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. OOHC case plans are also expected to make appropriate plans to ensure the child’s mental health, educational stability, physical health, the establishment and support of a stable placement for the duration of their time in OOHC. Additionally, for a child in OOHC the SSW and the department are responsible for creating a plan that demonstrates reasonable efforts to obtain a safe, permanent placement that permits the child to exit foster care in a reasonable timeframe. The components of a well-designed case plan include documentation around all these efforts.
Key strategies for the achievement of an appropriate case plan include the engagement of family members and use of a family team meeting model when appropriate, appropriate identification and implementation of concurrent case plan goals when appropriate to the case specific circumstances, and the development of the key family level and individual level objectives that identify key benchmarks for the evaluation of the family’s progress.
Prior to the 10 (ten) calendar day conference the SSW:
- Obtains current assessment information from the investigative SSW, the petition for removal and may consider information from previous assessments, if the initial assessment is not completed prior to the ten (10) day conference, to assist in completing the case plan (Refer to Ten Day Conference Checklist); 1
- Notifies the child’s assigned MCO (within five (5) days of the child coming into out of home care) and shares with the MCO, information relevant to the medical and behavioral health care needs of the child;
- Reviews the case history, circumstances and investigative information to determine if the case meets concurrent planning criteria for the initial case plan;
- Along with the FSOS, completes the concurrent planning review tool and files it in the case record prior to the ten (10) calendar day case planning conference;
- Engages the family to solicit and encourage their approval for community partner involvement in developing the case plan;
- Ensures that the DCBS-1B Application for Services is completed by all appropriate family members;
- Makes attempts to identify and include both parents and relatives in the case conference/team meeting; 2
- Includes the child or children, when age appropriate in case planning efforts;
- Empowers children age fourteen (14) and older in the development of their own case plan and transition planning for a successful adulthood;
- Permits a child who has attained fourteen (14) years to designate up to two (2) additional people to participate in the case planning conference, one of whom may be designated as the child’s advisor, and when necessary, to advocate with respect to the application of the reasonable and prudent parent standard; (Section 475 (1)(B) of the Social Security Act) 3
- Ensures full disclosure by respectful, candid discussion from the outset with all parties involved in the case planning and service provision of the following:
- Negative impact of foster care on children;
- Clarity about the birth parent’s rights and responsibilities;
- Services DCBS will provide;
- Permanency options;
- Concurrent Planning; and
- Consequences for not following the Case Plan; and
- Identifies relatives, family supports and community partners to include at the mandatory ninety (90) day family team meeting (refer to SOP 1.7 Family Team Meetings (FTM)).
During the ten (10) day case planning conference the FSOS or designee:
- Chairs the meeting and provides input into case plan development;
- Ensures that the case plan is developed within required timeframes; and
- Reviews and approves the case plan prior to distribution.
During the ten (10) day case planning conference the SSW:
Assists the family in completing the DPP-1275 Relative Exploration form, if not previously completed;
Provides a copy of the When a Child is Removed From Your Care handbook to the birth parents/caregiver, if they have not already received it;
Completes the DPP-106B Initial Physical and Behavioral Health History with the family and ensures that it is submitted to the child's MCO provider immediately following the meeting;
Informs the parent/guardian that:
It is their right and responsibility to make health care decisions about their child, as well as the expectation that they will participate in these decisions;
Their child may receive certain routine and non-routine health care while in care (use the DPP-106A to explain this);
If they choose not to consent to routine health care and non-routine health care for their child, DCBS may do so under its authority as the legal guardian;
DCBS honors their role as the parent and will make every effort to involve them in decisions about their child’s health care needs; and
If they are unwilling to sign the DPP-106A for a specific reason (i.e. religious beliefs), DCBS staff will consult with regional management for assistance in determining appropriate steps for consent;
Ensures that the conference includes a presentation of ASFA guidelines, including the Cabinet’s obligation to make reasonable efforts to finalize a permanent placement and the Cabinet’s obligation to file for a termination of parental rights once the child has been care for 15 months under federal law: (475 (5)(E) and 45 CFR 1356.21 (i)(1)(i));
Establishes the permanency goal or concurrent goals; 4
Utilizes the Case Planning Objectives–OOHC Tip Sheet and ensures that the case plan contains one family level objective that focuses on:
The reason the child was removed from the home; and
Tasks the family must complete for reunification;
Ensures that there are specific tasks developed related to the individual's high risk behaviors;
Adds a concurrent planning permanency objective in the child/youth action section of the case plan if the case meets criteria for concurrent planning;
Checks the concurrent planning box in TWIST if concurrent goals are established;
Negotiates or renegotiates the location, length and frequency regarding visits between the child, siblings and their parent(s) depending on the parent(s) circumstances and the child’s age;
Ensures the following components are documented on the case plan in accordance with provisions of Title IV-E of the Social Security Act):
Information related to aggravated circumstances or safe infant provisions, if applicable;
Services that will be provided to the parents that will constitute reasonable efforts to reunify the children;5
Services that will be provided to achieve the least restrictive (most family like) placement and one that is in the closes proximity to the parents' home (Sec 475 and 42 USC 675);
A schedule for visitation between the child and parent ensuring that visits occur no less than every two (2) weeks, unless there is a documented reason regarding why this is not in the child's best interest. Visits are designed to enhance and support the relationship (refer to OOHC Visitation Tip Sheet for more information regarding frequency and duration of visits);
A schedule for visitation between separated siblings, as appropriate to the case circumstances, designed to enhance and support the relationship;
Documentation of the child specific efforts being taken to finalize a permanent placement for the child, including efforts to identify, recruit, process or approve a qualified family for (475(1)(E) and (5)(E)):
Documentation of justification for the selection of “another planned permanent living arrangement,” when selected as the goal for the child (45 CFR 1356.21(h)(3);
A plan for assuring that services are provided to the child and placement provider in order to address the needs of the child while in foster care (Sec 475 (1)(b). Such a plan should incorporate the following documentation pertaining to health and education records (Sec. 475 (1)(c):
The names and addresses of the child's health and educational providers;
The child's grade level performance;
The child's school record;
A record of the child's immunizations;
The child's known medical problems;
The child's medications;
Objectives, tasks or other notes that constitute a plan for the child’s educational stability (refer to SOP 4.28 Meeting Educational Needs) as required by Sec 475 (1)(g) and Sec 471 (a)(30) of the Social Security Act, including:
Assurances that each placement takes into account the appropriateness of the child’s current school setting, including early care and education provider or school, as well as the proximity of the placement to the child’s school at the time of placement;
Collaborates with the local education agency (LEA) utilizing the points of contact (POCs) for the Kentucky Department of Education and discusses the factors to consider on the Ensuring School Stability Best Interest Determination Tip Sheet
Insure the child is able to attend the same school where enrolled at the time of each placement; and
Assurances that, when a change of schools is necessary, the child will be immediately enrolled in an appropriate school, with all of the educational records of the child provided to the new school;
Verification that a child, who has attained the minimum age for compulsory school attendance, is attending school in accordance with state law; or
Regularly updated medical documentation that verifies that a child is incapable of attending school;6
A description of the programs and services which will assist youth in preparing for the transition to adulthood as outlined in SOP 4.29.1 Independent Living Services (Sec 475 (5)(c)(i));
A transition plan, for youth 17 and over, updated as appropriate during the periodic review (Sec 475 (5)(H);
Signatures of the conference participants;
Documents the following:
Efforts to discuss the case planning conference with each parent, current caregiver for the child and the child when they are unable to attend; and
Efforts made to involve both parents, the child’s guardian or custodian;
An age appropriate discussion with child in foster care who has attained fourteen (14) years of age, regarding the child’s rights as described on the DPP-1281 Family Case Plan; (475a of the Social Security Act)
Filing the child’s signature page acknowledging the child’s receipt of a copy of their rights; (475a of the Social Security Act)
Enters the case plan information in TWIST, with or without the parents' signatures, and submits it to the FSOS who approves it within ten (10) days from the case planning conference date;
Mails or distributes a copy of the following documents to the participants listed below:
The approved DPP-1281 Family Case Plan:
Parent or legal guardian receives a full copy (certified mail if not in attendance);
Identified fathers receive a full copy (certified mail if not in attendance);
Any person or agency providing services to the family (service providers for the parents receive a copy of the family portion);
Any community partners assigned a task on the case plan (with parental consent); and
The child’s guardian ad litem;
The DPP-154 Protection and Permanency Service Appeal (certified mail) to parent or legal guardian; and
All other relevant documents;
Submits to the court a case plan, visitation agreement and prevention plans no later than thirty (30) calendar days after the effective date of the court order for each child placed in the custody of the Cabinet by either a commitment order or temporary custody order (45 CFR 1356.21(i)(2) and Family Court Rule 29;
Dockets a placement court review no later than 6 months after the child is removed from the home, regardless of placement or custody, when the child is 16 or younger at the time of removal in accordance with Family Court Civil Rule 34;
Files, for the purpose of the court review, a dispositional report with the court at least three (3) days prior to the hearing (Family Court Civil Rule 28);
Sends a copy of the case plan to the Administrative Office of the Courts Citizen Foster Care Review Board Program at the following address at the same time the case plan is submitted to the court:
Dependent Children’s Services
Administrative Office of the Courts
100 Millcreek Park
Frankfort, KY 40601
- Appropriate family and individual level objectives and tasks are developed in consideration of the safety issues that brought the child into OOHC. In domestic violence situations, the FSOS assists the SSW in determining how to protect the safety of a non-offending parent and children.
- The minimum frequency for periodic reviews and case planning conferences are dictated by law. The cabinet may hold additional case conferences or family team meetings as necessary to adapt the case plan to the family when their needs change; however, any changes to the case plan should be documented and validated by conference participants in accordance with agency practice and applicable law.
- Any revisions or updates to the plan must be developed in consultation with the child and up to two (2) members of the case planning team designated by the child. (Section 475 (1)(B) of the Social Security Act)
- The SSW may convene a family team meeting, when appropriate, for the development of the case plan.
- The SSW will not involve the parents in the case planning process if parental rights have been terminated, unless the FSOS or designee determines that it is in the child's best interest.
- For any situation where the goal, or one of the goals, is “return to parent,” R&C or PCP staff assigned to the foster home should be committed to working toward reunification with the birth family, and should be prepared for the possibility that an absent parent or relative may be located several months into the child’s placement, or that adoption may not be an appropriate option for the child.
- Concurrent planning does not mean moving the children or changing the permanency goal. It does mean adding a concurrent alternate permanency objective in the child/youth action section and associated task in the case plan to secure permanency for the child in the event that the child cannot be returned to the parents or family.
- The three primary permanency goals for concurrent planning, in order of preference, are:
- Return to parent;
- Permanent relative placement; and
- The following are secondary permanency goals and are explored only after exhausting all three primary permanency goals:
- Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (PPLA); and
- Legal Guardianship.
- Child specific recruitment efforts to find a permanent placement may include such efforts as the use of adoption exchanges and other exchange systems that facilitate orderly and timely in-state and interstate placements.
The SSW should incorporate, into the case planning discussion, appropriate use of the DPP-330-Educational Advocacy Request Form, if the birth parent agrees to allow the foster and adoptive parent to make educational decisions on behalf of the child as outlined in SOP 4.28.2 Providing Educational Services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Use of the form does not limit parental rights, and the SSW continues to engage the biological parents in decision-making regarding the child’s educational services.
- Although many children in OOHC will be reunified, alternative permanency planning will be pursued beginning no later than the six (6) month periodic review to ensure that all children have a permanent family as quickly as possible.
Objectives support the overall goal and are either family related or individual specific.
Family Level Objectives (FLO) are those things that the whole family can work on. They center around an everyday life event and are always directly related to the maltreatment that resulted in opening the case.
Individual Level Objectives (ILO) focus on the individual patterns of high risk behavior that lead to the maltreatment. It is important to understand why the pattern occurred in order to create the most effective objective.
A single parent home with two young children, neglect was substantiated and the case was open. The investigator identified during the assessment that the single parent was overwhelmed and that is why the home was unsafe.
- The FLO would surround ensuring the house is safe and free from environmental hazards.
- The ILO would surround helping the parent figure out why he/she is overwhelmed and make a plan to manage this issue.
- If the investigator had identified that the single parent was depressed and that is why the home was unsafe, the ILO could surround mental health treatment or counseling.
- A child’s and family’s available past and present experiences, assets, interests, resources, resiliency, interests and preferences provide strengths to meet needs. These strengths should be used when building the action steps of the case plan.
- A need is a requirement that is essential to all human beings such as the need for shelter, food, affiliation or nurturance.
- A need may be a description of the underlying conditions that are often the source of the problems that a family is encountering.
Tasks support the objectives and outline what steps will be taken to reach the objectives.
Tasks should be person specific, measurable and time limited. They should answer who, what and when at a minimum.
- Identify difficult situations or triggers;
- Identify early warning signs;
- Assist families in avoiding high risk situations; and
- Assist families in coping with risk situations not avoided.