Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Shelter Services (PA-SH) 9: Youth Shelter Services

Agencies that serve children and youth, without their parents, provide services that meet their social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, linguistic, and physical developmental needs.


To ensure that the most vulnerable children and youth are not screened out, programs should adopt a low-barrier for entry model focused on harm reduction.
NA The agency does not provide shelter for runaway and homeless children and youth, children and youth in foster care, or unaccompanied children without legal status.
2020 Edition

Currently viewing: SHELTER SERVICES (PA-SH)



Shelter Services meet the basic needs of individuals and families who are homeless or in transition, support family stabilization or independent living, and facilitate access to services and permanent housing.
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
  • Procedures for serving youth without their parent or legal guardian, including parental notification procedures
  • Rules and behavioral expectations
  • Procedures for referring individuals to services
  • Client/staff ratios and coverage schedules for the past six months
  • Schedule of program activities
  • Community resource and referral list
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Persons served
  • Observe facility
  • Review case records

PA-SH 9.01

Agencies that serve children and youth without their parent or legal guardian:
  1. consult with the child protection authority, as appropriate;
  2. establish or confirm the youth’s legal status; and
  3. obtain authorization to provide care.

PA-SH 9.02

Children and youth are informed that their parent or guardian will be notified of their whereabouts, and the agency documents:
  1. exceptions for adolescents who are emancipated minors, who have reached the age of majority, who could be endangered as a result of notification, or who will refuse services if notification is required;
  2. a case supervisor's review prior to notification;
  3. that youth are informed of the planned notification; and
  4. that notification occurred within 72 hours or sooner as required by law.


When the program serves youth under contract with the child welfare authority, it should coordinate notification of the child’s parent or legal guardian with the authority.
NA The agency only serves children who have been placed by a public child welfare agency.

PA-SH 9.03

Agencies assess or confirm the appropriateness of family involvement:
  1. facilitate an active connection between parents and children;
  2. plan for reconnection and reconciliation with the family; and
  3. provide family support and strengthening services.


In cases where the child is a victim of human trafficking, it is important to be aware that the child’s parent or caregiver may be the trafficker or complicit in the trafficking. In such cases, determining appropriate family supports and level of involvement should include the input of the child, as well as child welfare and law enforcement systems.

Fundamental Practice

PA-SH 9.04

Personnel who directly supervise school-age children and youth provide continuous coverage 24 hours a day, and the adult-child ratio is 1:4 when children under school age are in the service population.

PA-SH 9.05

The agency houses no more than 20 children and youth at one location, and in exceptional circumstances, makes necessary physical, administrative, and programmatic accommodations to house additional children on a time-limited basis.


If state or local licensing authority requires or permits a higher maximum capacity, the agency should: 
  1. supply supporting documentation; and
  2. demonstrate a staff-to-child/youth ratio sufficient to ensure appropriate supervision and treatment.

PA-SH 9.06

Children and youth have sufficient uninterrupted sleep and, when practical, follow their usual and familiar routines for bedtime, bathing, and meals.

PA-SH 9.07

Program stays are as brief as possible, and do not exceed 30 days unless: 
  1. the safety and/or well-being of runaway and homeless children and youth requires an extended stay (e.g., if family reunification is the preferred outcome and may take longer than 30 days to achieve); or
  2. children and youth in foster care are awaiting placement or experiencing a crisis, and all other appropriate placement options have been exhausted.

PA-SH 9.08

The agency meets the need of children and youth by providing:
  1. clear and consistent rules and behavioral expectations;
  2. an organized daily program of age- and developmentally-appropriate social, recreational, and educational activities, in a child- and/or youth-friendly environment; and
  3. opportunities to participate in group activities designed to expand the range of life experiences where children and youth can meet, support, and share experiences with peers, based on their assessed readiness to participate in these activities.


Activities should be sensitive to the needs of youth who identify as LGBTQ, indigenous groups, and youth with special needs.

PA-SH 9.09

In an effort to encourage the development of strong and healthy relationships with caring individuals who can provide long-term support, the agency helps youth to:
  1. identify possible sources of support;
  2. foster supportive relationships with current contacts, when it is safe and appropriate to do so; and
  3. develop plans for managing any negative influences in their social support networks.


The agency should work with the child/youth to identify individuals with whom they wish to maintain a relationship, especially when trafficking is suspected. Traffickers may pose as a significant other or older relative, or communicate through another individual and utilize visitation to continue the exploitation of the victim.
Examples: “Caring individuals” may include mentors, community members, friends, siblings, and other family members.