Private Organization Accreditation

As one of the largest family services agencies in the country, Child & Family Services has dedicated its resources to meet the needs of the community since 1873.


Advantage Credit Counseling Service

Mary Loftus, VP, Agency Service

Our agency is preparing for reaccreditation under the Eighth Edition Standards. The COA site is well organized and very easy to use. Our team of employees working on the reaccreditation process has found the tools index to be very helpful, particularly some of the templates.
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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 8: Service Planning

Service plans are developed in partnership with children and families to establish family goals, clarify the agency’s role and responsibilities, and ensure effective implementation of interventions and supports.

Interpretation: Although service planning will typically build on the assessment process, as noted in PA-CFS 8.03, in some cases, such as when emergency placements occur, the agency may be required to develop an initial service plan before conducting an assessment. In those instances the service plan should be revised based on the results of the assessment once it has been completed. 

Interpretation: When the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child and family, tribal or local American Indian or Alaska Native representatives must be included in the service planning process and culturally relevant resources available through or recommended by the tribe or local Indian agencies should be considered and prioritized when developing the service plan.

Note: See also PA-CFS 14 regarding planning for permanency, which occurs in conjunction with service planning when children are 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
    • Procedures for service planning
    • Service plan template
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Agency leadership
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Children and families served
      4. Resource parents
    • Review case records

  • FP
    PA-CFS 8.01

    Service plans are developed with the full participation of children and families.

    Interpretation: Service planning is to be conducted so that service recipients retain as much personal responsibility and self-determination as possible and desired.  Individuals with disabilities who have limited ability to make independent choices should receive help with making decisions and support to assume more responsibility. Generally, children age 6 and older are to be included in service planning, unless there is clinical justification for not doing so. 

    Interpretation: Processes and protocols for involving family members may need to be adapted based on the specific circumstances of children and families.  For example, in cases where the child is a victim of human trafficking, the agency should be aware that the child’s parent or caregiver may be the trafficker or complicit in the trafficking. In such cases, determining appropriate family supports and level of involvement should include the input of the child, as well as child welfare and law enforcement systems. Similarly, procedures should be adapted as needed in cases involving domestic violence to promote safe, healthy, and active participation of all family members. For example, the agency may determine that meetings involving both the perpetrator and the victim/survivor would pose a safety risk or would limit the participation of the victim/survivor and would not be appropriate.  Finally, in situations where children have no family involvement, the standard is implemented through demonstrating children’s full participation in the development of their service plans. 

  • PA-CFS 8.02

    Service planning is conducted with teams that are chosen by children and families, and include:

    1. supportive people of their choice, such as extended family, friends, and community members;
    2. other service providers; and
    3. resource families or residential treatment providers, when children are in out-of-home care.

    Interpretation: The agency can facilitate participation by, for example, helping arrange transportation or including participants in scheduling decisions. 

    Note: As noted in PA-CFS 2.02, service plans should integrate the plans developed by other service providers. Providers will ideally develop and work off of a single service plan.

    Research Note: Family teaming models (such as Family Group Decision-Making, Family Team Meetings, Family Group Conferencing, and Team Decision Making) have become increasingly prevalent for intentionally collaborating with families and their support networks throughout the child welfare intervention and particularly at crucial decision-making points. The family “team” is the group of people that a family has chosen to support them in meeting their goals and that may provide support identified in the service plan. In addition to parents, children, and siblings, family teams can include:

    • extended family members;
    • family friends;
    • resource parents;
    • service providers already working with a family;
    • community members;
    • tribal members;
    • faith group members; and 
    • other supportive people identified by the family. 
    Family teaming models have proven to be successful in supporting positive outcomes by helping service providers share power with families, build and incorporate the larger circle of family support, and develop plans that ensure safety and achieve permanency more quickly. Through evaluation studies family teaming has been identified as an effective practice tool for collaborating with kinship families. Similarly, including resource families in the service planning process can ensure more comprehensive service delivery to children, strengthen the network of supports for birth families, and promote resource family retention.

  • PA-CFS 8.03

    Service planning builds on the assessment process to explore: 

    1. children’s and families’ short and long-term goals and the desired outcomes when goals are met;
    2. the agency’s role in supporting the achievement of desired outcomes and its legal mandates for ensuring children’s safety, permanency, and well-being; 
    3. strategies to address the needs and challenges that lead to and stem from abuse or neglect, through formal services and informal family and community support; 
    4. how to maintain and strengthen family relationships, including while children are not living with their parents;
    5. benefits, cultural relevance, and alternatives to planned services; and
    6. the potential ramifications of non-participation in services.

    Interpretation: When the agency is working with American Indian or Alaska Native children and famiies, tribal representatives should, whenever possible, play an active role in service planning, beyond mere document review.

    Interpretation: Safety concerns for victims of human trafficking often do not end when they enter care. The agency should work with the victim to develop a safety plan that focuses on increasing physical safety by securing needed documents, property, and services; maintaining the youth’s location in confidence; and linking efficiently to law enforcement, if needed. 

  • PA-CFS 8.04

    Service plans are individualized, based on permanency goals, and include:

    1. clearly-articulated goals and desired outcomes, as well as the specific tasks and objectives that support their achievement;
    2. services and supports to be provided, by whom, and by when; 
    3. timeframes for accomplishing tasks and goals, evaluating progress, and updating plans; 
    4. criteria for closing the case, including conditions for return, when applicable; and
    5. the signatures of parents, children, and family teams, whenever possible. 

    Interpretation: The contents and goals of service plans will vary from family to family, and over time, based on families’ characteristics, circumstances, and permanency goals. It is important that the agency be clear and transparent with parents regarding the goals they are expected to achieve and conditions for return, when applicable. While some agencies may develop one service plan for the family as a whole, others may develop separate plans for parents and children. 

    Note: See PA-CFS 20 for required components of treatment plans for Treatment Foster Care Programs.

    Research Note: Pointing to the fact that only attending a required service is not sufficient to reduce risk and promote safety, literature on working with parents emphasizes the importance of developing specific goals for behavioral change that target the issues that led to the involvement of the child welfare system, and describe what caregiver behavior will look like when changed. The Solution Based Casework model also highlights the importance of focusing these behaviorally-specific plans on the tasks in everyday life that tend to pose challenges for the family, in order to help the family interrupt the destructive patterns that threaten safety.  In order to ensure parents understand what they are responsible for accomplishing, both goals and tasks should also be written in clear and straightforward language.

    Research Note: In many state-subsidized guardianship programs, special needs such as mental health risks, learning disabilities, or behavioral concerns must be identified in the service plan to ensure future service needs will be paid for by the subsidy program.

  • PA-CFS 8.05

    Service plans are developed within 30 days of the date a case is opened for ongoing services, and the process for service planning is expedited when needed. 

    Interpretation: Service plans are not likely to be approved by the court in 30 days, but within this timeframe an initial plan that identifies a family’s goals and allows for service identification and referral should be developed.  See PA-CFS 14 for more information regarding expectations related to the court-determined permanency plan and planning for permanency, which often occurs in conjunction with service planning.

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