation was revised and a research note was added to reflect new federal regulations and guidelines for determining ICWA applicability.

    Interpretation: The organization should have established procedures for identifying American Indian and Alaska Native children to determine if the child or his/her biological parent(s) are members of a federally recognized tribe, or if the child is eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. Physical appearance, blood quantum, and perceived presence or absence of cultural cues within the family are not appropriate determinants of ICWA applicability. The organization should document efforts to identify and contact the children’s tribes, and if tribes are unknown the organization should contact the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to identify, locate, and notify the child’s tribe. 

    Note: Evidence of tribal participation should be documented in the case record.

    Research Note: The Indian Child Welfare Act authorizes states and federally recognized tribes to enter into agreements governing the care and custody of Indian children and jurisdiction over child custody proceedings. Organizations should refer to tribal-state agreements and the Indian Child Welfare Act to determine what role each party should play in cases involving Indian children, and to ensure compliance with relevant legal requirements.

    Research Note: Early identification of American Indian and Alaska Native children is critical to ensuring that the requirements of ICWA are followed from the beginning of the case and preventing harmful placement delays or disruptions later in the proceedings. To facilitate accurate determinations of tribal membership, organizations should provide tribes with: parents’ genograms or family ancestry charts; parents’ maiden, married, and other known former names or aliases; parents’ current and former addresses; and parents’ places of birth and birthdates.

  • GSM 5.04

    To ensure the receipt of necessary services, the child, prospective guardian, birth parent, and extended family as appropriate, participate in a comprehensive assessment to determine the:

    1. risk of present or future behavioral, health, mental health, or substance use conditions;
    2. availability of formal and informal supports; and
    3. necessary level of agency involvement and post-permanency services.

    Interpretation: Personnel conducting assessments should be qualified through education, training, and experience to identify risk factors associated with behavioral, health, mental health, and substance use conditions. A comprehensive psychosocial assessment to identify the presence of such conditions must be conducted in a culturally competent manner by a licensed professional qualified to make the diagnosis.

    When the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child, the licensed professional conducting the assessment should be identified or approved by the tribal community. If an approved, licensed professional is not available, the tribal community may identify a non-licensed professional to conduct the assessment to ensure that it is culturally appropriate and involves the family and tribal community.

    Research Note: In several states, the services that will be paid for throughout the life of the guardianship arrangement depend heavily on the initial assessment and service plan. Therefore, it is essential that any risk of future behavioral, health, mental health, or substance use conditions be identified early to establish that guardianship is the best option given available resources and to make services more accessible in the future.

  • GSM 5.05

    Information is collected to determine the child’s eligibility to receive state-funded guardianship subsidies.

    Research Note: In states with no subsidized guardianship programs, or subsidy programs where the rate is lower than foster care, there is a disincentive to move to permanency given the perceived loss of financial resources to care for the child. States where the guardianship subsidy is equal to what the family received in foster care can more effectively achieve permanency through guardianship.

    NA The state does not have a subsidized guardianship program.

  • GSM 5.06

    Assessments are completed in timeframes established by the organization.

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