Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Group Living Services (PA-GLS) 3: Access to Service

The agency provides access to services for children, youth, and adults whose personal, social, developmental, or family situations preclude them from living at home or in a more independent setting.
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
  • Admission procedures
  • Eligibility criteria
  • Materials outlining permitted and prohibited items
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Residents and their families
  • Review case records


PA-GLS 3.01

The agency defines in writing:
  1. eligibility criteria, including age, developmental stage, and populations served;
  2. scope of services, special areas of expertise, and the range of client issues addressed; and
  3. how the facility promotes living-unit compatibility based on age, interests, and group composition.


In regards to element (c), COA recognizes that agencies, particularly those that receive clients through referrals only, may have limited control of group composition. In these instances, the agency should identify the population(s) served, state how residents’ diverse service needs will be met, and include strategies for promoting living-unit compatibility when possible.


PA-GLS 3.02

The resident and his or her family and/or legal guardian are engaged in the admission and placement process to prepare for admission, and are given the opportunity for a pre-admission visit, whenever possible.


PA-GLS 3.03

The agency describes:
  1. personal items residents may bring with them, consistent with a safe, therapeutic setting;
  2. items that are discouraged or prohibited; and
  3. any safety procedures the program follows, or consequences that can result, when prohibited items are brought to the program site.


Given the rise in information and communication technologies, agencies must specify in their admission materials what electronic devices are permitted and prohibited.
Examples: Personal items residents may bring with them may include, for example, photos, books, cellphones, computers, or other electronics.