Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 16: Developing and Maintaining Connections when Children are in Out-of-Home Care

When children are in out-of-home care, the agency promotes the development of social and emotional well-being and positive support systems by facilitating connections with family, peers, and community.

Interpretation: COA uses the term “family time” rather than “visitation” to emphasize that children belong with their families, and highlight the importance of the time families spend together when children are in out-of-home care.

Interpretation: If the agency does not facilitate or supervise in-person contact it should maintain documentation of all in-person contact between children and families, children’s response to contact with family, and all efforts to support other forms of contact between children and their families and networks of support.
NA  The agency does not work with children placed in out-of-home care.
2020 Edition




Child and Family Services promote child and family well-being, protect children’s safety, stablilize and strengthen families, and ensure permanency.
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.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Procedures for family time planning and implementation


  • Family time plan template or sample
  • Policy prohibiting restriction of in-person contact as a disciplinary action
No On-Site Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Parents served
    4. Children served
    5. Resource parents
    6. Residential treatment providers
  • Review case records

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 16.01

Unless contraindicated, planned, ongoing contact between children, parents, and siblings occurs as frequently as possible based on children’s ages and developmental needs, and at a minimum in-person contact occurs: 
  1. weekly between children and parents; and
  2. monthly between siblings.



Children and parents are entitled to in-person contact unless parental rights are terminated and in some cases after termination. Incarcerated or detained parents are entitled to in-person contact unless restricted.  In addition to in-person contact, children can maintain contact with their families in other ways, such as through web-based technologies and other electronic communications.

Examples: Very young children, in particular, may need in-person contact as frequently as possible in order to develop and maintain strong attachments with their parental figures and promote developmental progress.  Infants may benefit from daily contact and toddlers may benefit from contact at least every two to three days.  


PA-CFS 16.02

The agency offers a continuum of family time options, and family time plans are:  
  1. developed in collaboration with parents, children, and resource parents or residential treatment providers;
  2. informed by assessment information; 
  3. focused on relationship-building;  
  4. determined by permanency goals and modified in accordance with permanency planning; and
  5. in compliance with all court orders.



 The agency should encourage unsupervised contact in normative community settings when possible and appropriate, and should only require supervised family time (i.e. supervised visitation) when assessments indicate safety concerns or a need for coached family time.

Interpretation: When the agency is working with American Indian or Alaska Native children and families, representatives from their tribes or local Indian organizations should also be included in the development of family time plans. 


PA-CFS 16.03

Written family time plans include:   
  1. start dates, frequency, time, length, and location of in-person contacts; 
  2. participants; 
  3. transportation arrangements;  
  4. supervision or monitoring requirements, if any; 
  5. developmentally appropriate and interactive activities, including caregiving for young children when possible and appropriate; 
  6. cancellation arrangements; and
  7.  preparation and debriefing arrangements.

Examples: Plans may involve appropriate extended family and friends to support regular contact and maintain families’ support systems. For example, these supports might provide transport, offer their homes for parents and children to spend time together, or involve children in cultural or community events. 


PA-CFS 16.04

Workers or designees promote meaningful and constructive contact by: 
  1. helping children, parents, and resource families or residential treatment providers prepare for and transition to and from in-person contact;
  2. following up with children, parents, and resource families or residential treatment providers after in-person contact to process what occurred, ascertain progress, and assess for concerns that may indicate the need to modify plans or services; and
  3. documenting the activities that occurred and behaviorally-specific observations that pertain to family relationships and parenting.

Examples: Workers can help children, parents, and resource families or residential treatment providers prepare for and transition to and from in-person contact by, for example:
  1. helping parents and children prepare for relationship-building activities related to their service or family time plans; 
  2. helping resource parents and residential treatment providers understand issues surrounding family time and their role in supporting both the child and the family time process; and 
  3. helping all parties understand that when a child has a negative reaction to family time, this may be a normal response to a challenging experience rather than a sign that the family time plan or services should be changed.  

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 16.05

Agency policy prohibits cancellation or restriction of in-person contact as a disciplinary action for either parents or children.


PA-CFS 16.06

Children are assisted to develop social support networks by identifying, building, and sustaining relationships with caring individuals of their choosing, including:  
  1. extended family; 
  2. peers;
  3. other individuals with whom they had a prior relationship; and 
  4. members of their community, ethnic group, faith group, clan, or tribe.



In situations with known or suspected concerns about human trafficking, the agency should be aware that traffickers may pose as a boyfriend or older relative, or communicate through another individual, and utilize in-person contact to continue the exploitation of the victim.