DCF Policy on Placement of Children

Here is the DCF policy setting out their rules for stealing children from families. Note that their policies for taking children are much stricter than what they ACTUALLY do, so hold them to their own rules!

DSS Policy #90-004(R) Effective: 09/01/1989 Revised: 11/15/1991 Revised: 02/10/1998

PLACEMENT PREVENTION AND PLACEMENT POLICY

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Placement is defined as a situation in which the child is in the care or custody of the Department and the child is not living at home. In any case in which placement is contemplated, it must first be determined that the placement, to which the child will be going, is more likely than the current situation to reduce serious harm or substantial risk of serious harm.__ This policy specifies activities to support families in preventing the need for placement; provides guidelines for placement decision-making including delineation of reasonable efforts to prevent the need for placement; describes activities involved in preparing for and making out-of-home placements; and delineates criteria for continuation of placement for certain youth over age 18.

The Department is committed to strengthening families and to helping parents maintain primary responsibility for their children. Prior to the voluntary or involuntary placement of any child, the Department will make reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for placement__. These efforts must be made prior to removal unless leaving the child at home, even with services, would cause, or create a substantial risk of, serious harm and/or unless a court has ordered that a child be placed. When placement of a child is necessary, reasonable efforts will be made to place the child in the least restrictive setting available and to make it possible to return the child home.__

In its provision of preventive and placement services, the Department shall ensure that services provided, whether directly or through contracted providers, are responsive to the particular needs of differing ethnic, linguistic and other minority consumers served by the Department. The Department also recognizes the special concerns of Indians/Native Americans and abides by the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act. (See Policy #88-001, Indian Child Welfare Act Policy)

Policy: Placement Prevention--Decision Making And Reasonable Efforts It is the policy of the Department that a child will be placed outside of his/her home (home removal episode) only when: 1. the child has suffered, or currently is exposed to conditions which cause substantial risk of serious harm due to abuse and/or neglect by the primary caretaker. Such harm is defined as: • life threatening injury; • severe impairment of physical or behavioral functioning; • disfigurement; • sexual abuse or exploitation; • severe cognitive damage, such as extreme deficiencies in logical reasoning ability and/or learning ability; • severe emotional damage, such as extreme and enduring anxiety, depression, or withdrawal; and/or • injuries and/or harm that do not fall into any of the above categories but are extremely painful, either physically or emotionally, and occur repeatedly. AND 2. reasonable efforts to prevent placement/ameliorate the above condition(s) have been made but, in the judgment of the Department, the family still is not able to adequately care for and protect the child. OR reasonable efforts to prevent placement/ameliorate the above condition(s) have not been made but a court has ordered that the child be placed, or the Department has determined that placement is necessary to protect the child from imminent harm. Reasonable efforts are defined as the Department's best efforts to assess the individual child and family situation regarding the appropriateness and accessibility (within limits of available resources) of preventive services and to offer the family and assist (as appropriate) in providing such services to the family whenever possible. It is the responsibility of the Social Worker and Supervisor to develop a Service Plan with the family that identifies the resources and activities needed to enable the family to adequately care for and protect the child.

It is the responsibility of the Area Director (and/or designee) to inform social work staff (through staff meetings, resource lists, etc.) of supportive resources available from the Department, as well as from other state agencies and the community. This specifically includes information about services to meet the needs of clients with special needs (e.g., immigrants, cultural and linguistic minorities, clients with handicapping conditions, incarcerated parents). It is also the responsibility of the Area Director (and/or designee) to identify service needs, to promote development of resources needed to prevent placement and strengthen families, and to provide assistance, as needed, in the development and/or implementation of the Service Plan.

Procedures: Placement Prevention--Decision Making And Reasonable Efforts 1. Level of Risk. The Social Worker and Supervisor meet to discuss concerns regarding level of risk and to identify resources needed to support the family and to prevent or eliminate the need for a home removal episode. 2. Community Resources to Prevent Placement. Reasonable efforts will be made to encourage and assist the family to utilize their own resources as well as community and other state agency resources. Such resources might include but are not limited to: • non-custodial parent • relatives, extended family, friends, and neighbors • vocational and employment services • financial assistance • educational and support groups • religious organizations • drug and alcohol counseling and treatment resources • health care resources • mental health services • civic and other community groups • mental retardation services • services for victims of domestic violence housing. 3. Services to Prevent Placement. Reasonable efforts also will be made to offer placement prevention services which may be available through the Department. Such services include but are not limited to: • crisis intervention • day care • information and referral • adolescent tracking • casework/case management • parenting support groups • camping • young parent services • family support services (e.g., parent aide services, child/family specific services/items) • counseling • family intervention services. 4. Guidelines for Home Removal Decision-Making. Prior to deciding to place a child outside of her/his home, the Social Worker and Supervisor determine: • if conditions exist which subject the child to substantial risk of serious harm, • what is causing the condition(s), and • if it is possible to prevent or eliminate the need for placement through reasonable efforts targeted to resolving the condition(s) which subject the child to substantial risk of serious harm. (See Appendix A, "Guidelines for Out-of-Home Placement Decision-Making") 5. If the Social Worker and Supervisor determine that supportive services are available that can enable the family to adequately care for and protect the child, they develop a Service Plan with the family that identifies the appropriate resources and activities. (See Policy #86-001, Service Planning and Referral Policy) 6. If the Social Worker and Supervisor determine that placement is necessary, they follow the policy and procedures relating to placement decisions and activities, which appear after the Guidelines.

Policy: Placement A placement (home removal episode) is defined as a situation in which: • the child is in the care of the Department (i.e., receiving services pursuant to a Voluntary Placement Agreement), OR • the child is in the custody of the Department (i.e., through court order or adoption surrender) and is not living at home.

To be considered a child in placement, one of these criteria must be met. Therefore, a child in the Department's custody and living at home is not a child in placement. A child who is not in care or custody but is living away from home also is not in placement.

The decision regarding the need for placement is made by the Social Worker and Supervisor in conjunction with the Area Director or designee, on a case-by-case basis.

If the decision is to do a home removal, the Social Worker and Supervisor decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to pursue court custody or take a Voluntary Placement Agreement in accordance with the procedures below. Decisions to pursue court custody must include consultation with the Department's legal staff and the Area Director or designee. The Area Director (or designee) must approve all Voluntary Placement Agreements. This should occur in advance or, in emergency situations, as soon as possible after the placement.

In making the decision, the Social Worker and Supervisor take into account the perspective of the family and of collaterals. However, this decision is made by the Department, with the agreement of the family or with the approval of the court. For example, if a parent requests placement of an adolescent due to family conflict, the Department will continue to make reasonable efforts to prevent the placement, as specified above, until or unless the Department agrees that out-of-home placement would be in the child's best interest.

It is the policy of the Department that all placements be made in accordance with permanency planning objectives. From the time a child is placed, a plan shall be developed for returning the child home, or, if that is not possible, for identifying an alternative permanent home. The Department shall always give first consideration to placement with a relative or member of the child's extended family. If this is not possible, the Department will consider foster placement with, in order of priority, individuals with parenting experience, or individuals without parenting experience. Placement into a child-specific foster home also is an option. It is important to note that any foster placement with an individual without parenting experience requires the approval of the Area Director.

It is the policy of the Department that children will be placed in resources that have been fully evaluated and approved. It is expected that the resource be approved prior to the child's placement. If, however, as a result of the emergency nature of a placement and the placement needs of the child, it is necessary to place the child with a resource not yet approved, the Social Worker follows procedures for completing an initial evaluation.

The selection of an out-of-home placement should be ruled by the best interest of the child. Factors to consider in determining the type of placement include, but are not limited to: the individual child's needs, the nature and length of the placement, and the placement resources available. The Area Director is responsible for ensuring that a variety of placement resources are available and for establishing a system within the Area Office for accessing those resources.

A child should always be placed in the least restrictive setting possible. The placement should be in the closest possible proximity to the child's family, to promote, to the extent possible, the opportunity for visits between the child and family. Whenever possible, siblings should be placed together.

All out-of-home placements shall be made in the best interests of the child, based upon the child’s individual needs including those related to his/her racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural background and the capacity of the prospective foster or adoptive parents to meet those needs,

Procedures: Care Or Custody 1. If the Social Worker and Supervisor agree that a home removal episode is needed, they decide whether to pursue custody or care of the child, in accordance with the following guidelines. 2. Court Custody. Court custody is obtained when the Department has determined that placement is necessary and placement must be made on an involuntary basis. Petitioning for court custody also is used when the family might agree to the placement, but the Department determines that the severity of the risk to the child(ren) warrants court intervention. [See MGL c. 119, §§ 23(c ), 24-26, 39E-J, 51B(3), and c. 210, § 3(b)] 3. Consulting with Area Director/Designee and DSS Attorney. Whenever a decision is made to pursue court custody (whether at time of actual placement or for a placement that originated with a Voluntary Placement Agreement), the Social Worker and Supervisor notify the Area Director (or designee) and consult with the DSS Attorney regarding notification to the family and preparation for court. 4. Voluntary Placement Agreement. A Voluntary Placement Agreement [see MGL c. 119, § 23(a)] may be used when the Department has determined that placement is necessary and that the precipitating problem(s) do not warrant pursuit of court custody, and when a parent will agree to the placement (whether the case is voluntary, protective, or CHINS). Mature Child. A Voluntary Placement Agreement may be taken from a mature [see Regulations 110 CMR 2.00 (32), 4,10-4.14] child, if the parent is unavailable/unwilling, for up to 72 hours. After 72 hours, the Department shall either return the child home, obtain a Voluntary Placement Agreement signed by the parent(s), or pursue a court petition for custody. 5. 6 Months Duration. A Voluntary Placement Agreement requires Area Director (or designee) approval and is valid for no more than 6 months at a time. If the child is of Indian/Native American origin, the Agreement also must be approved by a court. (See Policy #88-001, Indian Child Welfare Act Policy) A Voluntary Placement Agreement can be revoked at any time by either the parent or the Department. Such written notice of termination is effective 3 working days after receipt. 6. 18 - Month Limit. If the decision is to take a Voluntary Placement Agreement, the Social Worker completes an Agreement with the family and obtains the Area Director (or designee) signature. At 6 months, if the child cannot return home and is to continue in placement, a petition for court custody should be considered. By no later than 12 months, if the child cannot return home and is to continue in placement, a petition for court custody as well as a request for a dispositional hearing must be pursued. By no later than 18 months, if the child cannot return home and is to continue in placement, there must be a court action filed, and a dispositional hearing held in conformance with applicable law. (See MGL c. 119, § 29B) Decisions to pursue court custody must include consultation with the Department's legal staff and the Area Director or designee prior to expiration of the Agreement. 7. The Social Worker, in consultation with the Supervisor, identifies a placement resource and prepares for the placement in accordance with the procedures below.

Procedures: Identifying A Placement Resource 1. The Social Worker and Supervisor identify the appropriate type of placement resource for the child. 2. Family Resource. When the appropriate resource for a child is a family resource, the Social Worker initiates a service referral for a family resource. The Social Worker and Family Resource Worker discuss the possible choices of family resources available and choose the most appropriate resource to meet the child's needs__. If possible and appropriate, the family and child should be included in the selection process. 3. Relative/Extended Family Member/Child Specific. When the appropriate resource for a child is a relative, extended family member or other child specific placement, the Social Worker should inform the family that they must be approved as a family resource, explain the payment process (including the option of T-AFDC for relatives), and initiate a referral for a homestudy by following procedures described in policy. 4. Community Residential. When the appropriate resource for a child is a community residence, the Social Worker completes a community residential placement referral for Area Director (or designee) review and approval.

The Department will make reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for placement.

Procedures: Preparing The Child And Family For Placement 1. Preparing the Child and Family. Whenever possible, the Social Worker should discuss the home removal and the impact of the home removal with the child and parent(s) and other children, if appropriate. In particular, the Social Worker should discuss the reasons for the home removal, the expected length of the placement and the changes needed for the child's return home. The Social Worker also should discuss with the child and family the time and date that the child will be moving to the placement and what the child should bring. Preplacement visit(s) should be made whenever possible. The Social Worker should describe the family composition and type of home in which the child will be living. (Note: Photographs available from the family resource record may be helpful in this regard.) 2. Preparing the Placement Resource. If the placement is with a family resource, the Family Resource Worker and the Social Worker prepare the family resource for the placement. If the placement is with a community residential provider, the Social Worker plans for the placement in collaboration with the provider. In order to prepare for any placement, as much of the following information as possible is provided to the placement resource prior to the placement: • child's routine (e.g., time child wakes, naps, goes to bed, etc.) • information about any medical or dental conditions that require medication and/or treatment (e.g., allergies, addictions, need for universal precautions) • child's food likes and dislikes or type of infant formula • child/youth's educational needs • youth's interests, hobbies, after-school activities etc. • youth's strengths/needs with regard to preparing youth for young adulthood • other information which will assist the placement resource in caring for the child or youth. Whenever possible, the parent(s) should be encouraged to write a letter for the Social Worker to give to the placement resource informing them of the above information. The Social Worker also should inform the placement resource about any special needs or problem areas which may need attention. For an adolescent, for example, this might include school phobia or drug/alcohol abuse; for an infant, behavior related to maternal drug use. 3. Involving the Parents. Parents and siblings should be involved as much as possible in the placement process. In some cases, the family may escort the child or youth to the placement with the Social Worker. The Social Worker should discuss with the family the planned schedule for contact and visitation with the child, including contact and visitation with siblings, if applicable.

Procedures: Time Of Placement 1. Service Plan. The Social Worker completes or updates the Service Plan, including the Service Plan Supplement. The emergency section of the Service Plan must be completed at the time of an emergency placement, and the entire plan, including the Service Plan Supplement, must be completed within 30 working days of the placement. In the event an emergency (unanticipated) placement occurs in a case having a current Service Plan, the Service Plan is updated to reflect the placement. 2. Medical Passport. The Social Worker updates the medical information screens prior to or at the time of placement. The Worker can print out a medical passport from the front end of the application at the time of placement, it will be provided as soon as possible and no later than 30 working days after initial placement. The Social Worker also determines if it is necessary to schedule routine medical and dental examinations. 3. Sliding Fee. For all Voluntary Placement Agreements the Social Worker must refer the family to the Area Administrative Manager to negotiate a sliding fee agreement. (See Policy #90-006, Sliding Fee Policy and Procedures) The sliding fee agreement should be completed prior to placement or in an emergency, within 10 working days. 4. T-AFDC. If the family was receiving (or had applied for) T-AFDC, the Social Worker informs the family that the T-AFDC should be terminated for children in placement and that other assistance (such as emergency assistance) may be available. The Social Worker documents the T-AFDC information on the authorization. 5. Service Referral. The Social Worker fills out the home removal episode screen in FamilyNet and the enter/exit screen in FamilyNet in order to document the child's current placement as well as to reflect the payment to be provided to the placement resource, including Medicaid and clothing grant(s) if applicable. 6. Child Placement Agreement. If the placement is with a family resource, the Family Resource Worker, in collaboration with the Social Worker, completes the Child Placement Agreement including, if applicable, a request for supplemental reimbursement. If the placement is in a community residence, the Social Worker completes a Community Residential Placement Agreement. (See Policy #97-001, Community Residential Policy) The child placement agreement is completed at the time of placement or in an emergency, within 3 days. 7. At the time of placement, the Social Worker discusses the child's care and immediate needs with the placement resource. The placement resource is given a copy of the Service Plan, a copy of the Child Placement Agreement, the Medicaid/health insurance card and the Medical Passport at the time of placement, and in emergency situations, within the time frames noted above. 8. Education. The Social Worker notifies the school department(s). If the child is receiving or may be referred for special education services, the Social Worker completes the "Notice to LEA" form. 9. Visitation. The Social Worker arranges a schedule for contact and visitation with the child, placement resource, and family. (See Policy #86-011, Ongoing Casework and Documentation Policy)

Policy: Continuation Of Placement For Certain Youth Over Age 18 It is the policy of the Department that DSS will terminate placement services to children when they turn 18. In certain cases in which DSS has been providing substitute care services prior to the youth turning 18, the Department may choose to make an exception and continue providing services with the approval of the Area Director. This policy identifies 3 categories of youth who may remain in placement with DSS after their 18th birthday: • Youth who are eligible for special education services and who have been formally referred for transitional planning for another state agency's adult services. In order to be eligible for such transitional planning services, an individual must be: – receiving special education services – graduating from high school or turning 22, and – SSI eligible or unable to work competitively for 20 hours per week • Youth in school or vocational program who need financial support to transition to independent living. This includes: – youth who are enrolled full time in a degree-granting secondary program (either high school or a GED program), or – youth who are enrolled full time in a vocational program (not to exceed 24 months), in a Community College (not to exceed 24 months), or in a Bachelor's program (not to exceed 60 months). • Youth who are eligible for the unaccompanied refugee minor program and who need continued DSS assistance to transition to independent living. Substitute care services will not be provided beyond the individual's 22nd birthday. In unusual circumstances, the Area Director may approve for services to continue to the 23rd birthday if it is demonstrated that without this financial support the individual will not complete a Bachelor's program. If a youth meets the above eligibility criteria, the Social Worker and Supervisor may recommend and the Area Director may approve continued placement beyond the age of 18, taking into consideration the following factors: • Demonstrated ability to successfully continue in an educational or vocational program • Application or acceptance into educational or vocational program • Verification of enrollment in educational or vocational program • Negotiation and signing of a Service Plan (with a goal of independent living) in which the individual agrees to: – use financial support to pay room and board expenses, including payment to foster parent for vacations/weekends (when applicable), – fully participate in the educational or vocational program, – meet with the Social Worker as arranged, and – verify ongoing participation and performance in the educational or vocational program.

If continued placement is approved, the Department will continue to pay foster care payments (either directly to the youth or to the provider) and will keep the case open for ongoing casework.

In order to continue the youth's placement, the youth may sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement on his/her own behalf. The 18-month limit on Voluntary Placement Agreements will not apply in those cases of youth over the age of 18. If the youth is not competent to sign an Agreement, the Department attorney will ask the court to appoint a guardian to represent the youth's interests and to sign the youth into care. A youth's parent has no legal authority to sign an Agreement unless she/he has been appointed legal guardian.

This is a voluntary program offered in certain cases meeting the above criteria. If, at any time, the individual fails to comply with the Service Plan, the Department may choose to terminate the Agreement to continue to provide out-of-home care payments and services.

Checklist For Placement Forms Packet • Voluntary Placement Agreement and Sliding Fee Agreement (for all voluntary placements) • Service Plan (including Service Plan Supplement) • Child Placement Agreement (including a request for Supplemental Reimbursement, if appropriate ) or Community Residential Agreement • Medical Passport • Pre-Placement Packet for Child (including "Where Am I" booklet) • Medicaid Forms (DSS/DPW Medicaid Eligibility Form and TMC-SID Form for Temporary Card)

Appendix A GUIDELINES FOR OUT-OF-HOME PLACEMENT DECISION-MAKING The "Guidelines For Out-Of-Home Placement Decision-Making" are provided to assist the social worker and supervisor in identifying conditions which cause, or create a substantial risk of, serious harm to the child and reasonable efforts/actions to help resolve such conditions. The conditions included in these Guidelines should not be interpreted as a comprehensive list of all conditions which cause risk. The listing of reasonable efforts was developed to provide examples of actions which may prevent out-of-home placement. The appropriateness of such actions must be evaluated with consideration of limits of available resources. Conditions Which Indicate That The Child Is At Substantial Risk Of Serious Harm: Prior To Placement, Reasonable Efforts Must Be Made: To Ascertain The Reason(s) Child Is At Risk And To Ameliorate The Conditions, Thus Preventing The Need For Placement:

  1. The child is subjected to sexual abuse and/or serious or repeated physical abuse by a caretaker, or by a person(s) who has not yet been identified 1. • Determine whether the primary caretaker is able to protect the child from further abuse; • Assist primary caretaker (non-perpetrator) in accessing services such as medical and sexual abuse treatment, 209A assistance, parent aides, parent skills training, support groups or crisis intervention counseling that appropriately address the causes.

  2. The child is physically isolated and/or is subjected to severe disciplinary measures that result in significant developmental deficits 2. • Assist in accessing community resources that increase visibility of child; • Assist primary caretaker in accessing parent aides, parent skills training, support groups, medical or mental health services that appropriately address identified needs.

  3. The child is abandoned (it is assumed that an abandoned child will need at least temporary placement) 3. • Coordinate efforts with local law enforcement authorities to identify and locate primary caretaker.

  4. The child who cannot care for himself or herself is left alone 4. • Locate the primary caretaker, when necessary through contact with relatives, neighbors, and other government agencies; • Interview the primary caretaker, to determine what other conditions exist; • Assist primary caretaker in accessing services, such as day care or in-home child care for the child of a primary caretaker who must work (by day or night), that address the conditions causing risk of serious harm.

  5. Inability of the primary caretaker to protect the child from substantial risk of serious harm (as defined above) 5. • Assess the primary caretaker's capacity or willingness to protect the child; • Determine primary caretaker's capacity to prevent access to child by a perpetrator who places child at substantial risk of serious harm; • Assist primary caretaker in accessing services to address the problems, in terms of the conditions that exist.

  6. The child is not being fed or clothed appropriately or lacks shelter or medical attention to physical problems constituting substantial harm 6. • Assist primary caretaker in accessing appropriate services such as: parenting skills training or parent aide services, emergency assistance, money management instruction, help in establishing eligibility for entitlement programs, housing or entrance to a family shelter.

  7. The child is subjected to serious emotional maltreatment by the primary caretaker 7. • Assist caretaker in accessing services that appropriately address the reasons, most likely including mental health services.

(The Following Are Conditions Which Can Present Varying Degrees Of Risk:) 8. Substance abuse by the primary caretaker 8. • Assist primary caretaker in accessing substance abuse evaluation and treatment.

  1. Mental retardation, mental illness, or physical illness of the primary caretaker 9. • Place temporary caretaker in the home (with priority given to relatives or other resources identified by the primary caretaker or child), if temporary hospitalization is the problem; • Assist in accessing parent aide services and/or specialized training to help primary caretaker compensate for deficits, if problem is due to primary caretaker's lack of certain capacities due to mental retardation, mental or physical illness.

  2. History of sexual assault by any member of the household 10. • Determine current level of risk to child and non-offending caretaker's ability to consistently protect the child from danger; • If caretaker's ability is questionable, see #1 above.

  3. Domestic violence in the household 11. • Assist non-abusing caretaker inaccessing services to protect victim and child; • Assist family members in accessing legal and social services to address the domestic violence.

  4. The child is consistently left with unsuitable temporary caretakers 12. • Assist the primary caretaker to find appropriate child care providers.

  5. Gross deficits in parenting skills on the part of the primary caretaker 13. • Assist primary caretaker in accessing parent skills training or parent aide services.

  6. Hazards in the home due to substandard conditions including lack of heating, exposed lead paint, rodent and pest infestation and lack of guardrails on windows above the first story 14. • Assist primary caretaker in negotiating with the landlord regarding services that address the specific hazards in the household; • Assist primary caretaker in contacting local public health authorities; • Assist primary caretaker in housing search activities.

  7. Primary caretaker's involvement in criminal activity, such as prostitution or drug trafficking, that subjects the child to risk of violence 15. • Determine primary caretaker's ability to protect the child and to provide reasonable assurance that the child is not at risk of violence associated with primary caretaker's criminal activity, which may include communication/coordination with the criminal justice system.