Private Organization Accreditation

Sweetser, a Maine non-profit agency operating since 1828, provides comprehensive mental and behavioral health and substance abuse treatment services. Statewide, it serves around 15,000 consumers a year, including children, adults, and families in outpatient, office-based, and residential settings.


The Village for Families & Children, Inc.

Galo A. Rodriguez, M.P.H., President & CEO

COA Peer Reviewers demonstrated their expertise through their knowledge of COA standards as well as experience in the behavioral health field. In addition, COA’s seminars and tools were very helpful in guiding us through the accreditation process.
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Child and Family Services promote child and family well-being, protect children’s safety, stablilize and strengthen families, and ensure permanency.

PA-CFS 10: Services for Parents

Parents receive individualized services and supports that address their needs, increase their capacities for effective parenting, and assist them in stabilizing their families. 

Note: Please note that this core concept is applicable to both parents whose children remain with them, and parents who have been separated from their children.  It also applies when agencies provide in-home services after reunification.  

Research Note: There is a growing emphasis in the field on the importance of maintaining children in their homes with their families whenever it is safe to do so. Literature highlights the need to provide preventive, supportive, and in-home services at the ‘front end of the system’ in order to stabilize and strengthen families before challenges become greater. Furthermore, rather than focusing solely on eliminating risk factors, literature on strengthening families emphasizes the importance of also building on and promoting the development of the protective factors that can mitigate risk and encourage positive functioning, even under stressful or adverse circumstances. 

Research Note: The Indian Child Welfare Act outlines minimum federal requirements, called active efforts, to prevent unnecessary separation of American Indian/Alaska Native children from their families. The act requires that the agency be able to demonstrate that active efforts were made to preserve families. The difference between reasonable and active efforts is not explicitly defined in the Act but it is generally accepted that active efforts require full engagement with the family, the provision of more intensive remedial and rehabilitative services, and that the caseworker actively assists the family in accessing necessary services from outside resources. Early consultation with the child’s tribe is critical to ensuring that a full range of resources have been made available to the family and that active effort requirements are fulfilled. Services offered or recommended by the tribe or local American Indian/Alaska Native organization should be prioritized when working with parents to identify strategies to meet their needs. 

Rating Indicators
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions; exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement. 
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented.  
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.  
Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  
  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.   
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner. 
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.   
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.  
Please see Rating Guidance for additional rating examples. 

Table of Evidence

Self-Study Evidence On-Site Evidence On-Site Activities
    • A description of:
      1. Services and supports for parents
      2. Strategies for promoting collaboration between parents and out-of-home care providers
    • Procedures for: 
      1. Case management and service coordination
      2. Referring for and accessing core services, including mental health, substance use, and domestic violence
    • Local community resource and referral list(s)
    • Contracts or service agreements with community providers for the provision of services to parents
    • Interview:
      1. Agency leadership
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Parents served
      4. Resource parents
      5. Residential treatment providers
    • Review case records

  • PA-CFS 10.01

    Parents are connected to culturally-relevant services that help them meet basic needs and stablilize their families, including: 

    1. housing referral and assistance;
    2. public benefits and income support, including any assistance needed to obtain food, clothing, and utility services;
    3. child care;
    4. home care and support services, including household management and home health aide services; 
    5. medical and dental care; 
    6. respite care; 
    7. transportation services; and
    8. vocational and educational assistance.

    Interpretation: Given that a referral may not be sufficient to ensure services are received, the agency should also help families navigate different systems and access needed services, and communicate with the other providers to coordinate service planning and share information, as addressed in PA-CFS 2.02.  

    Note: See PA-CFS 11, 16, 18, 19, and 20 for information regarding services for children.

    Research Note: Some literature emphasizes that it can be difficult for parents to focus on interventions such as parenting classes if they are still addressing crises in their families, and points to the importance of helping families to meet basic needs before expecting them to make progress toward other goals.  Given the importance of targeting services to meet the individual needs of each family, literature also points to the importance of collaborating with other organizations and agencies to ensure ease of entry into a wide range of services, as addressed in PA-CFS 2 and PA-AM 6.

    Research Note: Poverty and child maltreatment, particularly neglect, are inextricably intertwined. Research indicates that poverty can play a major role in many conditions that increase risks to child safety, such as parental stress, inadequate housing and homelessness, lack of basic needs, inadequate supervision, substance abuse, and domestic violence. 

    Research Note: As noted in PA-CFS 14.02, reasonable efforts must be made to support reunification with incarcerated parents unless a court has suspended the need to make such efforts. Accordingly, in addition to helping incarcerated parents maintain relationships with their children and remain involved in their children’s care, agencies should also identify needed rehabilitative services, and document when services are not available, in order to demonstrate both reasonable efforts made and the barriers incarcerated parents face in accessing needed services.

  • PA-CFS 10.02

    Families receive intensive services, as needed, from domestic violence, mental health, and substance use treatment specialists.  

    Interpretation: Given that a referral may not be sufficient to ensure services are received, the agency should also help families navigate different systems and access needed services, and communicate with the other providers to coordinate service planning and share information, as addressed in PA-CFS 2.02.

    Note: See also PA-CFS 2 and the Research Note to PA-CFS 10.01 regarding the importance of collaborating with other organizations and agencies to ensure the availability of needed services.

    Research Note: Domestic violence and mental health and substance use conditions present an increased risk of child maltreatment and removal, and can complicate and delay reunification when a child is separated from his or her family.

  • PA-CFS 10.03

    The agency’s practice and any service interventions are designed to target family-specific challenges and help parents:

    1. evaluate the impact of their past experiences on current functioning and parenting practices; and 
    2. develop and strengthen the skills they need to manage challenging situations.

    Research Note: The Solution Based Casework model emphasizes the importance of helping families build the skills they need to handle the everyday tasks that result in threats to safety and well-being, from supervising young children, to keeping the home clean and safe, to controlling anger or substance use. Caseworkers partner with parents to identify the situations that pose challenges for the family, develop specific plans of action for dealing with those challenges in ways that reduce risk and promote safety, and celebrate the behavioral changes that occur. 

  • PA-CFS 10.04

    The agency’s practice and any service interventions are designed to support parents’ increased use of the skills and strategies needed to:

    1. express and regulate emotions;
    2. control impulses;    
    3. cope with stress and adversity;
    4. communicate effectively;
    5. make decisions;
    6. resolve conflicts and solve problems;
    7. identify, seek, and access needed services and supports;
    8. increase awareness and mindfulness;
    9. engage in effective self-care; and 
    10. manage a home and budget.

  • PA-CFS 10.05

    Parent education and support services promote development of the knowledge and skills needed to:

    1. understand the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of children, as well as factors and conditions that can promote or impede healthy development;
    2. provide nurturing care that promotes secure attachment and healthy development;
    3. provide appropriate supervision and monitoring;
    4. develop appropriate expectations regarding, and techniques for managing, children’s behavior;
    5. maintain a safe home environment; and
    6. meet any special needs that children may present.

    Note: When children have been separated from their families, constructive visitation/family time will provide an important opportunity for practicing newly learned skills and improving parenting abilities.  See PA-CFS 17 for more information regarding family contact.

  • PA-CFS 10.06

    Joint parent-child interventions support the development of healthy connections and help to repair any harm in the parent-child relationship, as needed.

    Note: See also PA-CFS 17 for more information regarding parent-child contact when children have been separated from their families.

  • PA-CFS 10.07

    In an effort to build strong and healthy family support networks, parents are helped to:

    1. identify current sources of support;
    2. develop plans for managing any negative influences in their networks; and
    3. explore how they might expand their social support networks, if necessary.

    Interpretation: Extended family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and other community members may help to provide the ongoing support a family will need over time. Efforts to help parents strengthen their support networks may overlap with efforts undertaken during assessment or service planning to develop a family “team”.

    Research Note: Literature emphasizes the important role that a healthy support network can play even after a case has been closed, noting that the people in a parent’s network can offer emotional support, help solve problems, serve as resources when parents need concrete assistance, and even enrich the lives of their children. A social support network can also have a stress buffering effect, which can in turn have a positive impact on parenting. 

  • PA-CFS 10.08

    When parents have experienced trauma they are:

    1. helped to explore and understand the connection between their past experiences and current functioning;
    2. helped to identify, anticipate, and manage their responses to trauma reminders; and
    3. connected to trauma-informed services.

    Interpretation: As noted in PA-CFS 3.02, the agency should assume the presence of trauma, and adopt a trauma-sensitive approach to engagement. Workers should: be aware that involvement with the child welfare system can be a trauma reminder; recognize that challenging behaviors such as anger, apathy, or non-compliance may actually be a defensive or protective reaction to the involvement of the child welfare system; and ensure that interactions with parents are sensitive and responsive to any history of trauma.

    Research Note: Research suggests that many parents involved with the child welfare system have unmet trauma needs that can impact their ability to regulate emotions, control impulses, make decisions, develop positive self-esteem and coping mechanisms, engage in relationships, and parent their children. Furthermore, just as parents’ history of trauma can compromise their ability to care for their children, it can also negatively impact their ability to work with caseworkers, meet the demands of the child welfare system, and remain involved with children in out-of-home care. Accordingly, literature highlights the importance of: (1) training personnel to recognize and understand the impact of trauma; (2) conducting trauma screenings and follow-up assessments, as needed, as addressed in PA-CFS 7; and (3) collaborating with other organizations and agencies to ensure the availability of trauma-informed services, as referenced in PA-CFS 2.04 and 10.01.

  • PA-CFS 10.09

    When children have been separated from their parents, out-of-home care providers maintain connections with parents to mutually share information about the children and support parents’ involvement in their children’s care, unless contraindicated.

    Interpretation: The agency’s strategies for promoting collaboration between parents and out-of-home care providers should include a description of the expectations for how they will maintain contact, and how the agency will support and document this contact.  Whenever possible, it is particularly important that regular communication be maintained with the parents of infants and toddlers, who may be unable to express their needs, in order to best meet needs and keep parents abreast of changes during this period of rapid child development. 

    Research Note: Because of the positive impact on child permanency outcomes, agencies are identifying creative strategies to bring parents and resource families together early on in a child welfare intervention. For example, some have instituted an introductory or “ice breaker” meeting within 72 hours of placement that gives parents the opportunity to share information about their children and learn about the resource family that will be caring for their children.

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