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.


Family Services of the North Shore

Kathleen Whyte, Manager of Human Resources / Accreditation Coordinator

Family Services of the North Shore is about to enter our third accreditation cycle with COA. Accreditation has provided us with a framework that enables us to demonstrate accountability to our clients, our funders and our donors. There is no question that the accreditation process and COA have benefited our agency.
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Young adults who receive Independent Living Services obtain safe and stable housing, develop life skills and competencies including work readiness, achieve educational and financial growth goals, and establish healthy, supportive adult and peer relationships.

YIL 8: Family, Community, and Workplace Connections

Services and supports effectively draw upon a full range of available family, school, workplace, neighborhood, and community resources that establish the young person as a primary resource for, and an active participant in, his or her development.

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
    • A description of services: description of family, community, and workplace resources and youth opportunities
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Youth
    • Review case records

  • YIL 8.01

    Program activities facilitate youth-family and youth-community connections and promote a coordinated response to youth interests and needs.

  • FP
    YIL 8.02

    Individuals are helped to develop social support networks and build healthy, meaningful relationships with caring individuals.

    Interpretation: “Caring individuals” may include mentors, community members, friends, siblings, and other family members.

    Research Note: Although many youth in independent living programs are disconnected from long-term family relationships, research indicates that youth in out-of-home care maintain relationships with family members and return to them upon exit from care. Independent living programs should be aware of youth involvement with family members and should foster supportive relationships when possible or assist youth in coping with or avoiding unhealthy relationships.

    Research Note: A statewide longitudinal study of youth well being following transition from care concluded that the development of a viable social support system is essential for helping youth successfully transition. Another follow-up study points to the significance for youth of clarifying and reestablishing family ties when possible and desired, since family members will potentially, and often, become part of the young adult’s support system. Youth can perceive relatives to be a source of support to locate housing, in particular.

  • YIL 8.03

    Services provided in community settings are accessible by public transportation or arrangement with a service provider.

  • YIL 8.04

    Service providers and community members identify opportunities for youth to develop a comprehensive set of daily living, social, and communication skills, including:

    1. household management;
    2. budgeting;
    3. building credit;
    4. consumer competence;
    5. nutrition and food preparation;
    6. stress management and coping;
    7. time management;
    8. interpersonal relationships and communication;
    9. problem solving and decision making;
    10. hygiene, self-care, and personal safety; and
    11. exercising legal rights and responsibilities, such as voting.

    Research Note: Although daily living skills often are taught in a classroom, educational practice principles support programs that incorporate experiential learning and provide youth opportunities to practice such skills. A rigorous qualitative study of teens in foster care documents staff and youth views that practice is necessary for learning about skills required in the real world. Federal testimony about challenges in helping youth live independently and independent living program effectiveness, based on visits in four states and review of 1998 state reports submitted to DHHS, notes that state and local administrators acknowledge lack of opportunity for youth to have real-life practice opportunities.

    Research Note: An analysis of multi-state longitudinal change data for young adults on six domains, combined to form an Index of Community Adjustment, adds to earlier research on adaptive behavior of individuals with serious emotional disturbance. Though a causal link has not been established, and instruments available to measure strengths based behaviors have limitations, the finding that youth with poor social-adaptive skills continue to have more problems as adults prompts consideration of how services for adolescents can improve social-adaptive skills at individual, family and community levels before the transitional period. Since strengths based behaviors can be taught and improved, are cumulative, and appear to influence positive adult outcomes, this research underscores the importance of studies that are not exclusively problem focused.

  • FP
    YIL 8.05

    The organization provides housing support services, including:

    1. education regarding available community housing options;
    2. education on tenant rights and responsibilities;
    3. assistance obtaining a safe, growth-enhancing living environment; and
    4. advocacy for safe, affordable, appropriate housing for youth with a goal of independent living.

  • YIL 8.06

    Youth receive help locating and/or enrolling in educational or vocational programs appropriate to their needs, interests and abilities, which can include:

    1. high school or GED programs;
    2. colleges or universities;
    3. vocational training programs; and
    4. special education services.

    Research Note: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act stipulates that all children with disabilities that impact on their ability to succeed in school have a right to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible. The Supreme Court has ruled that an “appropriate” program affords a reasonable opportunity to learn. Lower courts have generally interpreted “reasonable opportunity” as to derive “some educational benefit,” to mean make “meaningful educational progress.”

    Research Note: A 10 cohort, longitudinal study of long term, intensive relationship-based aftercare has shown services delivered by a professional mentor to be effective for increasing school completion rates for youth who leave care from residential treatment and group homes, compared to similar youth who receive traditional independent living skills training while in care, and the general population. These results suggest solutions to research that consistently show foster care youth complete school over a longer period of time and in lower numbers than the general population.

  • FP
    YIL 8.07

    Youth are helped to obtain and maintain employment, including assistance with:

    1. development of good work habits, skills, and self-awareness essential to sustained employment;
    2. development of self-confidence and presentation skills;
    3. resume writing, completion of job applications, and preparation for interviews;
    4. access to and use of employment information and data to understand job options, and clarify current and future work aspirations; and
    5. use of local employment resources, job finding, and placement options, including on-the-job training.

    Research Note: Research suggests that maintaining employment is a greater challenge for youth than getting a job. Accordingly, programs may wish to place special emphasis on helping youth acquire skills that can help them retain jobs over time.

    Research Note: A study that examines the self-sufficiency of former foster youth using unemployment wage data and public assistance data concludes that employment while in foster care appears to be by far the best predictor of post-discharge employment.

    Research Note: A study using California, Illinois, and South Carolina state administrative data analyzed employment, earnings, and public assistance receipt for youth at least 17 years old who exited out-of-home care in the mid 1990s. Youth who aged out of foster care lacking the social and financial support of their families were found to be at significant risk of poor outcomes. Previous research, based primarily on interviews, has shown that many former foster care youth find it difficult to maintain stable employment and that earnings are low.

    Research Note: A report that supports youth access to workforce opportunities draws upon several studies of former foster youth that find a lack of employable skills. Related studies find former foster youth to be underemployed, and to experience low earnings and to use public assistance, although “aging out of care” or being discharged to independent living can result in higher earnings than youth who are reunified, adopted or placed with relatives.

  • FP
    YIL 8.08

    Youth are linked to necessary health services, including:

    1. medical services, such as routine care and medication management or monitoring;
    2. dental services;
    3. counseling, mental health services, and chemical dependency services;
    4. age-appropriate education regarding family planning, HIV/AIDS and STD prevention, and general information about the prevention and treatment of disease; and
    5. insurance coverage, when available.

    Research Note: A longitudinal study found that 44% of youth leaving care reported having problems obtaining health care most or all of the time. This finding is consistent with information from 1998 U.S. Census data that identifies 18-24 year olds, the same age group as young people aging out of foster care, or 30% of all individuals, as uninsured at the highest rate of all age groups; 46.7% of individuals in that age group living below the federal poverty level is uninsured.

  • YIL 8.09

    Youth receive additional support services, as needed, including:

    1. crisis intervention;
    2. transportation;
    3. legal assistance, including assistance with citizenship and naturalization;
    4. parent education and family support;
    5. child care and development; and
    6. activities that support social, cultural and recreational interests, and religious observance.
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