Family Centered Principles
Child Welfare operates under 6 core values:
- Everyone Has Strengths
- Everyone Deserves Respect
- Judgements Can Wait
- Everyone Needs To Be Heard
- Partners Share Power
- Partnership Is A Process
Child and Family Services’ primary commitment and responsibility is the safety, well-being, and permanency of children who are victims of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment. As an agency, we believe that the best approach to support and protect children is to strengthen families, so they can safely parent their children and meet the child’s needs for permanency and well-being.
Child and Family Services Program
Child and Family Services program responsibilities fall into four broad areas:
- Receiving reports of abuse or neglect
- Assessing allegations of abuse and neglect
- Providing ongoing case management services to children; either in their own homes or in out of home placements
- Assuring that children have safety and permanency in their own homes or other permanent homes.
Receiving Reports of Abuse and Neglect
The Child and Family Services program has a Centralized Intake Unit in Boise to which all reports of child abuse or neglect throughout the state are directed. Each report is assessed to determine whether the allegations fall under the statutory definitions of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Once that determination is made, the report is prioritized for a response. Referrals involving a life-threatening and/or emergency situation require an immediate response. Other reports receive a priority which requires a response within either 24 or 72 hours. On all reports requiring an immediate response, CFS coordinates the response with local law enforcement. The ability to take and respond to child abuse and neglect reports operates 24/7 across the state
Assessing Child Safety
A Comprehensive Safety Assessment is completed for all child protection referrals that meet Child and Family Services Priority Response Guidelines for assessment. The primary purpose of the assessment is to assure the child’s safety and determine whether the child and family are in need of services to address identified safety threats. The Comprehensive Safety Assessment includes a robust information collection process and includes a face to face contact and interview with the child. Information is also collected by the social worker through interviews with the parents/caregivers and relevant collateral contacts such as extended family members, law enforcement, school staff, medical professionals, and service providers. The assessment includes application of standardized criteria, along with social worker’s critical analysis of the information and conclusion regarding the child’s safety.
Upon completion of a Comprehensive Safety Assessment, the agency must determine whether maltreatment has occurred and whether the child is safe or unsafe. Whenever a child is determined to be unsafe the case remains open for services. If the child is determined to be safe the case is closed with no additional intervention.
Whenever possible, efforts are made to safely maintain children in their homes. However, when a safety threat exists, a safety plan must be put into place to manage the child’s safety. Actions in a safety plan must address the safety threat to the child and are specific to the family’s circumstances. Safety actions might include respite care, supervision and monitoring, resource acquisition, and homemaker services. If the child is assessed to be in immediate danger, law enforcement is charged with the decision for removal. When a child is removed, Child and Family Services makes placement arrangements for the child.
Removal From The Home
Efforts are made to minimize the trauma of removing a child from the home by an immediate search for any relatives who could serve as a placement resource for the child or children. The Idaho Child Protective Act requires that the department first considers, consistent with the best interests and special needs of the child, placement with a fit and willing relative. If a suitable relative cannot be found, the child is placed in a fictive kin (individuals with a significant relationship with the child) or a non-relative foster care placement.
There are only three methods by which a child can be removed from his/her home in Idaho:
Law enforcement makes the determination a child is in a dangerous situation and therefore they declare the child to be in imminent danger.
A petition is filed by with the court by the department indicating it is unsafe for the child to remain in their home. A judge determines whether to enter an Order of Removal.
A Rule 16 Expansion Order (Rule 16 of the Idaho Juvenile Rules allows for the court to expand a Juvenile Corrections Act proceeding into a Child Protective Act proceeding when the court has reasonable cause to believe that the juvenile living within the state comes within the jurisdiction of the Child Protective Act).
Placements In Foster Care
The child’s best interests are the primary consideration in all placements. Child and Family Services defines “best interest” as eight factors which identify the current and potential individual needs of a child.
The factors are the child’s:
- Emotional/behavioral needs
- Medical/physical needs
- Educational/developmental needs
- Cultural/religious needs
- Trauma history and past experiences
- Relationships with parents, relatives, siblings, and current caretakers
- Interests and community connections
- Family placement preferences
Child and Family Services workers are mindful of the importance of maintaining relative and sibling connections, and the impact of placement changes on a child’s attachment and overall development when making placement recommendations and policy decisions. Therefore, no single best interest factor is considered more or less important than the others. The weight placed on any one factor is highly dependent on the identified needs of a particular child or sibling group.
Ongoing Case Management Services
Once a child has been placed in foster care, social workers monitor the family’s progress in achieving the objectives spelled out in the service plan, and regularly assess the safety, permanency, and well-being of the child. Case management responsibilities include:
- Making monthly contact with children, parents, and foster families.
- Communicating with service providers to ensure family members are receiving services.
- Transporting or making transportation arrangements for children and their families.
- Arranging and supervising visits between children and parents, and between children and their siblings.
- Working on the alternative plan, which includes ongoing contacts with relatives, and home studies of relatives residing in-state and out-of-state.
- Conducting specialized recruitment to locate an adoptive family for children unable to remain with the foster parents.
- Preparing required court reports and testifying in court hearings.
- Documenting casework activities into CFS’s child welfare information system (iCare).
Federal and state law require a court hearing to review the case progress must be held no later than six months from the date of removal. Hearings may be held more frequently at the discretion of the court.
At 12 months from the date of removal, a permanency hearing must be held. At that time, CFS presents its recommendation for permanency.
The permanency options include:
- Legal guardianship with a relative or non-relative
- Adoption by a relative or non-relative
- Another planned permanent living arrangement (this is only a permanency option for youth age sixteen (16) years and older)
For every child who has been in out-of-home care for at least 15 of the child’s last 22 months, the state is obligated by state and federal law to file a petition to terminate parental rights. If compelling reasons exist for not terminating the parents’ rights, those reasons must be approved by the court; otherwise the court will order the filing of a petition for termination of parental rights. Parents may choose to voluntarily terminate their parental rights, or their rights may be removed through an involuntary court process.
Permanency Decision Making
Child and Family Services is responsible for placing a child in foster care in a safe environment until such time permanency is established.
Between the six and twelve-month mark of a child being in care, if the permanency recommendation is other than reunify with parent, CFS implements the Placement Selection process. The goal of the permanency decision making process is to place the child(ren) in a stable environment as quickly as possible to minimize negative impacts. The process considers relatives, fictive kin, and current foster parents who have expressed interest in being permanent placement option and have an approved home study. Pursuant to Child and Family Services’ Standard, placement selections are made by committees who review the home studies and the child’s best interest factors previously noted. When multiple families are being considered for permanency, selection committee participants include:case worker, adoption worker, supervisor, child welfare chief; Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/guardian ad litem; tribal representation (if child is identified as a member of a specific tribe). Also present is a third-party department representative who understands practice but is not familiar with specific case circumstances or a community representative, such as a member of the Citizen Review Panel.
Ultimately, determinations relating to where and with whom children are placed are subject to judicial review by the court, and when contested by any party, judicial approval. The court also finalizes all adoptions and guardianships.
Roxanne Printz, Child Welfare Deputy