Private Organization Accreditation

Heartland for Children is the not-for-profit agency responsible for the foster care system in Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties.


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 22: Transition to Adulthood

Youth in out-of-home care are supported in their transition to adulthood through individualized preparation and planning that promote well-being, strong support systems, access to needed resources, and skill development.

Interpretation: Please note that PA-CFS 22.01 through 22.06 apply to all youth in care who are approaching adulthood, regardless of their plans for permanency. In cases where youth will transition from the system without having achieved legal permanency, PA-CFS 22.07 and 22.08 will also apply.

Note: Please note that providing the services and supports described throughout this section of standards will also help to facilitate a positive transition to adulthood. For example, youth should be helped to maintain and develop positive social connections throughout the time they are in out-of-home care, as addressed in PA-CFS 16 and 17. Similarly, youth should be helped to develop independent living skills that support self-sufficiency, as referenced in PA-CFS 16.10, and resource parents should support youths’ participation in the “normal” activities that provide opportunities to learn and grow, as addressed in PA-CFS 16.04 and 16.05.

Research Note: Research consistently shows that youth who have left the foster care system face more challenges than the general population around educational attainment, employment, criminal justice involvement, substance abuse, mental illness, poverty, and homelessness. Systematic skills assessment, independent living skills training, involvement of caregivers as facilitators, and developing and maintaining community connections are four overarching strategies that have been identified as effective for preparing youth for self-sufficiency.

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 services to support youth in the transition to adulthood
    • Procedures for: 
      1. Transition planning, including collaborating with other service providers
      2. Assessing independent living skills
      3. Developing shared living agreements
    • Independent living skills assessment tool/criteria
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Agency leadership
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Youth
      4. Resource parents
      5. Residential treatment providers
    • Review case records

  • PA-CFS 22.01

    Preparing for adulthood is a youth-driven, strengths-based process that:

    1. ensures maximum youth participation through involvement in all aspects of exploring and planning for the future;
    2. includes important informal and formal members of youths’ lives;
    3. explores involved adults’ commitment to the youth;
    4. explores the role of peers and peer support;
    5. incorporates attention to safety, well-being, and permanency; and 
    6. involves collaboration and coordination among all service providers.

    Interpretation: Implementation of the standard is demonstrated through case record documentation and interviews with youth that indicate that the agency has worked consistently and collaboratively with youth to identify and engage family members, friends, natural mentors, and other community supports in preparing for the transition to adulthood. Collaborative, team-based transition planning that begins well in advance of a youth’s transition will naturally promote the development of a positive support system.

    Interpretation: For youth who will be transitioning into adult systems of care, planning meetings and discussions should include providers from the adult-serving systems that will be working with the youth. For American Indian and Alaska Native youth, their tribe and/or the local Indian organization must be included in transition planning.

  • PA-CFS 22.02

    With the worker or another supportive professional, youth have the opportunity to explore:

    1. their family relationships and relationships with supportive peers and adults;
    2. their families’ readiness for healthy participation in their lives;
    3. strategies for coping with and healing from stress and trauma associated with grief and life transitions;
    4. the range of housing options that will be available to them, including tribal options for American Indian/Alaska Native youth, as well as the risks and benefits of different housing options; 
    5. their academic needs and interests and available educational paths; and
    6. their work interests and skill sets, as well as different vocational interests, career paths, and employment supports.

    Interpretation: Housing options may include a full range from supported living to a fully independent living environment. When the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child, the agency should work with the tribe and youth in transition to explore the risks and benefits of housing options within Indian country and prepare youth for this potential transition.

  • PA-CFS 22.03

    The agency works with children, parents, and resource families or residential treatment providers to assess the independent living skills of children 14 years and older, at regular intervals.

    Interpretation: The agency should use a standardized assessment instrument as soon as possible after children’s 14th birthdays to establish a benchmark for progress on the development of skills in the areas of:

    • educational and vocational development, 
    • interpersonal skills, 
    • financial management, 
    • household management, and 
    • self-care. 
    Systematic assessment normally reoccurs at six or twelve month intervals.

  • PA-CFS 22.04

    The agency ensures that youth transition to adulthood with basic social supports, including: 

    1. strong, consistent relationships with committed, caring adults; 
    2. access to cultural and community supports; and 
    3. connections to positive peer support.

    Interpretation: Regarding element (a), the agency should ensure that youth who emancipate from the system without having achieved legal permanency leave care with a connection to at least one adult who will provide a relationship that is safe, nurturing, and intended to be enduring.

    Research Note: Youth who leave the foster care system consistently name emotional support as the most common element missing from their lives. Agencies may consider using permanency pacts, which provide the opportunity to discuss and document specific supports that an involved, caring adult will provide a youth, to promote the development of lifelong relationships.

  • PA-CFS 22.05

    The agency assists youth in obtaining or compiling documents necessary to function as an independent adult, including, when applicable: 

    1. a social security or social insurance number; 
    2. a resume; 
    3. an identification card or a driver’s license; 
    4. an original copy of their birth certificate; 
    5. bank account access documents;
    6. religious documents and information; 
    7. documentation of immigration or refugee history and status; 
    8. documentation of tribal eligibility or membership; 
    9. death certificates when parents are deceased; 
    10. a life book or a compilation of personal history and photographs; 
    11. a list of known relatives, with relationships, addresses, telephone numbers, and permissions for contacting involved parties; 
    12. educational records, such as a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and a list of schools attended; and
    13. information about the places they have lived (previous placement information).

    Note: Youth should also be assisted to obtain medical records, as addressed in PA-CFS 18.08.

  • FP
    PA-CFS 22.06

    When youth are in care past the age of 18, shared living agreements are developed at the time of placement, or upon youths’ birthdays, to promote independence, clarify new roles, and establish mutually agreed-upon expectations.

    Interpretation: In many states foster care services have been extended to youth until age 19, 20, or 21. In a developmentally appropriate manner, each youth over 18 should be engaged in a formally-documented conversation that explores and determines the mutual expectations and responsibilities of the living arrangement now that the youth is not a minor.

  • FP
    PA-CFS 22.07

    At least six months before they will transition from care, the agency assists youth in developing individualized transition plans that identify specific plans for:

    1. housing and transportation;
    2. education and academic support;
    3. employment and workforce support;
    4. finances/income;
    5. healthcare;
    6. mentoring; and
    7. social, peer, cultural, and community supports.

    Interpretation: As noted in PA-CFS 22.01, when the agency is working with American Indian or Alaska Native youth tribal representatives should be active participants in the creation of the transition plan.

    Note: See PA-CFS 18.08 for more information regarding the health-related services and supports that youth should be connected to prior to release from care.
    Note: This standard is required only when youth are transitioning from the system without having achieved legal permanency.

    Research Note: A theme in the area of transition planning is the importance of understanding normal adolescent brain development and using this understanding as the foundation for creating transition plans with youth that support them through these normal developmental stages.

  • PA-CFS 22.08

    As appropriate to each individualized transition plan, the agency ensures youth have information and support around: 

    1. the transfer or termination of custody; 
    2. benefits that will end at transition or case closing, at least six months in advance;
    3. accessing affordable community based healthcare and counseling; 
    4. transitioning to adult systems of care for mental health or developmental disabilities; 
    5. services and supports available to youth who were in foster care for education and independent living activities;
    6. public assistance programs and the court system; 
    7. maintaining an ongoing relationship with their tribe and tribal community members to receive supports and services available from the tribe and engage in cultural activities; 
    8. child care services; 
    9. available support through community volunteers or individuals who have made a successful transition; 
    10. how to contact the agency and what supports the agency can offer after case closing, including information regarding voluntary return to care, as appropriate; and
    11. who they can contact in an emergency, crisis, or for support.

    Interpretation: Given the potential for vulnerable young adults to wind up abandoned, when youth have developmental disabilities or mental health needs it is also essential for the agency to collaborate with adult systems of care in these areas. Planning meetings should include representatives from the adult-serving systems that will be working with youth, as addressed in PA-CFS 22.01, and the agency should partner with the providers to facilitate access to services, as referenced in PA-CFS 2.02.

    Note: This standard is required only when youth are transitioning from the system without having achieved legal permanency.

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