Private Organization Accreditation

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


Holy Family Institute

Sister Linda Yankoski, President/CEO

The Council On Accreditation provides all stakeholders involved in the delivery of social services the assurance that the organization is credible, effective, and is committed to quality improvement. The COA process is an important tool for anyone involved in leading an organization to establish best practices and maintaining and updating these practices over time.
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Children in Family Foster Care and Kinship Care live in safe, stable, nurturing, and typically temporary family settings that best provide the continuity of care to preserve relationships, promote well-being, and ensure permanency.

PA-FKC 19: Personnel

Qualified personnel receive support to provide culturally-responsive services that ensure the safety of children, promote the well-being of children and families, and increase the efficacy of resource families.

Interpretation: PA-FKC 19 refers to employees only. Resource parents are not considered personnel.

Note: When the agency is unable to fully implement one or more of the standards within this section, intensive efforts should be placed on fully implementing the other standards. For example, if the agency is unable to recruit workers with specific qualifications, it can ensure that appropriate supervision and workload standards are implemented.

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
    • Program staffing chart that includes lines of supervision
    • List of program personnel that includes:
      1. name;
      2. title;
      3. degree held and/or other credentials;
      4. FTE or volunteer;
      5. length of service at the agency;
      6. time in current position
    • Job descriptions
    • Description of average workload per worker, including the average caseload size for the last four quarters
    • Procedures or critieria used to assign and evaluate workload
    • Table of Contents of training curricula
    • Guidelines for how workers are provided up-to-date information about culturally-relevant community services
    • Information and/or data describing staff turnover
    • Training curricula and training attendance record
    • Interview:
      1. Supervisors
      2. Personnel
    • Review personnel files
    • Review case records as needed

  • PA-FKC 19.01

    Workers are qualified by: 
    1. an advanced degree in social work or a comparable human service field; or 
    2. a bachelor’s degree in social work or a comparable human service field with two years of related experience. 

    Interpretation: Agencies should have specific plans for increasing the educational credentials of existing staff and hiring relevantly credentialed staff; however, exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis when a worker has an unrelated bachelor’s degree but has directly relevant experience and/or competencies.

  • PA-FKC 19.02

    Workers have the competencies and support needed to: 
    1. build positive, engaged relationships with parents that motivate them for change, help them identify their strengths and needs, and support family success;
    2. build trusting, engaged relationships with children to be a source of support, help them identify their strengths and needs, and advocate for their wishes;
    3. work with all families in an equitable, culturally-responsive, and empowering manner;
    4. facilitate permanency, family connections, and community supports; 
    5. recruit, assess, and engage in collaborative relationships with resource parents;
    6. collaborate with kinship caregivers to meet the needs of the family;
    7. facilitate relationships between parents and resource families; 
    8. help resource families provide a safe, nurturing environment; 
    9. collaborate with other units, systems, and service providers; and
    10. promote self-care, identify triggers and effects of secondary traumatic stress and countertransference, and access supports to address concerns.

    Interpretation: Competency can be demonstrated through education, training, or experience. Support can be provided through supervision or other learning activities to improve understanding or skill development in specific areas.

    Research Note: Training that focuses on anti-racism and addresses individual and institutional racism has been identified as a promising strategy for reducing the disproportionality of children of color in the child welfare system by addressing implicit bias that impacts decision-making around such areas as investigation, separating children from their families, and permanency. 

    Research Note: While immigration policy and law supports family reunification whether or not parents are deported, and child welfare policy prioritizes reunification whenever possible, practice shows that when parents are detained or deported family separation often lasts for extended periods and too often juvenile dependency courts terminate parental rights because of the length of separation.  

    Caseworkers and all other relevant staff should receive training on immigration law and enforcement policies in order to best advocate for the children of immigrants and immigrant families.

  • PA-FKC 19.03

    Workers receive training to develop their skills in:
    1. comprehensively assessing strengths, needs, risks, and protective factors; 
    2. collaborating with families to develop effective service plans;
    3. conducting well-planned, quality home visits that focus on issues pertinent to service planning; and
    4. evaluating progress on identified goals and the continued need for placement.

  • PA-FKC 19.04

    Workers demonstrate a belief that parents can safely care for their children, a commitment to children’s right to be part of a family, and dedication to achieving permanency for all children.

  • PA-FKC 19.05

    Workers have access to comprehensive, up-to-date information about culturally-relevant community services, and maintain regular contact with other providers to share information about service delivery.

  • PA-FKC 19.06

    Workers and supervisors, depending on job responsibilities, are knowledgeable about relevant provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), including: 
    1. the importance of ICWA and special considerations for working with Indian children; 
    2. the identification of Indian children; 
    3. determination of jurisdiction; 
    4. appropriate notice and collaboration with the child’s tribe; 
    5. placement preferences that support the child’s connection to their native culture and heritage; 
    6. active efforts requirements to reunify families; and 
    7. court procedures.

    Interpretation: The agency can consider the average number of cases where the Indian Child Welfare Act applies when determining which personnel need to be trained. All screening personnel must be trained on how to identify children with Indian heritage.

  • PA-FKC 19.07

    Employee workloads support the achievement of positive outcomes for families, are regularly reviewed, and are based on an assessment of the following: 
    1. the qualifications, competencies, and experiences of the worker including the level of supervision needed; 
    2. the work and time required to accomplish assigned tasks and meet practice requirements, including those associated with individual caseloads and other organizational responsibilities; 
    3. service elements provided by other team members or collaborating providers; and 
    4. service volume, accounting for the complexity and status of each case.

    Interpretation: Case complexity can take into account: intensity of child and family needs, size of the family, and the goal of the case. Nationally recognized caseload guidelines recommend no more than 15 children in foster care or kinship care, and no more than 8 children in treatment foster care. There are circumstances under which caseloads may exceed these limits. For example, caseload size may vary depending upon the volume of administrative case functions (e.g., entering notes, filing, etc.) assigned to the worker. Caseloads may also be higher when agencies are faced with temporary staff vacancies.

    Note: The evaluation of this standard will focus on whether the assigned workload is manageable for staff, taking into account the factors cited in the standard and interpretation. Each agency should determine what caseload size is appropriate, and reviewers will evaluate: (1) whether the agency’s designated caseload size reflects a manageable workload, and (2) whether the agency maintains caseloads of the size it deemed appropriate.

    Research Note: Child welfare research shows that a manageable workload enables a worker to conduct home visits where they can build positive relationships, which are necessary for achieving outcomes. Staff retention literature indicates that high caseloads and time-consuming paperwork are primary factors in child welfare workforce turnover. Research and literature also suggest that high turnover rates impact timeliness of reunification and resource parent retention.

  • PA-FKC 19.08

    Supervisors are qualified by an advanced degree in social work or a comparable human service field and two years of experience working with children and families, preferably in family foster care or kinship care. 

    Interpretation: If Treatment Foster Care supervisors do not meet these qualifications additional regular clinical consultation must be provided at least monthly.

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