Private Organization Accreditation

Debt Education and Certification Foundation (DECAF), a private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, provides high-quality financial education and counseling, with nationwide outreach throughout the U.S. DECAF is HUD-approved, and recognized as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in Texas.


Anita Paukovits

Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer

Being a COA peer reviewer has clearly played a role in my professional development and has made me a better administrator at my own agency as a result!  To be part of a professional network that is on the cutting edge of program, practice, fiscal responsibility, and insuring Best Practice across the field is an amazing opportunity.
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Youth who participate in Youth Development Services gain the personal, social, emotional, and educational assets needed to support healthy development, increase well-being, and facilitate a successful transition through childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.

YD 17: Personnel Training and Support

Personnel receive the training and support they need to develop professionally and provide quality programming that promotes positive youth development.

Note: See the Research Note to YD 16.

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.,  
  • With some exceptions, staff (direct service providers, supervisors, and program managers) possess the required qualifications, including: education, experience, training, skills, temperament, etc., but the integrity of the service is not compromised.
    • Supervisors provide additional support and oversight, as needed, to staff without the listed qualifications.
    • Most staff who do not meet educational requirements are seeking to obtain them.
  • With some exceptions staff have received required training, including applicable specialized training.
    • Training curricula are not fully developed or lack depth.
    • A few personnel have not yet received required training.
    • Training documentation is consistently maintained and kept up-to-date with some exceptions.
  • A substantial number of supervisors meet the requirements of the standard, and the organization provides training and/or consultation to improve competencies.
    • Supervisors provide structure and support in relation to service outcomes, organizational culture and staff retention.
  • With a few exceptions caseload sizes are consistently maintained as required by the standards.
  • Workloads are such that staff can effectively accomplish their assigned tasks and provide quality services, and are adjusted as necessary in accord with established workload procedures.
    • Procedures need strengthening.
    • With few exceptions procedures are understood by staff and are being used.
  • With a few exceptions specialized staff are retained as required and possess the required qualifications.
  • Specialized services are obtained as required by the standards.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards.  Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.
  • A significant number of staff, e.g., direct service providers, supervisors, and program managers, do not possess the required qualifications, including: education, experience, training, skills, temperament, etc.; and as a result the integrity of the service may be compromised.
    • Job descriptions typically do not reflect the requirements of the standards, and/or hiring practices do not document efforts to hire staff with required qualifications when vacancies occur.
    • Supervisors do not typically provide additional support and oversight to staff without the listed qualifications.
  • A significant number of staff have not received required training, including applicable specialized training.
    • Training documentation is poorly maintained.
  • A significant number of supervisors do not meet the requirements of the standard, and the organization makes little effort to provide training and/or consultation to improve competencies.
  • There are numerous instances where caseload sizes exceed the standards' requirements.
  • Workloads are are excessive and the integrity of the service may be compromised. 
    • Procedures need significant strengthening; or
    • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Specialized staff are typically not retained as required and/or many do not possess the required qualifications; or
  • Specialized services are infrequently obtained as required by the standards.
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.,

For example:
  • 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
    • Table of contents for orientation curriculum
    • Table of contents for training curricula
    • Program staffing chart that includes lines of supervision (including supervision of volunteers)
    • Policies and/or procedures regarding the use of volunteers; including training, supervision, and recognition efforts 
    • Procedures and criteria used for assigning and evaluating workloads
    • Orientation curriculum
    • Training curricula
    • Orientation and training materials for volunteers
    • Training requirements for different positions or job categories
    • Annual training calendar or schedule
    • Documentation that required orientations and trainings have been attended (e.g., documentation from training files or personnel records)
    • Documentation demonstrating that personnel are provided with paid time to plan, set up, etc.
    • Documentation of benefits provided
    • Interview:
      1. Program Administrator
      2. Site Director
      3. Program Personnel
      4. Volunteers
    • Review personnel records
    • Review volunteer files or records
    • Observe staff interactions

  • YD 17.01

    The organization implements a training and professional development program that includes at least:

    1. 15 hours of training annually for Assistant Group Leaders;
    2. 18 hours of training annually for Group Leaders;
    3. 21 hours of training annually for Senior Group Leaders;
    4. 24 hours of training annually for Site Directors; and
    5. 30 hours of training annually for Program Administrators.

    Interpretation: Personnel should participate in professional development activities throughout the time they are employed. For example, while some training will be provided pre-service, additional training and technical assistance should be provided later on, as personnel needs and interests are identified. As noted in TS 1.01, professional development activities can take many different forms, and occur within or outside of an organization. For example, organizations might use in-service workshops,  online courses, off-site conferences, or site visits to other programs. It may also be helpful to have professional resource materials, such as books or magazines on youth development, available. The organization should also foster collaborative learning opportunities such as time for group problem solving, planning together, staff-to-staff mentoring, or information sharing on youth development. Additionally, one-on-one coaching that includes regular observations and ongoing feedback can be used as an opportunity for personnel development. The organization may also support professional development by working with staff to achieve credentialing or certification, where available. 

    The organization should allocate sufficient resources to support personnel development and training. 

  • YD 17.02

    Before working with youth, new personnel are given an orientation that includes a review of:

    1. the program’s mission, philosophy, goals, routines, and practices;
    2. their job descriptions, including their responsibilities to youth, families, and the organization; and
    3. policies and procedures, including policies and procedures related to health and safety, emergencies, and confidentiality.

    Interpretation: Examples of ways to demonstrate implementation of this standard include, but are not limited to:

    • New personnel have a chance to discuss any questions they may have about the program’s mission and philosophy;
    • Job descriptions include expectations regarding space set-up, activity planning, supervision, and behavior support and management;
    • New personnel are told about the schedule and activities;
    • New personnel can read and ask questions about their hours (e.g., schedules, breaks, training, and planning time);
    • New personnel are given a tour of the program space and shown where to find materials and supplies;
    • New personnel are introduced to the program director and their co-workers; 
    • When the organization runs programs that are housed in schools, new personnel are introduced to relevant school personnel (e.g., the school principal and custodian);
    • New personnel are helped to understand the roles of different personnel;
    • New personnel have the opportunity to “shadow” or be mentored by other personnel; and
    • New personnel receive a handbook that contains all program policies and procedures.

  • YD 17.03

    Personnel who work with youth are trained in: 

    1. youth development, and the differing needs of youth at different stages of development; 
    2. building positive relationships with youth;
    3. engaging, working, and communicating with families;
    4. cultural awareness, sensitivity, and responsiveness;
    5. how to encourage and incorporate participant input in decision-making;
    6. understanding and combating bias and discrimination;
    7. how to teach, support, inspire, and meet the needs of youth;
    8. motivating youth to participate;
    9. designing and/or facilitating developmentally-appropriate activities that support program goals and actively engage program participants;
    10. topics relevant to program goals and activities (e.g., academics, physical fitness, nutrition, computers, etc.);
    11. setting up and appropriately utilizing program space in order to accommodate programming and meet the needs of youth;
    12. collaborating appropriately with other community members, organizations, and institutions;
    13. positive techniques for guiding behavior and for helping youth guide their own behavior including de-escalating volatile situations;
    14. appropriate disciplinary techniques, as well as what disciplinary approaches are inappropriate;
    15. group interactions and management, including promoting positive relationships and managing conflicts among youth;
    16. recognizing aggressive and out-of-control behavior, and other factors that may lead to a crisis;
    17. understanding how staff behavior can influence the behavior of youth;
    18. promoting the nutrition, physical fitness, health, and safety of youth;
    19. responding appropriately to the differing needs of youth, including youth with special needs or issues; and
    20. recognizing when youth may benefit from additional or alternative services and what resources are available within the community.

    Interpretation: If personnel can demonstrate that they are already competent in the areas addressed in this standard, additional training may not be necessary.

    Interpretation: Youth with special needs or issues include, but are not limited to, those with developmental disabilities or limitations, those who are abused and neglected, those who are living in poverty, and those with special health needs (such as chronic asthma or other medical conditions that may require episodic or ongoing medication or monitoring). 

    Note: See YD 4.05 for more information on working with youth with special needs.

    Research Note: Group management is one of the most important factors in promoting youth engagement, learning, enjoyment, and regular participation. Youth report that they are more engaged and get more out of well-managed activities.

  • YD 17.04

    Training activities:

    1. are directly relevant to the jobs personnel perform;
    2. describe the practices and skills being addressed, and explain why they are important for working with youth;
    3. demonstrate the practices and skills being targeted; and
    4. allow personnel to practice skills and receive feedback in a safe environment.

  • YD 17.05

    Personnel receive ongoing support designed to help them:

    1. integrate new skills and knowledge into their daily routines; and
    2. improve their skills over time.

    Interpretation: This type of ongoing training or coaching might be provided within the context of the supervisory relationships addressed in TS 3. Coaching can also be provided by outside consultants or trainers, as well as by other frontline staff at the program.

  • YD 17.06

    In an effort to promote quality programming and compensate personnel for their time and energy, personnel are provided with paid time to plan, organize, and set up program activities and events. 

  • YD 17.07

    The organization has a plan in place to offer the best possible wages and working conditions in an effort to reduce staff turnover, and personnel who work full-time receive benefits, including health insurance and paid leaves of absence.

    Interpretation: Examples of ways to demonstrate implementation of this standard include, but are not limited to:

    • Compensation takes education and experience into account;
    • Wages are above the minimum hourly wage and are competitive with other human service jobs;
    • If possible, the organization provides dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, retirement benefits, and subsidized childcare;
    • If possible, the organization provides non-monetary benefits such as flex time;  and
    • Personnel are compensated for time spent in training and professional development activities.

    Research Note: The turnover rate in the youth development field is high, and some research suggests that this is due to low wages. Accordingly, increases in wages and access to benefits might help to stabilize the workforce, advance the profession, and promote program quality. Although many programs have limited resources and thus feel ill-equipped to make improvements in this area, some literature suggests that there are still steps that can be taken to address the problem. For example, if a program establishes a formal pay structure, and communicates its compensation policies, staff may be less likely to think they are being treated unfairly. Additional reasons for turnover include: (1) competition in the job market; (2) long hours of work compared to other jobs that pay more; (3) personality clashes among staff; and (4) hiring young staff who have recently graduated from college who don’t stay in the position very long.

    High levels of staff turnover can interfere with the development of relationships between youth and adults. Studies have shown that youth who attend programs with little staff turnover report higher levels of adult support and opportunities, which the research correlates to the achievement of positive outcomes for youth.

  • YD 17.08

    Employee workloads support the achievement of positive outcomes for youth, are regularly reviewed, and are based on an assessment of the following:

    1. the qualifications, competencies, and experience of personnel, including the level of supervision needed; and
    2. the work and time required to accomplish assigned tasks and job responsibilities. 

  • YD 17.09

    Personnel work well together, and:

    1. cooperate with each other;
    2. are respectful of each other;
    3. provide role models of positive adult relationships; and
    4. communicate with each other while the program is in session to ensure that the program flows smoothly.

    Interpretation: Examples of ways to demonstrate implementation of this standard include, but are not limited to:

    • Personnel are flexible about their roles;
    • Personnel pitch in to help each other with youth, as needed;
    • Work appears to be shared fairly;
    • When problems occur, personnel discuss their differences and work toward fair solutions;
    • Long or complicated discussions are saved for times when youth are not present;
    • Respect is shown to all;
    • Personnel communicate about their needs in a way that promotes cooperation;
    • Personnel are aware of how their tone and demeanor convey respect;
    • Personnel manage tense situations in a way that shows respect for other staff members;
    • Personnel check in with each other throughout the day;
    • Personnel model positive adult interaction through cooperation, caring, and effective communication;
    • Personnel notice and respond supportively to non-verbal cues and gestures;
    • Personnel check with each other to make sure all areas are supervised;
    • Conversations about personal matters are brief and do not interfere with transitions and activities; and
    • Personnel adhere to the rules established for youth, when appropriate (e.g., rules related to chewing gum, drinking sodas, wearing hats, etc).

  • YD 17.10

    The organization promotes open communication and collaboration by:

    1. keeping personnel informed about any changes or potential changes at the program; and
    2. giving personnel ample time to discuss their ideas for and concerns about the program.

  • FP
    YD 17.11

    The organization:

    1. provides volunteers with orientation and training addressing program goals and expectations for the volunteer;
    2. maintains essential information about volunteers, including identifying information and emergency contact information; 
    3. ensures that volunteers feel recognized and appreciated for their service; and
    4. adequately supervises volunteers at all times.

    Note: As referenced in HR and TS, volunteers who have a regular, ongoing role at the program will be covered by the same standards as “personnel”. Please see the Interpretations at the beginning of those sections for more information. All other volunteers, including casual volunteers, will be covered by this standard.

    NA The organization does not use volunteers to provide YD services, or all YD volunteers meet the standards for personnel.

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