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.


Children's Foundation of Mid America

James W. Thurman, President/CEO

Children’s Foundation of Mid America has been accredited through COA since 1983. The process of accreditation ensures that we meet or exceed the highest standards in the industry.
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Children and youth who participate in Out-of-School Time programs gain the personal, social, emotional, and educational assets needed to support healthy development, increase well-being, and facilitate a successful transition through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood.

PA-OST 4: Building Supportive Relationships Between Program Participants and Adults

Personnel develop positive, caring, and supportive relationships with children and youth.

Note: Please note that the strategies personnel employ in guiding behavior, and facilitating program activities, will also impact relationship development. See PA-OST 5, 6, and 9 for more information. Treating children and youth in a culturally responsive manner and accommodating their communication needs, as addressed in CR 1, will also support the development of positive relationships.

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
    • A description of how personnel support, and develop positive relationships with, children and youth 
    • Policies and/or procedures defining appropriate boundaries and unacceptable personnel conduct (PA-OST 4.05)
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Program Administrator
      2. Site Director
      3. Program Personnel
      4. Children, youth, and families
    • Observe personnel interactions with children and youth

  • PA-OST 4.01

    Personnel actively engage with children and youth in a warm, friendly, and respectful manner that helps them feel welcome, comfortable, and supported.

    Interpretation: Personnel may demonstrate implementation of this standard in a number of ways.  For example, personnel should know and call children and youth by name; acknowledge children and youth when they arrive and depart; project a tone of welcome and cheer in their voices and gestures; use kind and supportive language; show interest in what children and youth say and do; and spend most of program time interacting with children and youth (including both during activities and when snacks are served).  Personnel should also take care not to intrude on, interrupt, dismiss, belittle, or distance themselves from children and youth, and should make an effort to spend only minimal time during program hours on tasks that do not involve children and youth. 

    Research Note: Youth report that they are more engaged and get more out of program activities when they feel emotionally supported by staff.

  • PA-OST 4.02

    Personnel encourage the development of trust by:

    1. treating all children and youth without favoritism or discrimination; and
    2. being consistent and dependable, following through on what they say they will do.

    Interpretation: Given that there may be a tendency to employ discipline strategies differently when children are minorities or have disabilities, personnel should make a special effort to ensure that they treat children without favoritism or discrimination when upholding rules and guiding behavior, as addressed in PA-OST 5 and 6. Agencies should ideally also review their discipline-related data on a regular basis, within the context of their PQI efforts, to determine whether children are indeed being treated without discrimination or if improvement/corrective action may be needed. 

    Note: See PA-OST 5 and 6 for additional information regarding the importance of fairness and consistency related to rules and behavior guidance.

  • PA-OST 4.03

    In an effort to truly get to know children and youth, personnel take the time to:

    1. give children and youth individualized attention;
    2. check in with children and youth to see how they are doing;
    3. ask open-ended questions that encourage children and youth to share information about their lives, cultures, feelings, perspectives, needs, and interests; and
    4. pay close attention to what children and youth say and do, making a special effort to learn about their individual interests, abilities, temperaments, learning styles, and needs, including any special needs they may have.

    Interpretation: Please note that the special needs referenced in element (d) of the standard include, but are not limited to, needs related to disabilities or a history of trauma.

    Research Note: Literature emphasizes that personnel should make a concerted effort to get to know youth so that they are equipped to be responsive to their needs during the course of program involvement, including when challenges arise.  

  • PA-OST 4.04

    Personnel support children and youth by:

    1. responding to them with interest, acceptance, and appreciation; and 
    2. responding appropriately to their individual needs, interests, and abilities.

    Interpretation: Personnel should recognize that all children and youth have different strengths and skills; support and cultivate children’s and youths’ special interests and talents; demonstrate interest in children’s and youths’ cultures and experiences; and respond to the range of children’s and youths’ feelings, temperaments, and abilities, making sure that they receive any specialized attention or support they may need.  For example, personnel should encourage children and youth to pursue their interests; respect the different ways children and youth express their feelings; try to assess a child’s or youth’s feelings before attempting to solve a problem; comfort children and youth who appear hurt, upset, or disappointed; find ways to nurture and include shy or introverted children who find it difficult to speak up; accept a child’s or youth’s desire to be alone; and modify both their actions and program activities in ways designed to help children and youth engage regardless of their age, ability, or temperament. 

    Note: Please note that more detailed expectations regarding ways to address the needs, interests, and abilities of children and youth are included throughout this section of standards. See PA-OST 5, 6, 9, and 16 for more information regarding the importance of responding appropriately to children’s needs in the context of both behavior support and program activities. See PA-CR 1.05 and 1.06 for more information about meeting communication needs.

  • PA-OST 4.05

    Personnel maintain clear and appropriate boundaries with children and youth.

    Interpretation: The exact nature of “appropriate boundaries” may vary by age and can be hard to define, but the agency should establish policies and/or procedures that outline the type of conduct that would be deemed unacceptable.  While personnel should strive to develop strong and supportive relationships with children and youth, as addressed throughout this core concept standard, they should also understand, and make clear to children and youth, that their role is to be a coach, instructor, and role model rather than a peer or friend.  For example, personnel should be aware that some details of their personal lives may not be appropriate to disclose to children and youth, and should be careful not to share too much.  Personnel should also consider whose needs are being served in their interactions with program participants, and make sure that the relationship and interactions serve the needs of children and youth, rather than their own needs.

    It is also important to note that the agency’s policies and/or procedures should include guidelines regarding any contact that might occur outside program time, whether via in-person contact, telephone, or electronic communications and postings (including social media postings).  Personnel behavior in these contexts should be consistent with personnel behavior at the program, and should not threaten or blur the boundaries established there. 


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