Federal law has long required state agencies to demonstrate that reasonable efforts have been made to provide assistance and services to prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from his or her home and make it possible for a child who has been placed in out of home care to be reunited with their birth family. The requirements are a condition for receiving federal funds.
From the moment of the initial contact with the family, the SSW and the department are obligated under federal and state law to make reasonable efforts to keep families intact whenever possible, and in removal situations, to make reasonable efforts to reunify children with their families.
- Uses information from prior assessments in TWIST, consultations from other professionals working with the family or other collateral information to create a prevention plan or case plan appropriate to the identified risks and safety issues within the family;
- Makes appropriate referrals to services designed to support the family and keep the family together or to reunify the family if possible;
- Maintains appropriate contact with the family and children, as outlined in SOP, to observe and assess their needs and progress or lack of progress;
- Updates the prevention plan and/or case plan to the changing needs of the family;
- Intensifies services, as appropriate and reasonable, to ensure the safety of family members;
- Documents these reasonable efforts to provide the family with supports and services to avoid unnecessary separation of a child from the family or reunify the child with the parent(s) and enable the child to safely live with the parent(s) at home;1
- Documents reasonable efforts in the case record.
If court activity becomes necessary based on identified risks or safety issues, the SSW:
- Demonstrates reasonable efforts to the satisfaction of the court, or that the lack of reasonable efforts or preventive services was necessary for the immediate safety of the child;
- Obtains the judicial determination that reasonable efforts were provided or that the lack of reasonable efforts was necessary for the child’s safety in order for a child to receive title IV-E benefits.
- Under the provisions of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify the family are not required when the court has determined that aggravated circumstances exist. The SSW is responsible for providing reasonable efforts or aggravated circumstances to the court’s satisfaction. For procedures pertaining to court process, refer to SOP Chapter 11-Court.