Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 7: Service Planning

The agency partners with children and families to develop service plans that are the basis for the delivery of appropriate services and support.


Although service planning will typically build on the assessment process, in some cases, such as when emergency placements occur, the agency may be required to develop an initial service plan before conducting an assessment. In those instances, the service plan should be revised based on the results of the assessment once it has been completed. 

Interpretation: When the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child and family, the agency must: 
  1. give tribal or local American Indian or Alaska Native representatives an active role in all aspects of service planning, service monitoring, and service delivery, including in assessment, permanency planning, transition planning, case closing, and aftercare; and
  2. consider and prioritize culturally relevant resources available through or recommended by the tribe or local Indian organization.
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
  • Service planning procedures
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

PA-CFS 7.01

Service plans are developed within 30 days of the date a case is opened for ongoing services, and the process for service planning is expedited when a crisis or urgent need is identified. 


Service plans are not likely to be approved by the court in 30 days, but within this timeframe, an initial plan that identifies goals and allows for service identification and referral should be developed.  
Note:  See PA-CFS 13 for more information regarding expectations related to the court-determined permanency plan and planning for permanency, which often occurs in conjunction with service planning when children are in out-of-home care.

PA-CFS 7.02

Service plans are developed: 
  1. with the full participation of children and families; 
  2. with the involvement of a team of supportive people chosen by children and families; 
  3.  in collaboration with other service providers and systems involved with children and families; and
  4. with the involvement of resource families or residential treatment providers, when children are in out-of-home care.


Procedures for involving family members should be adapted based on the specific circumstances of children and families. For example, in cases where the child is a victim of human trafficking, the agency should be aware that the child’s parent or caregiver may be the trafficker or complicit in the trafficking. In such cases, determining the appropriate level of involvement should include the input of the child, as well as child welfare and law enforcement systems. Similarly, procedures should be adapted as needed in cases involving domestic violence to promote the safe, healthy, and active participation of all family members. For example, the agency may determine that meetings involving both the perpetrator and the victim/survivor would pose a safety risk or would limit the participation of the victim/survivor and would not be appropriate.  Family participation may not be possible when the agency is serving children with limited family involvement or unaccompanied minors. Generally, children age 6 and older should be included in service planning unless there are clinical justifications for not doing so. 
Examples: Supportive people chosen by children and families can include, for example, extended family, friends, and community members. Other service providers and systems involved with children and families may include, but are not limited to: health and mental health providers; substance use treatment providers; domestic violence advocates; educational institutions; and the judicial system, including both state and tribal courts. 

PA-CFS 7.03

An individualized and assessment-based service plan includes:
  1. clearly-articulated goals and desired outcomes, as well as the specific tasks and objectives that support their achievement; 
  2. strategies for addressing the needs and challenges that lead to, and stem from, abuse and neglect; 
  3. strategies for maintaining and strengthening family relationships, including when children are not living with their parents; 
  4. services and supports to be provided, by whom, and by when; 
  5. timeframes for accomplishing tasks and goals, evaluating progress, and updating plans; 
  6. clear and transparent criteria for closing the case, including conditions for return, when applicable; and
  7. the signatures of parents, children, and family teams, whenever possible. 


While some agencies may develop one service plan for the family as a whole, others may develop separate plans for parents and children.  


When children have been placed in out-of-home care, service plans should address strategies for working on challenging behaviors, including their antecedents, coping strategies, and contributing factors.  For some agencies, depending upon local laws and regulations, this may include physical interventions.  These interventions do not include: 
1.    mechanical restraints;
2.    the use of drugs as a restraint or off label;
3.    the seclusion of a child in a locked room;
4.    corporal punishment;
5.    methods that interfere with the child’s right to humane care (e.g. deprivation of sleep or food); or
6.    physical restraint holds, except for a child who is at imminent risk of harm to themselves or others, if already outlined as permissible in the agency’s policy and the service plan.

Interpretation: When the child or youth is a victim of human trafficking, the agency should work with the victim to develop a safety plan that focuses on increasing physical safety by securing needed documents, property, and services; maintaining the youth’s location in confidence; and linking efficiently to law enforcement, if needed. 
Examples: Since only attending a required service is not sufficient to reduce risk and promote safety, it may be helpful to develop specific goals for behavioral change that target the issues that led to the involvement of the child welfare system, and describe what caregiver behavior will look like when changed.  

PA-CFS 7.04

Personnel promote commitment to services by: 
  1. providing clear, transparent, and comprehensible information that enables family members, according to their abilities, to understand the agency’s role, processes, concerns, and expectations, including the potential ramifications of not participating in services; 
  2. valuing family members’ input and perspectives regarding their experiences, strengths, risks, and needs; and 
  3. offering choices that respect the role of parents in the lives of their children and help family members retain a sense of control.