Private Organization Accreditation

Children's Home Society of Florida delivers a unique spectrum of social services designed to protect children at risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment; to strengthen and stabilize families; to help young people break the cycle of abuse and neglect; and to find safe, loving homes for children.


Harry Hunter, MSW, MBA, Ph.D.

Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

Peer Reviewer for the month of January 2013, Dr. Hunter has been volunteering for COA since 2005, conducting five site reviews.
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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 3: Promoting Family Engagement

Personnel partner with families to build strong working relationships that facilitate productive service delivery and support the achievement of positive outcomes.

Interpretation: Given the tendency to overlook fathers, it is important to note that the standards in this core concept are intended to apply to both custodial and non-custodial fathers as well as other family members. 

Note: In addition to individual family engagement, establishing advisory committees comprised of youth and families who have received or are receiving services, as addressed in PA-CFS 1, can support active consumer engagement in agency planning and service design. 

Research Note: Given the involuntary nature of service and the inherent power imbalance between families and agencies, forming a productive working relationship may prove challenging. Nevertheless, literature consistently emphasizes the importance of developing an effective partnership, noting that a strong relationship may encourage families to share more information with workers, which may in turn enable workers to make better decisions and connect family members with needed services and supports. Similarly, when parents have trusting relationships with their caseworkers they may be more likely to accept workers’ views and input about the challenges and needs to be addressed, and be more invested in participating in services and achieving service plan goals. Engagement should begin the moment that any family member first comes into contact with the agency.

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 strategies for engaging families in:
      1. Initial assessment/ investigation
      2. Safety planning
      3. Assessment
      4. Service planning
      5. Service provision
      6. Permanency planning
      7. Ongoing assessment and case review
      8. Reunification planning
      9. Case closing
    • Training curriculum preparing personnel to work with families
    • Family satisfaction survey data
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Agency leadership
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Children and families served
    • Review case records

  • PA-CFS 3.01

    All family members are treated with courtesy and respect, and personnel demonstrate responsiveness to differences across cultural domains. 

    Interpretation: As noted in the COA Glossary, elements of culture may include, but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender identity, geographic location, language, political status, immigration/refugee history and status, race, sexual orientation, tribal affiliation, religion, and socioeconomic status. The agency should have specific culturally-responsive strategies for promoting engagement with children, families, and their support systems through all stages of the intervention. Taking a culturally-responsive approach involves recognizing and valuing the varying sociocultural histories of families, taking the time to learn about families’ lived experiences, acknowledging one’s own culturally-based beliefs and norms, and adapting casework practice and service delivery to be responsive to differences. 

  • PA-CFS 3.02

    Personnel demonstrate a commitment to engaging families and make concerted efforts to build productive partnerships with family members. 

    Interpretation: Training and supervision should support, and family satisfaction survey data and families’ self reporting should demonstrate, that personnel:

    • are honest, predictable, and dependable in their interactions with families;
    • expect that families want the best for their children and emphasize that the agency and family share a common goal of keeping children safe;
    • listen to feelings and concerns without judging, criticizing, shaming, blaming, or arguing, and demonstrate empathy and concern for all family members;
    • understand and acknowledge that families may be fearful of the power that the agency and worker have to intervene, and that the agency’s impact on a family can be life-changing;
    • recognize that family members may exhibit anger, avoidance, apathy, or resistance as a result of agency involvement and their own personal histories of adverse experiences or trauma, and address family members’ reactions in an appropriate manner; and 
    • ensure that interactions with family members are sensitive and responsive to any history of adverse experiences or trauma.
    Given that so many of the families involved with the child welfare system have been impacted by trauma, the agency should assume the presence of trauma, and adopt a trauma-sensitive approach to engagement. Workers should be aware that interacting with the child welfare system and individuals in a position of power can be a trauma reminder for parents, and should 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.

    Note: See also PA-CFS 7.04, 7.05, 10.08, 11.04, and 16 for additional information regarding the importance of providing trauma-informed care.

    Research Note: Many parents involved with the child welfare system have unmet trauma needs that can both compromise their ability to care for their children and negatively impact their ability to work with caseworkers and meet the demands of the child welfare system.

  • PA-CFS 3.03

    Personnel engage children and families as active partners in all aspects of assessment, planning, service delivery, and case review, and promote commitment to services by:

    1. providing clear and comprehensible information that enables family members, according to their abilities, to understand the agency’s role, processes, concerns, and expectations, and how their cases are progressing, at all points in the process;
    2. seeking and valuing family members’ input and perspectives regarding their experiences, strengths, risks, and needs, including their ideas for promoting safety;
    3. building upon strengths and successes in empowering families to prevent child maltreatment; and
    4. offering choices that respect the role of parents in the lives of their children and help family members retain a sense of control.

    Interpretation: It is essential that personnel be clear and transparent with parents regarding the service goals they are expected to achieve, including when changes in circumstances prompt revisions to service goals or plans.

    Note: Please note that the importance of engaging children and families in all aspects of assessment, safety planning, service and permanency planning, service delivery, and case review is integrated throughout this section of standards. See PA-CFS 7 and 8 for more information regarding strengths-based assessment and service planning.

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