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.


Audrey Coleman, RN-MSN

Volunteer Roles: Military Reviewer; Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

My first experience with COA was in 1999 with what was a NC Area Program. I started as a peer reviewer in 2005, doing two to four site visits a year. I am also a team leader and have recently been approved to be a military reviewer.
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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 6: Safety Planning

When children are unsafe at home with their families, the agency immediately institutes plans to protect them. 

Interpretation: When children are determined to be unsafe during the initial assessment, safety planning may happen prior to the initial assessment of risk in order to ensure that children are protected while the investigation proceeds. Plans may also be developed later if safety threats are discovered during the course of service provision. When children have been separated from their families in order to provide safety, the agency can subsequently develop safety plans to facilitate reunification even if ongoing services to reduce risk are still necessary. 

Note: See PA-CFS 12 for more information regarding the steps to be taken when safety plans call for children to be separated from their families and connected to 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
    • Procedures for safety planning
    • Safety plan template
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Agency leadership
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Children and families served
    • Review case records

  • FP
    PA-CFS 6.01

    When assessments indicate that children are in imminent danger of serious harm, the agency immediately develops plans to manage safety threats.

  • FP
    PA-CFS 6.02

    Safety plans:

    1. specify the threats to safety;
    2. identify the people, services, and actions needed to protect children from harm;
    3. clearly establish how the interventions included in the plan will have an immediate impact in controlling any threats of danger to the children;
    4.  not rely upon the caregivers who pose the threats to keep the children safe; and
    5. include the potential results or consequences if the plan is not maintained.

    Interpretation: Safety plans may employ in-home safety strategies, out-of-home safety strategies, or a combination of the two. When establishing a plan to keep children safe at home relatives, neighbors, and service providers may be enlisted to check in on and aid the family; children may spend time in day care, after-school care, or respite care; or emergency services to meet basic needs may be provided.  For example, if a mother is depressed and cannot take care of her children, the safety plan might enlist an aunt to help the children get ready for school and drop them off at day care, and a grandmother to pick them up from day care and stay with them until bed.  An agency might also require an alleged perpetrator to leave the home, or a non-maltreating parent might be supported in moving to a safe environment with the children.  Similarly, a safety plan might require children to temporarily stay with a close relative or family friend.  At the extreme, children may be separated from their families and connected to out-of-home care. When a case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child, the child’s tribe should be consulted, and resources available through the tribe or local Indian organization should be considered when developing the safety plan. 

    Research Note: Literature emphasizes the importance of distinguishing the safety plan from the service plan, noting that the interventions in the safety plan are intended only to control immediate threats of danger, and are not expected to impact risk of future harm. In contrast, the interventions included in the service plan are intended to promote behavior change that will improve the parent’s ability to keep a child safe in the long term, but will not have an immediate impact on controlling danger in the present and thus do not belong in the safety plan.

  • PA-CFS 6.03

    Plans are designed to control threats in the least intrusive manner, keeping children at home with their families when possible.

    Interpretation: The agency should only place children into out-of-home care when less intrusive strategies are insufficient to protect safety. In determining whether out-of-home placement can be avoided the agency should consider: whether the individuals and providers responsible for providing safety services are available immediately and without the need for assessment; whether the individuals and providers responsible for providing safety services are committed to intervening at the level required to ensure safety; whether parents are willing and able to comply with the safety plan; and the stability of the home environment.

    Research Note: Given that separating children from their families can be traumatic, some literature highlights the promise of using in-home safety plans as an alternative to out-of-home care when such plans are sufficient to ensure safety.

  • PA-CFS 6.04

    Families are engaged in safety planning and involved in identifying potential safety strategies and resources.

    Interpretation: In an effort to promote family engagement and develop stronger plans, as long as time permits 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, when developing safety plans. If the urgency of the case does not allow the agency to employ a family teaming model when the safety plan is first developed, supportive others should still be involved when plans are reviewed and revised, as addressed in PA-CFS 9.03. It may also be appropriate to involve other organizations or providers in safety planning. For example, families experiencing domestic violence can benefit from safety planning that involves a domestic violence specialist or advocate.

    Note: See PA-CFS 8.02 for more information regarding family teaming models, and PA-CFS 2.02 for more information regarding collaboration with other service providers.

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