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.
read more>>


Family Preservation and Stabilization Services improve family functioning, increase child and family well-being, ensure child safety, reduce the need for CPS intervention and/or the removal of children from the home, and strengthen families with children returning from out-of-home care.

PA-FPS 4: Assessment

Children and families participate in a comprehensive, individualized, strengths-based, family-focused, culturally- responsive, and trauma-informed assessment.

Interpretation: The Assessment Matrix - Private, Public, Canadian, Network determines which level of assessment is required for COA’s Service Sections. The assessment elements of the Matrix can be tailored according to the needs of specific individuals or service design.

Research Note: For an assessment to be trauma-informed, it assumes that every individual has likely been exposed to experiences that are traumatic, including abuse (physical, psychological, or sexual), neglect, out-of-home placements, exposure to community or familial violence, or persistent stress. Adopting this assumption in all levels of treatment ensures the organization actively avoids instances that can re-traumatize service recipients. 

Research Note: When a case involves American Indian or Alaska Native family, tribal representatives or individuals with knowledge of the tribe and tribal customs, should be involved in the assessment to the greatest extent possible and appropriate to improve the quality of the assessment by ensuring that it is culturally grounded and involves the family and tribal community.

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
    • Assessment procedures
    • Assessment tools and/or criteria included in assessment
    • Qualifications of personnel who conduct assessments
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Families served
    • Review case records

  • PA-FPS 4.01

    Personnel who conduct assessments are qualified by relevant training, skill, and experience and can children and families with special needs.

  • PA-FPS 4.02

    When personnel conduct assessments, family members are considered the primary source of information.

    Interpretation: Collateral sources of information can be sought to help confirm and/or enhance information for assessment purposes. When services are mandated by a referring agency with statutory responsibility, that agency may supply additional information about the need for service.

    Interpretation: Extended family members may participate in the assessment process if their involvement is appropriate.

  • PA-FPS 4.03

    The information gathered for assessments is comprehensive, directed at concerns identified in the initial screening, and limited to material pertinent for meeting service requests and objectives.

  • PA-FPS 4.04

    Assessments are conducted in a strengths-based and culturally responsive manner and focused on:

    1. increasing family engagement in the process; 
    2. gaining a better understanding of children’s and families’ experiences;
    3. learning about times families managed challenging situations successfully; and 
    4. identifying competencies and resources that each family member can utilize and leverage to promote change and reduce the risks that precipitated the need for service.

    Interpretation: All children and families have areas of strength and resilience. Staff should engage all family members involved in the case in an open and safe dialogue about their strengths, struggles, fears, and experiences during the assessment process, especially to inform treatment efforts. A comprehensive assessment that guides effective service planning is best achieved when families are engaged as partners in identifying their strengths and needs.

    Research Note: It may be especially important to identify strengths related to the protective factors that have been shown to support effective parenting and promote child and family well-being, even under stress. Research has shown that protective factors including nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and child and youth development, parental resilience, social connections, and concrete supports for parents are linked to lower incidence of child abuse and neglect and family dysfunction.

  • PA-FPS 4.05

    Assessments are designed to explore, as appropriate, each family member’s strengths, needs, and functioning related to the following areas: 

    1. physical health, including any chronic health problems;
    2. emotional stability, mental health, and adjustment and coping skills;
    3. behavior;
    4. educational readiness, attainment, and cognitive development;
    5. family relationships, family dynamics, and any history or presence of domestic violence;
    6. informal and social supports, including relationships with adults and peers in the extended family and community, as well as connections to community and cultural resources;
    7. substance use;
    8. trauma exposure and related symptoms;
    9. parenting skills and disciplinary practices;
    10. gender identity and sexual orientation; and
    11. any history of human trafficking. 

    Research Note: Research on suicide prevention shows that behavioral health conditions, such as mental illness and/or substance use disorders, and traumatic or violent life events can heighten suicide risk. Identifying risks, warning signs, and protective factors during the assessment process can facilitate prompt access to necessary services and interventions. 

  • PA-FPS 4.06

    Assessments are completed within timeframes established by the agency.

  • PA-FPS 4.07

    Providers continually evaluate progress, needs, strengths, risks, impediments to service, and the continued need for service, and document the results of their ongoing evaluations once a month.

    Interpretation: Consistently applied criteria should be used to evaluate risks or needs that may inhibit resolution of pressing issues. The agency can develop its own criteria or use an established risk assessment tool.

    Interpretation: When tribal representatives or local Indian organizations are involved in the case, they must receive timely notification of evaluations to support their involvement. Phone and video conferencing can be used to facilitate tribal participation. 

Copyright © 2019 Council on Accreditation. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy and Terms of Use