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Child Protective Services: A Guide for Caseworkers. 2003
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. DePanfilis, D., Salus, M. K.|
|Year Published: 2003|
Chapter Eleven: Case Closure
Termination is the process of ending the caseworker's relationship with the family and providing the family with the opportunity to put closure on their relationship with the caseworker (and possibly with the agency). Depending on the nature of the relationship between the caseworker and the children and family, what was accomplished, and the nature of the closure, termination may generate a range of feelings.158 Involuntary clients are less likely than voluntary clients to experience regret at closure. Since they did not seek contact, termination may be approached with relief that an unsought pressure will be removed. However, if the caseworker has been able to work through the resistance and engage the family in the intervention process, they may experience regret. This is a positive sign because family members will feel these feelings only if the relationship or the work has come to be valued.159
Types of Case Closure
- Termination. If all of the outcomes have been achieved, or if the family feels unready or unwilling to work toward those outcomes, and there is sufficient reason to believe that the child is safe (even though there may still be some risk of maltreatment), then the caseworker may agree that ending the relationship with the family is appropriate. This also means that the family will not move on to work with other service providers.
- Referral. If the family is able or willing to continue to work with other service providers toward some or all of the outcomes that have not yet been accomplished, then the caseworker will work with the family to identify other strategies to support the work. This may include referral to other agencies or providers, or it may include the identification of such informal supports as family or friends who will encourage and guide them.
- Transfer. If the caseworker's time with the family is ending, but they will work with another caseworker in the agency, then the ending work with the family will, in part, focus on developing a relationship with the new caseworker. If the caseworker had developed a positive relationship with the family, it is desirable that both the current and new caseworker have at least one joint session to introduce the colleague to the client.
- Discontinuation by family. If the family is receiving voluntary services and makes a unilateral decision to end their relationship with the agency, this decision may be communicated behaviorally. For example, family members may gradually or suddenly stop keeping scheduled appointments and not respond to outreach attempts to reconnect. The caseworker must consult with the supervisor to examine the agency's response.160 Discontinuation by the family is the least desirable type of case closing, but likely to happen some of the time. The family, however, cannot legally discontinue services if the court mandates the services.
Process of Case Closure
Caseworkers should take the following steps in terminating services:
- Review risk reduction. Talk with the family about the specific accomplishments, emphasizing the positive change in behaviors and conditions.
- Review tasks completed. Discuss any obstacles encountered and focus on the successes and knowledge obtained.
- Review general steps in problem solving. Remind families of the strides made as well as the methods they can use when future problems arise.
- Consider any remaining needs or concerns. Help family members plan how to maintain the changes. Discuss any potential obstacles they may encounter as well as strategies for overcoming them.161
Community Collaboration During Case Closure
When a family has received services from CPS and other agencies or individual providers, the evaluation of family progress must be a collaborative venture. The caseworker should determine the family's progress based on information from all service providers. In some cases, it may be appropriate to convene a team meeting to review the family's progress in relation to the assessment, case plan, and service agreement(s) prior to case closure.
When the court is involved in a case that is being closed, the court must approve case closure as well as terminate any existing court orders. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may involve written notification to the court or a hearing.
Family Involvement During Case Closure
Each child and family's experience of and response to ending the relationship will be unique. Feelings can range from relief, satisfaction, and happiness to sadness, loss, anger, powerlessness, fear, rejection, denial, and ambivalence. It is important to encourage family members to discuss their feelings. Even if it has been a difficult relationship, the caseworker should provide some positive statement of closure.162
Some practical steps to involve the family include:
- Meeting with the family to discuss the case closure;
- Anticipating a family-created crisis that may occur as a reaction to independence resulting from the planned closure;
- Reviewing the progress made as a result of CPS involvement;
- Referring the family to any additional resources needed;
- Leaving the door open for services should they be needed in the future, including providing appropriate contact information.
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