In making decisions about removal or reunification, the safety and health of the child is the paramount concern. The risk assessment process shall guide all decisions about the safety of children in their own homes, the need for removal of children from their homes, and whether it is appropriate to return children to their homes after removal.
The risk assessment process includes:
The CPS intake social worker and CPS assessment social worker gather information that, combined with their direct observations of family functioning, provide the basis for an ongoing assessment of the level of risk of continued harm to the child.
Completion of the North Carolina Safety Assessment (DSS-5231), North Carolina Family Risk Assessment of Abuse/Neglect (DSS-5230), and the North Carolina Family Strengths and Needs Assessment (DSS-5229) shall take place prior to the case decision. The Case Decision Summary/Initial Case Plan (DSS-5228) shall be completed at the time of the case decision and serves as the Initial Case Plan. The Initial Case Plan shall contain enough information to:
The Case Decision Summary/ Initial Case Plan (DSS-5228) must document answers to the following questions:
Documentation must support the answers included on the Case Decision Summary.
Risk reassessments shall be completed when the child remains in the home and CPS In-Home Services are being provided, or the agency has legal custody and the child has not been removed from the home.
The North Carolina Family Risk Reassessment of Abuse/Neglect (DSS-5226) shall be completed at the following intervals when CPS In-Home Services are provided:
The North Carolina Family Risk Reassessment of Abuse/Neglect (DSS-5226) shall be completed at the following intervals when the agency has legal custody and the child has not been removed from the home:
The North Carolina Family Risk Reassessment of Abuse/Neglect (DSS-5226) shall be completed when the agency has legal custody and the child has been placed back in the home for a trial home visit and a Permanency Planning Action Team meeting falls within that trial home visit period.
For children coming into the agency's legal custody through delinquency, the North Carolina Family Risk Assessment of Abuse/Neglect (DSS-5230) shall serve as the baseline assessment documentation.
The North Carolina Family Reunification Assessment (DSS-5227) shall be completed when the agency holds legal custody and at least one child is in placement with a goal of return home (reunification). It shall be completed at the following intervals:
When reunification is no longer the plan, the Family Reunification Assessment form is no longer required. The decisions about agency intervention, removal, reunification and best interest of the child are based on both the informal, ongoing risk assessment process and the completion of the structured North Carolina Family Assessment of Strengths and Needs (DSS-5229), North Carolina Family Risk Reassessment of Abuse/Neglect (DSS-5226) and the North Carolina Family Reunification Assessment (DSS-5227). All Children’s Services social workers must be well trained in the risk assessment process and the use of these decision making and case planning tools.
When it appears that placement out of the home may become necessary to protect the child, the social worker responsible for services to the family shall seek the consultation of other agency staff and the supervisor, unless an emergency situation exists that threatens the child’s safety. Such a decision is one that requires more than one point of view. At a minimum, social workers shall seek the approval of their supervisor before removing a child from his/her home. For many agencies, the use of a screening team or multi-disciplinary team is an effective structure for making such decisions. Multiple Response and System of care has taught us that whenever possible, the family’s support network should be involved in determining resources within the family who can help to stabilize the family or who can provide appropriate care for the child. A Community Assessment Team and/or a Child and Family Team (CFT) meeting may be used effectively to make decisions regarding removal. Please refer to the Community Assessment Teams information within Chapter IV; Section 1201; Children's Services Yellow Pages (Tools for Enhanced Practice), to Chapter VII - Child and Family Team Meetings for additional information.
When social workers take children into custody in emergency situations, the responsibility to use a shared decision-making process remains. The social worker shall call a team meeting on the next working day following the taking of a child into custody for a review and an evaluation of the decision. At a minimum, the social worker shall seek the approval of the supervisor on the next working day following the taking of a child into custody.
3. Relative Notification
When the decision has been made to remove a child from parental custody, federal law, (Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, P.L. 110-351) requires agencies to exercise due diligence to notify all close adult relatives of a child (including any other adult relatives suggested by the parents) within 30 days of the child’s removal from the parent, of their options to participate in the care and placement of the child.
Notification to relatives is subject to exceptions due to family or domestic violence. The intent of this part of the legislation is to ensure adult relatives of children under the care and supervision of county Departments are given the opportunity and consideration to be placement resources and/or to be able to participate in the child’s care plan.
For the purpose of this section, due diligence means those efforts that are reasonably likely to identify and provide notice to adult relatives and kin suggested by parents, as well as adult maternal and paternal, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, great grandparents, nieces and nephews. Efforts include, but are not limited to,
This legislation strengthens North Carolina’s current laws and policies as they relate to relatives. Relatives are the placement of preference for children in care (N.C.G.S. § 7B-505). Current policy suggests that parents should be asked to help identify relatives and kin who can serve as potential resources for the child (Chapter IV; Section 1201; I; D - Choosing the Best Placement Resource). The agency should work with parents and caretakers to notify relatives/kin they’ve suggested in addition to pursuing those close relatives that are mandated to receive notification. In keeping with family-centered practice, the agency should inform parents of the requirement to notify relatives beyond those they have identified. Parents may be able to provide necessary background and history of these relatives to assist the agency in determining their suitability. In situations of family or domestic violence, it may not be appropriate to notify such relatives if it is deemed that it would pose a risk to the child or caretaker.If after a thorough assessment of domestic violence, the agency deems that it is not in the child’s best interest to contact a relative or kin member then the justification should be thoroughly documented in the case file.
a. Notification Requirements
The federal law lists specific requirements that shall be included in the notification to relatives. At a minimum, the relative notification shall:
To this end, social workers will find the following suggested tools helpful to provide notice to relatives. The sample “Relative Notification Letter” (DSS-5317) and the “Relative Interest Form” (DSS-5316) should be sent together to identified relates/kin as they compliment each other. The social worker may include the “Relative Search Information Form” (DSS-5318) tool with the Relative Notification letter to obtain additional relative information. The “Relative Search Information” tool may also be used by the social worker to document relative information for the case file. County Departments may choose an alternate format to notify relatives; however, it must include the minimum criteria listed above to ensure compliance with the federal law.
Although the requirement to notify relatives is within 30 days of the agency assuming legal and physical custody of the child, relative notification is an ongoing process. Social workers should follow up with relatives to discuss their desires and options in becoming resources for children.
Relatives who demonstrate ambivalence should receive support from the agency to assist them in determining their level of interest and commitment Relatives and kin may be identified or come forward later in the case and should be afforded the same information and notification as those relatives identified earlier in the case.
The agency may also determine that it is appropriate to notify identified relatives/kin prior to assuming legal custody of a child. Social worker skill should be utilized to obtain parental consent to notify relatives prior to the child being removed from parental custody.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.