Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 23: Resource Family Assessment and Approval

The resource family assessment process ensures that prospective resource families are willing and able to meet the needs of children and their families. 

NA  The agency is not responsible for resource family assessment and approval.
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
  • Resource family assessment procedures
  • Copy of resource family assessment tool(s)
No On-Site Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Resource parents
  • Review resource parent records

PA-CFS 23.01

The resource family assessment is a standardized, collaborative process that is conducted in a culturally-responsive manner using a defined method and tools. 


While practice should be consistent with the program model, tools, and standards, decisions about how the assessment is conducted in each case are clinical decisions that should take into account the unique needs and circumstances of the prospective resource parents (and the child if the child is already identified or living in the home). It is especially important to note that assessments may be structured differently if they are conducted for kin (as opposed to non-related prospective resource parents). The agency should have a system or approach that recognizes that there can be subjective aspects to assessment and decision making, and appropriate mechanisms to ensure that its determinations are well justified.  

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 23.02

The resource family assessment process includes:
  1. the receipt of self-reported information and documents from the prospective resource parents;
  2. at least one individual in-person consultation with each prospective resource parent and one joint consultation for joint applicants;
  3. age-and developmentally-appropriate consultation with each child and adult living or frequently in the home;
  4. age-and developmentally-appropriate consultation with each child or adult child of the prospective resource parents living outside the home;
  5. at least two visits to the prospective resource family's home, and during one or more of those visits a safety assessment of the home and an observation of family members interacting together;
  6. criminal background and child abuse and neglect registry checks in accordance with applicable law and regulation;
  7. a review of information and documents relating to any previous unfavorable home studies/assessments, disruptions, dissolutions, or placement of other children out of the home; and
  8. references and interviews with individuals providing references.



 The safety assessment of the home should include attention to potential concerns including: inadequate or unsafe heat, light, water, refrigeration, cooking, and toilet facilities; malfunctioning smoke detectors; unsanitary conditions; lack of phone service; unsafe doors, steps, and windows, or missing window guards where necessary; exposed wiring; access to hazardous substances, materials, or equipment; rodent or insect infestation; walls and ceilings with holes or lead; and insufficient space. 


The agency should develop criteria for the review of criminal background checks that specify if, and when, checks are conducted on a multi-state or national basis, and how the agency evaluates and responds to reports indicating criminal offenses. Prospective resource families should be informed at the beginning of the process about the agency’s policy regarding criminal convictions. Agencies may have more flexibility to make exceptions around certain non-violent criminal or civil background histories for kin who are otherwise determined to be appropriate caregivers. Each situation should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

PA-CFS 23.03

Workers collaborate with prospective resource families to explore factors that may impact their ability to provide effective care and offer experiences that enhance healthy development, including:   
  1. motivation and expectations for providing resource family care and interest in adoption, if applicable;
  2. personal characteristics such as adaptability, reliability, and coping, communication, and problem-solving skills;
  3. caregiving abilities and experiences, especially for children or adults with significant or complex needs;
  4. willingness to collaborate with birth parents and ability to support a child's continued connection to his or her birth parents, siblings, relatives, peers, culture, and community; 
  5. willingness and ability to work as a member of a team to support and facilitate permanency for children in care; and
  6. previous experiences with foster care or adoption.



 When the prospective resource family is known to the child, the assessment should also evaluate the relationship between the prospective resource family and the child, the child’s relationship to individuals already living in the home, and the prospective resource family’s commitment to the child. 

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 23.04

The assessment process explores each prospective resource parent's:
  1. personal history of trauma, abuse or neglect, and sustance use;
  2. current status and history of physical and mental health; 
  3. social support systems;
  4. education; 
  5. functional literacy and language skills;
  6. employment history and financial status; and
  7. community and social environment.


Regarding element (b), a written statement from a physician or other qualified health professional regarding the person’s health is acceptable to meet the intent of the standard. If the assessment indicates a mental health concern, the individual must also obtain a formal evaluation from a mental health professional.  The agency should consult with the local public health authority to determine if a skin tuberculin test should be included in the assessment.  Special circumstances, including the health needs of the resource parent, may indicate a need for re-assessment prior to the annual re-assessment addressed in CFS 23.10.  


When working with unlicensed kin, agencies in some states may have the discretion to waive the assessment of certain factors (e.g. the health assessment) in an effort to encourage placement with relatives.


Regarding element (a), prospective resource parents who are undergoing appropriate treatment or in recovery should not automatically be excluded from consideration or approval.

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 23.05

The agency ensures that resource parents who will transport children in their own vehicles:  
  1. have age-appropriate passenger restraint systems; 
  2. can provide adequate passenger supervision, as required by statute or regulation; 
  3. have properly maintained vehicles and required registration and inspection; 
  4. provide the agency with validation of their driving records; and 
  5. provide the agency with validation of their licenses and appropriate insurance coverage.

Interpretation:  The agency should determine what level of insurance coverage is considered appropriate and maintain a copy of each resource parent’s auto policy declaration to validate appropriate insurance coverage.


  This standard is not applicable to unlicensed kinship caregivers. 

PA-CFS 23.06

During the assessment process, kinship caregivers have the opportunity to: 
  1. discuss their families’ stories and the experiences that brought them to caring for or planning to care for a kin child;
  2. discuss their concerns with becoming licensed resource parents; and
  3. learn how the program collaborates with kinship caregivers and supports relationships between kinship families, parents, and extended families.

PA-CFS 23.07

The information gathered during the assessment process is carefully considered, in a timely manner, to determine:
  1. if any further assessment is needed;
  2. what additional counseling, training, or preparation is needed;
  3. the family's eligibility and suitability; 
  4. the family's readiness to care for children; and
  5. the specific characteristics and special needs of children the family would be most suitable to care for.

PA-CFS 23.08

When the agency has reason to believe that the prospective resource parents may not meet the required eligibility criteria, or that certain factors might not be adequately mitigated to demonstrate suitability, the agency:
  1. communicates the specific concerns to the prospective resource parents as early as possible and attempts to resolve them; 
  2. does not complete a final assessment report until after attempts to mitigate the issues are made; and
  3. provides prospective resource parents with a written explanation of the reasons for the decision and the procedures for appeal, if approval cannot be given and the application has not been withdrawn.



The agency should ensure that required eligibility criteria are clearly and accurately addressed. While some jurisdictions are willing to waive eligibility criteria in unique circumstances, it is best to document those waivers as early as possible.  
Examples: Factors that may need to be mitigated include, for example, needs related to health care or housing.

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 23.09

Based on the information obtained during the assessment, and within established timeframes, the agency prepares a report that:
  1. indicates whether a prospective resource family has the ability, willingness, and resources to meet the needs of children in care; and
  2. makes a determination on the resource family’s application for licensure, approval, or certification according to state, tribal, or local regulation. 

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 23.10

Resource family assessments are updated:  
  1. within two weeks of a reported change in the home composition; and 
  2. at least once annually.

Examples: Changes that may warrant a follow-up assessment may include, but are not limited to: individuals moving in or out of the home; death or debilitating illness of a caregiver; structural defects in the home related to fire, flood, or natural disaster; or legal proceedings affecting the resource family such as eviction or divorce. The annual assessment update can occur in conjunction with the annual resource parent evaluation.