Private Organization Accreditation

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


Ulysses Arteaga, L.C.S.W.

Volunteer Roles: Commissioner; EPPA; Marine Reviewer; Military Reviewer; Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

The Consuelo Foundation 2012 Peer Reviewer of the Year, Mr. Arteaga conducts two to three site visits a year, often volunteering for visits that require a Spanish speaking peer.
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Supervised Visitation and Exchange Services enable children to maintain connections with parents with whom they are not living by protecting the physical and emotional safety of the children and their families, including the safety of parents who have been victims of domestic violence.

SVE 3: Intake and Orientation

Service recipients participate in intake and orientation sessions that prepare both the organization and family for services.

Research Note: Literature emphasizes that, rather than simply serving as a process for completing forms and negotiating schedules, intake should be designed to build trust, determine the safety risks and needs of each family member, and truly prepare both the organization and family for supervised contact. 

Rating Indicators
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted, however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations (HR 6.02) and training (TS 2.03); or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • A number of client records are missing important information  or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing; or  
  • Two or more Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.

Table of Evidence

Self-Study Evidence On-Site Evidence On-Site Activities
    • Intake and orientation procedures
    • Materials provided to service recipients during orientation, including program rules
    • List of community resources
    • Procedures for determining fee allocation, as applicable
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Service recipients and their children
    • Review case records

  • SVE 3.01

    When serving family law cases, visiting and custodial parents participate in face-to-face intake and orientation sessions that:
    1. occur prior to the first supervised contact; and 
    2. are conducted with each party separately, and at different times, so visiting and custodial parents do not come into contact with one another.

    Interpretation: If an organization is unable to provide in-person intake and orientation sessions due to distance or geographic isolation, it is sufficient to conduct intake and orientation via telephone.

    NA The organization does not serve family law cases.

  • SVE 3.02

    When serving child welfare cases, face-to-face intake and orientation sessions:
    1. occur prior to the first supervised contact; and
    2. involve both the visiting party and the child’s caregiver.

    Interpretation: The degree to which the child’s caregiver is involved in intake and orientation may depend upon the type and willingness of the placement. For example, if the child has been placed in a residential treatment program, the organization may only be able to provide program staff with its policies and procedures regarding visitation and exchange. In contrast, foster parents may be more willing to play an active role in service delivery. In some cases an organization may only be able to communicate with the child’s caseworker.

    Note: See the Interpretation to SVE 3.01.

    NA The organization does not serve child welfare cases.

  • SVE 3.03

    During intake the organization obtains the following information:
    1. reasons for referral;
    2. copies of any current court orders, including protective orders;
    3. legal representation;
    4. status of custody determinations;
    5. other persons authorized to visit, if applicable;
    6. records or allegations of child abuse or neglect, including the type of abuse or neglect and the alleged perpetrator;
    7. records or allegations of domestic violence, including the nature of the abuse and the alleged perpetrator;
    8. photographs of children and adults who are authorized to participate in visits or exchanges; and
    9. relevant financial data, if applicable for determining program fees.

    Interpretation: Intake is a process, and information may be obtained at multiple points; some information may also be provided by the court or referring agency prior to intake. As addressed in SVE 2.03, the organization should not provide services if it is not reasonably prepared to address the safety risks and needs associated with a particular case. If information arises during intake that changes the outcome of the risk assessment that was conducted upon referral, the case should be rejected.

    Note: See also CR 2.01 regarding the importance of informing service recipients of any limits on confidentiality prior to the disclosure of confidential or private information.

    Research Note: There is no privilege of confidentiality for individuals participating in supervised visitation or exchange, which means that the records of a provider can be subpoenaed by the court or another party. Accordingly, literature emphasizes the importance of advising service recipients, prior to the disclosure of confidential information, that the information they reveal is not protected. This may be especially important in cases involving domestic violence, since a perpetrator can subpoena records to find out what a victim has disclosed to staff.

  • SVE 3.04

    Intake is used to explore:
    1. the parents’ relationship with the children;
    2. the parents’ relationship with one another, including marital status;
    3. the date and nature of the last contact between the visiting party and children;
    4. any issues or special needs of parents or children that may impact visits or exchanges, including physical, emotional, mental health, or substance use needs or issues;
    5. parents’ views about their situations and any needs or concerns they may have, including concerns about safety and whether they need protection from the other parent;
    6. any topics that should not be discussed with or in front of the children; and
    7. current living situation of the children.

    Interpretation: Please note that element (f) addresses topics specific to individual children and families, such as specific family members or activities. Topics that should not be discussed across the board are covered in SVE 6.

    Note: See also the Interpretation, Note, and Research Note to SVE 3.03.

  • SVE 3.05

    The organization uses the information obtained during intake, along with the reason for referral, to make determinations regarding specific service issues related to the case.

    Interpretation: Rather than simply gathering information, the organization will also make decisions about how to plan for safety and structure service delivery based on the information gathered. For example, element (e) of SVE 3.03 and element (f) of SVE 3.04 indicate that the organization should collect information about whether other persons can participate in visits and whether certain topics should not be discussed with children. In making decisions about these issues the organization should consider the information obtained from different parties along with the reason the case has been referred for service, and the risks presented by family members, in order to maximize safety.

  • SVE 3.06

    Orientation for parents and caregivers is focused on the family’s unique risks, needs, and circumstances, and includes: 
    1. a tour of the facility;
    2. an overview of the role and goals of the program, as well as what to expect during visitation or exchange;
    3. a discussion of the needs of each family member, including needs and concerns related to safety;
    4. an explanation of program rules and the consequences for breaking them;
    5. a description of the security measures and safety features in place at the program;
    6. an explanation of how observations will be recorded, what records will be kept, and what information may be reported to the court or referring agency;
    7. a discussion of how children may react to visitation or exchange, including help preparing children for services; and
    8. an opportunity to have questions answered.

    Interpretation: Given the distinct goals and purposes of services for child welfare and family law cases, it is important that parents be helped to understand the nature of the services to be provided. Families should be made aware, for example, if services will simply allow for parent-child contact despite the presence of parental conflict, or if services are part of a path to family reunification. Similarly, when an organization serves child welfare cases and is expected to report on the achievement of defined behavioral goals that will be criteria for reunification, parents should be informed about what those goals are, and how their achievement will be determined and documented, before the start of services.

  • SVE 3.07

    Parents sign a service agreement indicating that they have been oriented to service and agree to comply with the program’s rules and requirements.

    Interpretation: When the organization serves child welfare cases, the service agreement should also typically be signed by the child’s caregiver and/or caseworker.

  • SVE 3.08

    A plan for contact: 
    1. specifies the start date, frequency, time, length, and location of visits or exchanges;
    2. identifies who will be present for the visit or exchange; 
    3. considers the child’s needs and daily schedule;
    4. accommodates the schedule of both the visiting parent and the custodial parent or caregiver, to the extent possible; and
    5. designates responsibility for paying fees associated with visits or exchanges, if applicable.

    Interpretation: Some of the factors to be set forth in the plan, such as visit length and frequency, will likely be determined by the court or referring agency. The referral order should also ideally specify responsibility for paying program fees; however, the organization should have a process for determining the allocation of fees for service in cases where the referral order does not include such a determination.
    In dependency cases, the plan for contact should be closely connected to the permanency plan developed by the caseworker.

    Note: See CR 1.08 for more information regarding program fees.

  • SVE 3.09

    Children participate in an age-appropriate orientation that is focused on the unique risks, needs, and circumstances of the child and family, and:
    1. provides an opportunity to meet program personnel and tour the facility;
    2. explains why supervised contact is being provided;
    3. describes what to expect during supervised visitation or exchange;
    4. explains program rules and safety protocols, as well as why those rules have been made; 
    5. allows them to express concerns and ask questions; and
    6. assures them that the involvement of the organization is not their fault.

    Interpretation: When the children served are very young (e.g., infants) it will not be possible to engage them in an orientation. However, even children as young as two or three can be at least somewhat prepared for visitation, for example, by using simple words and puppets to explain what will happen. Given that services sometimes fall through even after the intake process has begun, it may make sense to hold off on conducting the child orientation until after parents have gone through intake and it is clear that service provision will proceed.

    Research Note: Research indicates that many children do not understand why services are being provided, and that some may be confused and anxious if they do not receive an age-appropriate explanation about services. Similarly, some literature suggests that children may assume that they are being supervised because they have done something wrong. Accordingly, providers can support children and families by both (1) providing an orientation for children, and (2) helping parents to understand their children’s concerns and prepare them for supervised contact, as addressed in SVE 3.06.

  • SVE 3.10

    Personnel communicate and interact with service recipients in a fair, sensitive, courteous, and respectful manner.

    Interpretation: The organization cannot ignore the circumstances and safety concerns that resulted in referral for services, but should still strive to establish an atmosphere of trust and respect that extends to all parties. For example, even when cases involve allegations of domestic violence personnel should still ask perpetrators how they wish to be addressed, acknowledge their life circumstances and cultural backgrounds, emphasize that rules are to keep people safe rather than to punish, and allow them to tell their own stories, albeit without validating their point of view regarding the family violence. Thus, even though parents may be treated differently, and subject to different rules, based on the safety risks they present, they can and should still be treated fairly and respectfully.

  • SVE 3.11

    When intake reveals unmet needs, parents are referred to appropriate resources.

    Interpretation: Relevant resources may include, but are not limited to: counseling and mental health services, services for substance use conditions, parenting classes, domestic violence safety planning and advocacy services, batterers intervention services, education and employment services, and immigration legal services, as well as resources providing linkages to housing, food, clothing, or medical care. It is important to note that appropriate resources are not limited to those directly pertaining to the issues that prompted the referral for supervised contact. 

    If unmet needs are discovered later in the course of service provision, referrals may also be provided after intake. When needs are identified in active dependency cases, the organization is typically expected to inform the case worker assigned to the case rather than providing referrals directly.

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