Celebrating Foster Parents During National Foster Care Month

As I reflect on over 20 years serving as a foster care worker, what comes to mind first are the foster parents. I’ve recruited, trained, licensed, counseled, laughed and cried with foster parents and enjoyed most every moment.

Whether you are reading this as a person interested in fostering, an agency with a foster care program, a professional in the field, a child advocate, or just found this blog searching the web, I assure you my comments come from experience not only as a foster care worker but also as a former foster parent.

Foster parents are one of the most undervalued commodities in our country and we need a continuous growing pool of them.  With over 437,000 children currently in foster care across the U.S., the need for foster parents is tremendous nationally. Foster parents are our safety net for abused and neglected children, and the system is challenged with recruiting, supporting and retaining them.

The experience of a foster parent can’t be measured by conventional methods. The emphasis our society puts on academic degrees and professional success leaves out the intangibles. A foster parent’s value is in their devotion, their emotional and physical commitment to the well-being of a vulnerable child.

Who makes a great foster parent? A kind and compassionate person who has the desire to parent, teach, and love someone else’s children. We all may know people who could fulfill those requirements, but then there’s the hard fact that these kids are part of a system and a challenging one at that. The bureaucracy that faces foster parents often discounts their input even if it’s clear that they are the ones who know best what will help the children in their care.

If you are interested in possibly becoming a foster parent, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Check to see that the foster family agency holds a national accreditation by either CARF, Council on Accreditation (COA) or the Joint Commission – this tells you that the organization values best practice standards that are well above state minimum rules and regulations. I have worked for several agencies in my career, some nationally accredited and some not. The difference was notable in areas of support to foster parents, staff, and overall agency professionalism.
  • Accredited agencies provide outstanding support to foster parents and additional child-specific training.
  • Ask to speak with other foster parents, attend an orientation, and meet with the program director.
  • Ask to see the agency’s program goals and outcomes for foster care.
  • See how foster parents are included in organizational quality improvement process.
  • If you are looking at a nonprofit agency see what the composition of the board of directors is and if they are involved in activities to support foster parents.
  • Review a non-profit agency’s IRS form 990, which are available online at https://www.guidestar.org.
  • With a for-profit agency, you may want to research the leadership team.

May Is National Foster Care Month. With that, we should all take the time to recognize that we each can play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care. Hats off to all of the foster parents out there!

Accreditation Mandate for QRTPs Under FFPSA: Start the Process Now!

When it passed the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) last February, Congress aimed to change the face of child welfare, in part by implementing a funding shift that restricts the use of Title IV-E financing for out-of-home “congregate care” placements. The goal is to increase assurances that children will be kept in family-like settings whenever possible.

One section of FFPSA defines a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP), which is one of the few settings that will be allowed to receive federal reimbursements after the first two weeks a child has been in care.

A key provision of the Act is that QRTPs must be accredited by a national organization. This is a long process that should be undertaken as soon as possible because time to comply with the act is running out. Do not underestimate the effort it takes to achieve national accreditation. The time to begin the process is now.

Congregate care providers must become QRTPs by October 1, 2019 if they want to be eligible for this designation. While states have the option to extend this deadline for up to two years, all providers should be working toward next year’s October 1 deadline.

What does it mean to become a QRTP? In summary, the service provider must:

  • Be licensed and be accredited by at least one of three federally approved accreditors: The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), Council on Accreditation (COA) or The Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO)
  • Use a trauma-informed treatment model
  • Have registered or licensed nursing staff and other licensed clinical staff, available 24/7, on-site according to the treatment model
  • Demonstrate family engagement and outreach, including siblings, in the child’s treatment
  • Provide discharge planning and family-based aftercare supports for at least six months post-discharge

The accreditation mandate sets a high bar, but one that helps ensure the delivery of high-quality care. Organizations that earn accreditation have reached beyond the minimum licensing standards and made a long-term commitment to strong governance, program consistency, outcome measurement and continuous improvement throughout their agencies.

Accreditation requires organizations to undergo an objective review by an independent accrediting body and signifies that they are effectively managing their resources and enhancing the quality of life for the population served.

Many organizations underestimate the time required to prepare for and become accredited. In general, it takes 12 to 18 months to prepare for national accreditation, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the original state of readiness.

The time needed to complete the accreditation process includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Selecting an accrediting body
  • Securing budgetary allotment and board approval
  • Preparing standards-compliant policies, procedures and protocols
  • Implementing accreditation standards
  • Making operational and service delivery improvements, as necessary
  • Participating in a mock survey

Because Family First represents a looming, national deadline for accreditation, there will be many hundreds (if not thousands) of organizations trying to become accredited at the same time. And the accrediting bodies only have a finite amount of capacity to accommodate all of these applicants.

Therefore, every organization should begin the accreditation process as soon as possible to get ahead of the rush. Once the process begins, effective project management and support from leadership will help ensure that accreditation activities are not derailed by other priorities that may crop up.


For information on how to effectively and pro-actively prepare for CARF, COA or Joint Commission accreditation, please contact Accreditation Guru, Inc. at Info@AccreditationGuru.com or 212.209.0240.

Jennifer Flowers Presents to Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D. C

Washington, D.C. (May 1, 2018) — Jennifer Flowers, founder and CEO of Accreditation Guru, delivered a well-attended, well-received seminar to members of the National Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition at the national headquarters of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D. C. Several coalition members participated over conference call.Entitled “Family First Prevention Services Act – Accreditation 101: Understanding the Accreditation Process for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs,” the presentation covered the new law’s impact on congregate care programs throughout the United States and outlined the basic steps and considerations these organizations must undertake to comply with the statute.

“Jennifer’s reassuring, helpful presentation emphasized the positive impact of accreditation on the quality of care for children and walked through the multiple steps involved, reminding us all of the time it takes for service providers to work their way toward accreditation,” said Stefanie Sprow, deputy director of child welfare and mental health at the Children’s Defense Fund, which chairs the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition and its series on implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act. “As one of the nation’s foremost experts in this field, Jennifer’s perspective is invaluable.”
The new law, passed February 2018, requires all qualified residential treatment programs (QRTPs) to become accredited by October 1, 2019 if they want to receive Title IV-E federal funding. But because the accreditation process can sometimes take up to 18 months to complete and a large number of organizations have yet to begin the process, accrediting agencies will be stretched to meet the additional demand. Time is getting short, said Flowers.

Operating under the Children’s Defense Fund umbrella, the coalition consists of approximately 250 people, spanning national, state and local organizations, the bulk of which provide child welfare services.

The interesting and informative presentation outlined the many benefits of national accreditation and covered the basic steps along the accreditation journey. Providers must choose among three accrediting bodies approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, document their adherence to their rigorous standards, submit to a review and site survey by the chosen accrediting agency and maintain the standards for either a three or four year period.

She also offered some tips for helping to smooth the process. The long, involved process can be demanding for service providers, but, said Flowers, they can either “plan or panic.”

Addressing the group by phone from Memphis, Hughes Johnson, managing director of compliance and performance improvement at Youth Villages, which operates in 14 states across the country, shared his organization’s experiences with accreditation. He called Flowers’s presentation spot-on.

“The accreditation and re-accreditation process helped us raise the bar for our staff and the population that we serve,” he said. “It is a tough process with a large number of standards, but it helped us develop a defined policy that holds us accountable.”

Flowers, a nationally renowned expert on accreditation and best practices for human service providers, advises organizations undergoing accreditation.

“In general, service providers are laser-focused on delivering quality care and they often fail to realize that accreditation is a complicated, involved process,” said Flowers. “This served as a wonderful opportunity to help members of the coalition provide valuable information to their constituents and help introduce them to the process.”

About Accreditation Guru, Inc.
Accreditation Guru has helped guide private and public health and human service organizations through the national accreditation process by creating an efficient, systematic approach that has resulted in a 100 percent success rate. Their expertise also includes implementing performance measurement and quality improvement programs, developing long-term strategic plans and increasing the effectiveness of boards of directors. For information about their services and how they can help your organization Prepare for Greatness™, please visit https://accreditationguru.com.

Left to right:
Stefanie Sprow, Deputy Director of Child Welfare and Mental Health at the Children’s Defense Fund
Jennifer Flowers, Founder and CEO of Accreditation Guru
MaryLee Allen, Director of Policy, Children’s Defense Fund