Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Personnel Development and Supervision (PA-PDS) 2: Personnel Competencies

Personnel are prepared to fulfill their job responsibilities.


Standards in PA-PDS 2 should be applied to independent contractors based on their role and the competencies stipulated in their contract. While agencies typically would not provide training to contractors directly, they should maintain documentation from contractors that demonstrates their competency in applicable areas.

Competency can be demonstrated through education, training, or experience. 
2020 Edition




The agency supports personnel and promotes personnel competence, satisfaction, and retention by providing initial and ongoing competency-based training; a variety of personnel development opportunities; and regular, supportive supervision.
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 administration and management infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
County/Municipality Administered Agency, State Administered Agency (Central Office), or other Public Entity  
  • Annual training calendar and/or training schedules
  • Table of contents of the agency’s training curricula
State Administered Agency (Regional Office)
  • List of the region’s training activities (in-service, staff meetings, supervisor groups) for the previous and current calendar year
All Agencies
  • Training curricula for relevant trainings
  • Documentation tracking staff completion of required trainings 
All Agencies
  • Interviews may include: 
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel

Fundamental Practice

PA-PDS 2.01

All personnel who have regular contact with individuals and families receive training on legal issues, including:
  1. mandatory reporting pursuant to relevant professional standards and as required by law, and the identification of clinical indicators of suspected abuse and neglect, as applicable;
  2. federal, state, and local laws requiring disclosure of confidential information for law enforcement purposes, including compliance with a court-order, warrant, or subpoena;
  3. duty to warn, pursuant to relevant professional standards and as required by federal, state, and local law;
  4. the agency’s policies and procedures on confidentiality and disclosure of service recipient information, and penalties for violation of these policies and procedures;
  5. the legal rights of service recipients; and
  6. any requirements associated with consent decrees.


PA-PDS 2.02

Personnel receive training on the following, as appropriate to their position and job responsibilities, including:
  1. proper documentation techniques;
  2. the maintenance and security of records; and
  3. the use of technology and information systems including refresher trainings when changes or updates are made.


PA-PDS 2.03

Direct service personnel receive training on:
  1. communicating respectfully and effectively with service recipients; 
  2. engaging service recipients, including building trust, establishing rapport, and developing a professional relationship; 
  3. the impact of trauma on individuals, families, and personnel; and
  4. trauma-informed care, including screening, assessment, and service delivery practices. 


Training on trauma should be tailored to the type of service being provided. For example, it may not be appropriate or necessary for assessments in an Early Childhood Education (PA-ECE) setting to be trauma informed. It is up to the agency to assess the applicability of this standard for each of its programs and service population and design the training accordingly.


PA-PDS 2.04

Training for direct service personnel addresses differences within the agency’s service population, as appropriate to the type of service being provided, including:
  1. interventions that address cultural and socioeconomic factors in service delivery;
  2. the role cultural identity plays in motivating human behavior; 
  3. procedures for working with non-English speaking persons or individuals with communication impairments;
  4. understanding bias or discrimination;
  5. recognizing individuals and families with special needs; 
  6. the needs of individuals and families in crisis, including recognizing and responding to a mental health crisis;
  7. the needs of victims of violence, abuse, or neglect and their family members; and
  8. basic health and medical needs of the service population.
Examples: Depending on the type of service being provided, relevant training topics may vary from specialized treatment approaches to procedures for referring individuals to other providers when those needs cannot be addressed by the agency.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is one way to prepare personnel to recognize, understand, and respond to service recipients and colleagues experiencing a mental health crisis. Similarly, "gatekeeper training" programs prepare personnel to recognize, interpret, and respond to signs of suicide risk.


PA-PDS 2.05

Direct service personnel demonstrate competence in or receive training on how to:
  1. identify and access needed community resources;
  2. collaborate with other service providers;
  3. access financial assistance, including public assistance and government subsidies; and
  4. empower service recipients and their families to advocate on their own behalf.
Examples: One example of community resources are personal advocates and the conditions under which a personal advocate may be needed.


PA-PDS 2.06

Personnel receive training, as appropriate to the position or job category, that includes:
  1. implementing practices that promote positive behavior;
  2. recognizing psychosocial issues, medical conditions, and challenging behaviors that are a threat to self or others and knowing when to seek assistance;
  3. understanding how the physical environment, and other factors, can lead to a crisis; and
  4. understanding the impact of personnel behaviors and responses on the behavior of service recipients.
NA The agency does not provide services to individuals face-to-face.

NA The agency provides Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services only.
Examples: Training on challenging behaviors that are a threat to self may include responding to age-appropriate but potentially dangerous behavior, for example, reacting to a child who runs into the street, so as not to harm him/her. Relevant psychosocial issues can include the role a service recipient’s trauma history may play in their behavior.

Fundamental Practice

PA-PDS 2.07

Direct service staff receive training on methods for de-escalating volatile situations, including:
  1. listening and communication techniques, such as negotiation, centering strengths, and mediation; 
  2. involving the person in regaining control and encouraging self-calming behaviors; 
  3. separation of individuals involved in an altercation; 
  4. offering a voluntary escort to guide the person to a safe location; 
  5. voluntary withdrawal from the group or milieu to allow the person to calm down; and 
  6. other non-restrictive ways of de-escalating and reducing episodes of aggressive and out-of-control behavior.
NA The agency does not provide services to individuals face-to-face.

NA The agency provides Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services only.