Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Group Living Services (PA-GLS) 2: Personnel

Program personnel have the competency and support needed to provide services and meet the needs of residents and their 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




Group Living Services allow individuals who need additional support to regain, maintain, and improve life skills and functioning in a safe, stable, community-based living arrangement.
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
  • Sample job descriptions from across relevant job categories
  • Documentation tracking staff completion of required trainings and/or competencies
  • Training curricula
  • Caseload size requirements set by policy, regulation, or contract, when applicable
  • Documentation of current caseload size per worker
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
  • Review personnel files

PA-GLS 2.01

Residential counselors, house parents, adult care, and/or youth care workers have:
  1. a bachelor’s degree or are actively, continuously pursuing a degree;
  2. the personal characteristics and experience to collaborate with and provide appropriate care to residents and their families, gain their respect, guide their development, manage a home effectively, and participate in the overall treatment program; and
  3. the temperament to work with, and care for, children, youth, adults, or families with special needs, as appropriate.


The elements of the standard will be considered together to assess implementation. Recruitment of staff with demonstrated competence and with appropriate supervision and specialized training – sometimes available through national certification programs – can compensate for a lack of a bachelor’s degree.
Examples: Experience per element (b) can include lived experience as residential programs can have peer support specialists, youth advocates, mentors, and/or family advocates on staff.

PA-GLS 2.02

Supervisors of direct service personnel are qualified by: 
  1. an advanced degree in social work or a comparable human service field and two years of relevant experience; or
  2. a bachelor’s degree in social work or a comparable human service field and four or more years of relevant experience.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 2.03

A physician or other qualified medical practitioner familiar with the needs of the resident population assumes 24-hour on-call medical oversight to ensure that residents’ health needs are identified and promptly addressed.


The physician can provide services as an employee, contractor, or through another formal arrangement. There may be more than one physician fulfilling the role.


COA recognizes that geographic placement and resources can pose barriers. The use of an emergency room or urgent care facility is acceptable for overnight hours when protocols are established. Agencies can also leverage alternative service delivery methods such as telehealth when regional shortages of certain professional groups make in-person consultation impractical.
NA All service recipients have private physicians.

PA-GLS 2.04

Qualified professionals and specialists are available to provide services and support depending on the program model, population served, and specialized care needs.
Examples: Examples of services and providers that may be on staff, or available through a formal arrangement, include:
  1. mental health; 
  2. substance use;
  3. crisis intervention;
  4. medicine and dentistry;
  5. psychological services, such as testing and evaluation;
  6. prenatal and postnatal care, and the developmental needs of children;
  7. prenatal and postpartum depression screenings and care;
  8. nursing;
  9. education and vocational skill development;
  10. physical and developmental disabilities;
  11. speech, occupational and physical therapy;
  12. recreation and expressive therapy;
  13. nutrition; and/or
  14. religion and spirituality.

Examples: Examples of populations with specialized care needs include, but are not limited to: 
  1. older adults; 
  2. children and youth with pervasive developmental disorders; 
  3. children and youth who engage in fire setting; 
  4. individuals who exhibit sexually reactive behavior; 
  5. victims of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse; 
  6. LGBTQ population, especially those with gender identity issues; 
  7. individuals with eating disorders; and 
  8. individuals who have trouble communicating or being understood without special assistance.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 2.05

There is at least one person certified in basic first aid and CPR on duty at each program site, at any time the program is in operation.

PA-GLS 2.06

All direct service personnel are trained on, or demonstrate competency in:
  1. understanding the definitions of human trafficking (both labor and sex trafficking) and sexual exploitation, and identifying potential victims;
  2. procedures for responding to residents who run away;
  3. interventions for addressing the acute needs of victims of trauma; and
  4. collaborating with local law enforcement.

PA-GLS 2.07

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.

PA-GLS 2.08

Caseloads support the achievement of client outcomes, are regularly reviewed, and generally do not exceed 15 residents.
Examples: Factors that may be considered when determining caseloads include, but are not limited to:
  1. the qualifications, competencies, and experience of the worker, including the level of supervision needed; 
  2. the needs of the population served;
  3. special circumstances, such as multi-need residents;
  4. the work and time required to accomplish assigned tasks and job responsibilities; and
  5. service volume.