When a child enters out of home care, exploration of possible relative placement or relative foster care is an extremely important process. In order for states to receive federal payments for foster care and adoption assistance, federal law (42 USC 617(a)(19)) requires that the SSW "consider giving preference to an adult relative over a non-related caregiver when determining placement for a child, provided that the relative caregiver meets all relevant state child protection standards."
P.L. 110.351 requires due diligence to identify and notify all adult relatives of a child within thirty (30) days of the child’s removal and of the relative’s option to become a placement resource for the child. More importantly, the child(ren) being placed are much more likely to have a significant attachment to the caregiver and other familial support as a result of being placed with a relative. The following SOP outlines the process used to explore relatives as a possible placement.
Diligent relative searches also ensure that workers identify significant persons in the child’s life to include in visitation agreements. Diligent relative searches and sound visitation agreements should be made for relatives. Notice should also be provided to any parents of a sibling to the child to ensure that appropriate contact can be maintained during reasonable visitation per P.L. 113-183.
Diligent relative searches must continue at a minimum of every six (6) months during Case Planning conferences and as new relatives may be identified throughout the life of the case.
- Attempts to identify and notify all adult relatives by utilizing the DPP-1275A Notice to Relative of Removal of a Child form within thirty (30) days of the temporary removal hearing, and of the relatives’ options to become a placement resource for the child;
- Includes the following people from the child’s family in the relative search and notification process:
- Adult aunts and uncles;
- Adult siblings; and
- All parents of a sibling of a child where such parent has legal custody of such sibling (471(a)(29) of the Social Security Act); 1
- Completes the DPP-1275 Relative Exploration form, with the family at the ten (10) day conference (Refer to Ten Day Conference Checklist);
- Utilizes the Absent Parent Search Form, the Absent Parent Search Handbook and/or other available search mechanisms to complete the relative search;
- Continues to search for relatives beyond the thirty (30) day period when attempts have been unsuccessful, and exploration should occur on an ongoing basis and/or at regularly scheduled case planning conferences every six (6) months to promote permanency for the child;
- Provides information about becoming a potential placement option for the child when a relative is located;
- Requests the mother complete the Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity at ten (10) day conference or as soon as the father is identified. Have the form notarized when a father in the case is not known; 2 3
- Writes “refused to name” and has the material signed and notarized if the mother refuses to disclose or does not know the father;
- Completes and sends the Letter To Father when a potential (unknown) father has been named;
- Upon being contacted by a named potential father, files a petition with the court to compel a paternity test;
- Completes additional relative searches after every case planning conference to attempt to identify new relatives during life of the case;
- Consults with the Family Services Office Supervisor (FSOS) and uses the Relative Placement Matrix as a guide when considering a change of placement from a non-relative caregiver to a relative caregiver.
Absent Parent Search
- Completes the following tasks within the first thirty (30) days of a child entering the custody of the Cabinet:
- Conducts an absent parent search if any legal or biological parent is not present in the home and their whereabouts are questionable; and
- Conducts a relative search and utilizes an absent parent search to locate the relative;
- Or Children’s Benefits Worker (CBW) contacts the state parent locator section of the Division of Child Support using the Absent Parent Search Form and requests a search on the person in question when attempts to locate the birth parent/relative are unsuccessful;
- Includes a state of birth and the names of the individual’s parents on the Absent Parent Search Form for requests in which only a name is available;
- Gathers as much information possible regarding the absent parent, including:
- Date of birth;
- Social security number;
- Present or previous employers;
- Present or most recent address;
- Any known relatives;
- History of criminal records;
- Other social service agencies involved; and
- Any benefits received;
- Also follows the procedures outlined in SOP 11.31 Determining Who Has Legal Right to the Child;
- Prepares and sends a variety of search letters, and makes phone contacts with people who may assist in locating the absent parent;
- Documents in TWIST all attempts, written correspondence and telephone contacts to locate the absent parent;
- Considers an absent parent for placement, once located, and offers them an opportunity to participate in treatment planning;
- Refers to the Absent Parent and Relative Search Handbook if more details are needed;
- Renews the search for the absent parent at each case planning conference if the absent parent has not been located;
- Completes a search of the Putative Father Registry by emailing the DPP-1305, Putative Father Registry Search Request to PutativeFather@ky.gov.
- Parental preference is considered when assessing possible relatives but does not relieve DCBS from the responsibility of exploring all relatives.
- Sending the notification letter informs the relative of the child’s removal, but does not imply or guarantee that DCBS has the intent to place.
- Diligent attempts are made to identify and notify all adult relatives of a child within thirty (30) days of the temporary removal hearing and of the relatives’ options to become a placement resource for the child unless there is evidence that disclosure of such information could be harmful to the parent or the child.
- SOP only establishes a minimum standard for the relative search. Workers should not use the limited search parameters to limit consideration of relatives for placement consideration. For the purposes of placement consideration and consideration for the relative placement support benefit (TANF) eligibility, a relative includes:
- A child’s birth or adoptive parent;
- A blood relative of the child including a relative of half-blood;
- Legally adopted or birth children of the adoptive parent and other relatives of such parents;
- The alleged parent or a relative of the alleged parent may be determined a blood relative through the administrative establishment of paternity; or
- A relative by marriage of any persons listed in bullet points 2-4 above even if the marriage has ended. This is true as long as the marriage ended after the child’s birth.
- The standard does not require a degree of relatedness, i.e. within a first or second cousin, only that the relative relationship of any degree can be reasonably established.
- In reference to #2E above: Although the siblings being placed together would be a relative placement in regard to the sibling relationship, it does not meet the TANF guidelines for a "true" relative placement, and therefore, would not be eligible for the relative support benefit.