Private Organization Accreditation

HeartShare assist individuals with developmental disabilities through education, day, residential and recreation programs, case management, and health services, and provides foster care/adoption services, counseling, after school and energy assistance programs, and programs for people with HIV/AIDS.


Judy Kay, LCSW

Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

In administration for 22 of 24 years at Child Saving Institute, a COA-accredited not-for-profit child welfare agency in Omaha, Nebraska. Retired approximately two years ago, I moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I advocate for children's rights as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer to three young children.
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Guardianship Services for Minors support the establishment of a court-appointed, long-term, living arrangement with a committed caregiver that ensures safety and increases stability and child well-being.

PA-GSM 5: Assessment

The agency conducts an individualized, strengths-based, culturally-responsive assessment to:

  1. identify present and future needs of the child and prospective guardian; and
  2. determine the child’s eligibility for available guardianship subsidies.

Research Note: Subsidized guardianship is the transfer of custody to a private caregiver or guardian who is provided with a monthly subsidy for the care and support of the child. Several states have begun using subsidized guardianship as a tool to expedite permanency for children who are in the child welfare system, and for whom reunification with birth parents or adoption are not viable options. As of December 2006, 39 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of a subsidized guardianship program. Currently, in Montana, state subsidies are available for children in both state and tribal custody. There also can be similar funds available to Indian children through tribal monies; however, the number of tribes offering such subsidy is unknown. Workers should familiarize themselves with subsidies available to the children and families with whom they work.

Research Note: Tribal representatives, or individuals with knowledge of the tribe and tribal customs, should be involved in the assessment whenever possible and appropriate. Their familiarity with the child’s culture can 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
    • Procedures for conducting assessments
    • Assessment tools and/or criteria included in assessment
    • Procedures for identification and collaboration in ICWA cases
    • Indian Child Welfare Act information provided to families
    • Copies of tribal state agreements, when applicable
    • Information available to workers regarding available guardianship subsidies
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Service recipients
    • Review case records

  • PA-GSM 5.01

    The information gathered for assessments is limited to material pertinent to meeting service requests and objectives.

  • PA-GSM 5.02

    Assessments are conducted in a strengths-based, culturally-responsive manner to identify resources that can increase service participation and support the achievement of agreed upon goals.

    Interpretation: Culturally-responsive assessments can include attention to geographic location, language, political status, tribal affiliation, and religious, ethnic, and cultural background. Other important factors that contribute to a responsive assessment include attention to age, sexual orientation, and developmental level.

    p>Research Note: When working with undocumented children it is particularly important that the guardianship worker assess the child for their potential eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Minors under 21 years-of-age who are involved in guardianship proceedings through the probate court may be eligible for SIJS if (1) they cannot be reunified with either parent because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and (2) it isn’t in the child’s best interest to be returned to their home country. SIJS allows the child to remain in the United States and eventually obtain lawful permanent residency. It also provides an employment authorization document allowing the child to work and serving as a government-issued identification card.

  • FP
    PA-GSM 5.03

    The agency identifies Indian children and collaborates with the tribe or Indian organization to:

    1. determine the applicability of, and ensure compliance with, the Indian Child Welfare Act;
    2. determine jurisdiction;
    3. assess the child’s needs;
    4. provide the family with information regarding their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act;
    5. determine the most appropriate plan for the child; and
    6. maintain connections between the child and his or her tribe.

    Interpretation: If the tribe is unknown, the agency should document efforts to identify the tribe and notify the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    Interpretation: The agency should have established procedures for identifying Indian children that do not depend on the child’s physical appearance.

    Note: Evidence of tribal participation should be documented in the case record.

    Research Note: The Indian Child Welfare Act authorizes states and federally recognized tribes to enter into agreements governing the care and custody of Indian children and jurisdiction over child custody proceedings. Agencies should refer to tribal-state agreements and the Indian Child Welfare Act to determine what role each party should play in cases involving Indian children, and to ensure compliance with relevant legal requirements.

  • PA-GSM 5.04

    To ensure the receipt of necessary services, the child, prospective guardian, birth parent, and extended family as appropriate, participate in a comprehensive assessment to determine the:

    1. risk of present or future behavioral, health, mental health, or substance use conditions;
    2. availability of formal and informal supports; and
    3. necessary level of agency involvement and post-permanency services.

    Interpretation:Personnel conducting assessments should be qualified through education, training, and experience to identify risk factors associated with behavioral, health, mental health, and substance use conditions. A comprehensive psychosocial assessment to identify the presence of such conditions must be conducted in a culturally competent manner by a licensed professional qualified to make the diagnosis. A comprehensive psychosocial assessment to identify the presence of such conditions must be conducted in a culturally competent manner by a licensed professional qualified to make the diagnosis.

    Research Note: In several states, the services that will be paid for throughout the life of the guardianship arrangement depend heavily on the initial assessment and service plan. Therefore, it is essential that any risk of future behavioral, health, mental health, or substance use conditions be identified early to establish that guardianship is the best option given available resources and to make services more accessible in the future.

  • PA-GSM 5.05

    Information is collected to determine the child’s eligibility to receive state-funded guardianship subsidies.

    Research Note: In states with no subsidized guardianship programs, or subsidy programs where the rate is lower than foster care, there is a disincentive to move to permanency given the perceived loss of financial resources to care for the child. States where the guardianship subsidy is equal to what the family received in foster care can more effectively achieve permanency through guardianship.

    NA The state does not have a subsidized guardianship program.

  • PA-GSM 5.06

    Assessments are completed in timeframes established by the agency.

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