Private Organization Accreditation

Stillwater-based FamilyMeans provides services in budget and credit counseling, mental health, collaborative divorce, caregiver support, youth programming, and an employee assistance program. 


Judy Kay, LCSW

Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

In administration for 22 of 24 years at Child Saving Institute, a COA-accredited not-for-profit child welfare agency in Omaha, Nebraska. Retired approximately two years ago, I moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I advocate for children's rights as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer to three young children.
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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 12: Separating Children from Their Families

When children cannot safely remain at home with their families and must be separated, the agency strives to minimize the negative effects of separation, including the impact of separating siblings. 

Interpretation: While the field has traditionally referred to “removals” of children from the home, the language of “separating children from their families” acknowledges and emphasizes the emotional impact of the decision to place children in out-of-home care.

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
    • Policy and related procedures for: 
      1. Establishing voluntary agreements
      2. Submitting court petitions
      3. The separation (removal) process, including the protocol to be followed when domestic violence is indicated
    • Informational materials provided to parents/families
    • Informational materials provided to children
    • Qualifications of personnel involved in separation decisions
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Agency leadership
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Children and families served
    • Review case records

  • FP
    PA-CFS 12.01

    When children cannot safely remain at home with their families the agency collaborates with their parents to establish voluntary agreements, or otherwise petitions a court of proper jurisdiction, to obtain appropriate care.

    Interpretation: As noted in PA-CFS 8.02, when possible the agency should employ a family teaming model that encourages families to include supportive people of their choice, such as extended family, friends, community members, and service providers, in establishing voluntary agreements. 

    Interpretation: The process for separating an American Indian or Alaska Native child from his or her family must meet requirements outlined in the Indian Child Welfare Act. 

    Note: See PA-CFS 8.02 for more information regarding family teaming models.

    Research Note: The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) requires that, prior to separating an American Indian or Alaska Native child from his or her family, the state must be able to demonstrate to the court that active efforts have been made to prevent separation and that all efforts have been unsuccessful. The Act also requires that a qualified expert witness who has knowledge of the tribe’s norms and is not the child’s regularly assigned social worker testify in court that serious emotional or physical harm would likely occur if the parent were to maintain custody of the child. Agencies are strongly encouraged to contact the child’s tribe to identify a qualified expert witness.

    Research Note: The provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act apply to the separation of any American Indian or Alaska Native child in which reunification is conditional rather than “upon demand”, including cases in which a voluntary agreement has been established. Voluntary consent to foster care is not valid unless it complies with specific procedural requirements outlined ICWA , including that the consent be executed in writing, recorded before a judge, and accompanied by a certificate authenticating that the terms and consequences of voluntary separation were fully explained and understood. Parents of American Indian or Alaska Native children should be informed of their right, under ICWA, to withdraw consent and the process and timeframes for doing so.

  • FP
    PA-CFS 12.02

    A professional with two years of related experience and an advanced degree in social work, or another comparable clinical human services profession, is involved in the decision to separate a child from his or her family.

    Interpretation: The agency should have a formal plan in place for obtaining supervisory approval if the worker and/or immediate supervisor do not possess two years of related experience and an advanced degree in social work or another comparable clinical human services profession.

    Interpretation: When the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child, the agency should collaborate with the tribe to ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. 

  • PA-CFS 12.03

    When domestic violence is indicated a domestic violence protocol is followed, and the agency coordinates the separation of children from their homes with a domestic violence unit or specialist.

    Interpretation: The removal of a child can aggravate a domestic violence situation, pointing to the need to involve domestic violence specialists and follow specialized protocols. 

    Note: See PA-CFS 2.02 for more information regarding the efforts that should be undertaken to promote the delivery and coordination of services across systems. Given that attention to domestic violence sometimes wanes once a child has been separated from the family and connected to out-of-home care, the agency should seek to ensure that: (1) assessments continue to include attention to domestic violence, as addressed in PA-CFS 7; and (2) needed services are provided to both parents and children, as addressed in PA-CFS 2, 10, 16, 18, 19, and 20.

  • FP
    PA-CFS 12.04

    The agency minimizes the negative effects separation can have on children by:

    1. providing as much age and developmentally appropriate information as possible about why children are being separated from their parents and, if applicable, why they are being separated from their siblings;
    2. providing as much age and developmentally appropriate information as possible about what will happen next, including where the children are going;
    3. identifying personal items the children will bring, including favorite toys or items of comfort;
    4. explaining when children will see their families again and describing how the children can maintain contact with their families and cultural or tribal communities while in out-of-home care;
    5. discussing separation and loss;
    6. collecting information from parents about children’s daily routines, cultural practices, preferred foods and activities, education, and specialized health needs, including any allergies and needed therapeutic or medical care; and
    7. obtaining any additional information needed to ensure that children will receive safe, appropriate, and nurturing out-of-home care.

    Interpretation: Given that children may be in a shocked or agitated state at the time they are separated from their families, information about why they are being separated and what will happen next should be repeated as needed, and provided in writing when appropriate to the age and developmental level of the children.
    Interpretation: Personnel should ensure needed medications and medical equipment accompany children or are obtained. When children require medication personnel should follow procedures regarding the storage and administration of medication, as addressed in PA-RPM 4.
    In terms of obtaining any additional information needed to ensure that children will receive safe, appropriate, and nurturing care, the agency would want to assess for factors such as whether children are afraid of dogs, or whether children pose a risk of harm to self or others. This will be especially critical in cases where children are separated from their families before comprehensive assessments have been conducted.

  • PA-CFS 12.05

    The agency minimizes the negative effects separation can have on families by:

    1. providing as much information as possible about what will happen next, including where children are going;
    2. explaining parents’ rights and responsibilities;
    3. explaining how family members can maintain contact with children, including when they can next see or speak to the children;
    4. discussing separation and loss;
    5. addressing immediate and critical needs related to the separation; and
    6. ensuring proper notification is sent to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives explaining the options and requirements related to their participation and involvement in children’s care.

  • FP
    PA-CFS 12.06

    Within a reasonable timeframe following children’s separation from their families, parents receive information about services that includes:

    1. an orientation to the agency and program; 
    2. the rights and responsibilities of resource families and residential treatment providers; and
    3. how service plans will be implemented to ensure involvement and contact with their children and communication with resource families or residential treatment providers.

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