Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 2: Personnel

Program personnel have the competency and support needed to provide services that ensure the safety of children and promote the well-being of children and families. 


 Competency can be demonstrated through education, training, or experience. Support can be provided through supervision or other learning activities to improve understanding or skill development in specific areas.
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
  • Table of contents of training curricula
  • Procedures or other documentation relevant to continuity of care and case assignment
  • Procedures for peer mentor program, including for recruiting, screening, training, and supervising mentors
  • Sample job descriptions from across relevant job categories
  • Training curricula
  • Documentation tracking staff completion of required trainings and/or competencies 
  • Caseload size requirements set by policy, regulation, or contract
  • Documentation of current caseload size per worker
  • Supervisory schedule for 24-hour coverage, for the past six months


  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
  • Review personnel files


PA-CFS 2.01

Workers are appropriately qualified in accordance with union contracts and/or civil service requirements, when applicable.
Interpretation: COA recommends the following worker qualifications: 
  1. an advanced degree in social work or a comparable human service field; or
  2. a bachelor’s degree in social work or a comparable human service field with two years of related experience.


PA-CFS 2.02

Supervisors are appropriately qualified in accordance with union contracts and/or civil service requirements.


 COA recommends that supervisors possess an advanced degree in social work or a comparable human service field and two years of experience working with children and families, preferably in child welfare.

Additional support in the form of monthly clinical consultation should be provided for supervisors in treatment foster care programs who do not have an appropriate advanced degree or sufficient experience.



PA-CFS 2.03

All direct service personnel are trained on, or demonstrate competency in: 
  1. empowering, supporting, and mentoring parents and children; 
  2. assessing risk and safety;
  3. conducting comprehensive assessments of strengths, needs, and protective factors;
  4. collaborating with families to develop effective service plans;
  5. conducting well-planned, quality home visits that focus on issues pertinent to safety and service planning;
  6. understanding child, adult, and family development and functioning, including child and adolescent brain development; 
  7. understanding and collaborating with the different organizations, agencies, and systems likely to serve or encounter children and families, including the mental health, health, educational, and judicial systems; 
  8. evaluating progress on identified goals and the continued need for services;
  9. facilitating permanency, family connections, and community supports;
  10. following agency protocols for responding to allegations of maltreatment in resource homes or residential treatment programs; and
  11. understanding immigration law and enforcement policies. 


PA-CFS 2.04

All direct service personnel who collaborate with resource families are trained on, or demonstrate competency in: 
  1. recruiting, assessing, and engaging resource parents;
  2. helping resource families provide a safe, nurturing environment and meet the needs of the children in their care; 
  3. providing timely and responsive support to resource families; and
  4. facilitating relationships between birth parents and resource families, when appropriate.


Personnel responsible for conducting resource parent assessments (as per PA-CFS 23) should receive initial and periodic training on how to conduct these assessments in order to reinforce the consistent application of the methods. 
NA The agency does not work with resource families.


PA-CFS 2.05

All direct service personnel who support expectant and parenting youth are trained on, or demonstrate competency in: 
  1. presenting information in a manner that will resonate with expectant and parenting youth;
  2. addressing the dual developmental needs of adolescents and young children;
  3. promoting youths’ transition to adulthood while parenting; and
  4. facilitating father involvement when appropriate and feasible.


PA-CFS 2.06

All direct service personnel who arrange adoptions are trained on, or demonstrate competency in: 
  1. facilitating adoptions that meet applicable legal requirements;
  2. providing support to persons affected by adoption to cope with social and emotional issues;
  3. facilitating adoptions for children with special needs; and
  4. maintaining and protecting confidential information and assisting persons served to access information, as outlined by applicable law.
NA The agency does not provide adoption services.

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 2.07

Workers and supervisors, depending on job responsibilities, are trained on, or demonstrate competency in, relevant provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), including:  
  1. the importance of ICWA and special considerations for working with American Indian and Alaska Native children; 
  2. the identification of American Indian and Alaska Native children; 
  3. determination of jurisdiction; 
  4. appropriate notice and collaboration with children's tribes; 
  5. placement preferences that support children's connections to their native culture and heritage; 
  6. active efforts requirements to prevent separation and reunify families;
  7. processes for, and alternatives to, terminating parental rights; and 
  8. court procedures.


All child welfare personnel should be trained in the basic requirements of ICWA and informed of the cultural norms and historical trauma associated with Indian tribes, and staff in specialized service units (e.g., intake or permanency planning) should receive additional specialized training.  All screening personnel must be trained on how to identify children with American Indian or Alaska Native heritage.  


PA-CFS 2.08

The agency minimizes the number of workers assigned to the family over the course of their contact with the agency by:
  1. assigning a worker at intake or early in the contact; and
  2. avoiding the arbitrary or indiscriminate reassignment of direct service personnel.
Examples: Agencies can strive to minimize the number of workers assigned to the family by, for example: element (a) examining any policies or procedures that require families to be passed from one specialty worker to another as they move through the system, and considering whether families would be better served by fewer transfers; and element (b) addressing factors that may contribute to personnel turnover (e.g., by ensuring caseloads are reasonable and providing appropriate training, supervision, and support).


PA-CFS 2.09

Caseloads support the achievement of child and family outcomes, are regularly reviewed, and generally do not exceed:
  1. 12 active investigations at a time, including no more than 8 new investigations per month;
  2. 15-17 families receiving ongoing in-home services; 
  3. 12-15 children in out-of-home care, and their families;
  4. 8 children in treatment foster care, and their families; and
  5. 12-25 families when arranging adoptions or guardianships.


 When workers manage a blend of case types, caseloads should be weighted and adjusted accordingly.  For example, a worker conducting 4 active investigations should not simultaneously be responsible for more than 10-11 families receiving ongoing in-home services, and a worker for both children in out-of-home care and intact families should have no more than 15 total families with no more than 10 children in out-of-home care.
There are circumstances under which caseloads may exceed these limits.  For example, caseloads may be higher when agencies are faced with temporary staff vacancies, or if administrative case functions (e.g., entering notes, filing, etc.) are assigned to other personnel.  New personnel should not carry independent caseloads prior to the completion of training.

Examples:  Factors that may be considered when determining employee workloads include, but are not limited to:
  1. the qualifications, competencies, and experience of the worker, including the level of supervision needed; 
  2. whether services are provided by multiple professionals or team members;
  3. case complexity and circumstances, including the intensity of child and family needs, the size of the family, travel time, and the goal of the case;
  4. case status, including progress toward achievement of desired outcomes;
  5. the work and time required to accomplish assigned tasks, including those associated with caseloads and other job responsibilities; and
  6. service volume.


PA-CFS 2.10

Supervisory personnel familiar with the needs of children and families are available to direct service personnel by telephone 24 hours a day. 


PA-CFS 2.11

When peer mentors provide support to birth parents or resource parents, the agency: 
  1. clearly defines the role and responsibilities of the mentors;
  2. establishes guidelines for the recruitment of prospective mentors, including how much time must elapse before a former client is eligible to participate;
  3. carefully screens prospective mentors to ensure they are a good fit for the program;
  4. trains mentors to work in a professional setting and fulfill the roles they are expected to perform; and
  5. provides ongoing support and supervision to ensure that mentors have the skills they need and address any issues that arise.
NA The agency does not use peer mentors to provide services.
Examples: Responsibilities of peer parent mentors may include: providing social and emotional support, facilitating family engagement in services, helping families understand and navigate the child welfare system, connecting families to needed resources, and/or helping families advocate appropriately for themselves.