Case Planning for Families Involved With Child Welfare Agencies - California

Date: April 2018

When Case Plans Are Required

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 16501.1

A written case plan shall be completed within a maximum of 60 days of the initial removal of the child, or of the in-person response required under § 16501(f) if the child has not been removed from his or her home, or by the date of the dispositional hearing, whichever occurs first.

The case plan shall be updated as the service needs of the child and family dictate. At a minimum, the case plan shall be updated in conjunction with each status review hearing conducted pursuant to §§ 364, 366, 366.3, and 366.31, and the hearing conducted pursuant to § 366.26, but no less frequently than once every 6 months. Each updated case plan shall include a description of the services that have been provided to the child under the plan and an evaluation of the appropriateness and effectiveness of those services.

Who May Participate in the Case Planning Process

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 16501.1

Parents and legal guardians shall have an opportunity to review the case plan, sign it whenever possible, and then shall receive a copy of the plan. In any voluntary service or placement agreement, the parents or legal guardians shall be required to review and sign the case plan. Whenever possible, parents and legal guardians shall participate in the development of the case plan.

Commencing January 1, 2012, for nonminor dependents who are receiving foster care assistance up to age 21 pursuant to § 11403, the transitional independent living case plan, as set forth in subdivision (y) of § 11400, shall be developed with, and signed by, the nonminor.

A child shall be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the case plan and state his or her preference for foster care placement. A child who is age 12 or older and in a permanent placement shall also be given the opportunity to review the case plan, sign the case plan, and receive a copy.

For youth age 14 or older and nonminor dependents, the case plan shall be developed in consultation with the youth. At the youth's option, the consultation may include up to two members of the case-planning team who are chosen by the youth and who are not the youth's foster parents or caseworkers. The agency, at any time, may reject an individual selected by the youth to be a member of the case-planning team if the agency has good cause to believe that the individual would not act in the youth's best interests. One individual selected by the youth to be a member of the case-planning team may be designated to be the youth's adviser and advocate with respect to the application of the reasonable and prudent parent standard to the youth, as necessary.

Contents of a Case Plan

Citation: Welf. & Inst. Code § 16501.1

The case plan shall include the following:

  • An assessment of the circumstances that required child welfare intervention
  • Specific goals and the appropriateness of the planned services in meeting those goals
  • The allegations of abuse or neglect or the conditions cited as the basis for declaring the child a dependent of the court
  • The schedule of the social worker contacts with the child and the family or other caregivers
  • When out-of-home services are used, the frequency of contact between the parents or legal guardians and the child
  • When out-of-home placement is made, the provisions for the development and maintenance of sibling relationships
  • If out-of-home placement is made in a foster family home, group home, or other child care institution that is either a substantial distance from the home of the child's parent or out of State, the reasons why that placement is in the best interests of the child
  • An assurance that the plan ensures the educational stability of the child while in foster care, including the following:
    • That the placement takes into account the appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement
    • That the placement agency has coordinated with the person holding the right to make educational decisions for the child and appropriate local educational agencies to ensure that the child remains in the same school or, if remaining in that school is not in the child's best interests, assurances that steps are taken to provide immediate and appropriate enrollment in a new school and to provide all of the child's educational records to the new school
  • If out-of-home services are used, or if parental rights have been terminated and the case plan is placement for adoption, a recommendation regarding the appropriateness of unsupervised visits between the child and any of the child's siblings
  • If out-of-home services are used and the goal is reunification, a description of the services to be provided to assist in reunification and the services to be provided concurrently to achieve legal permanency if efforts to reunify fail
  • If out-of-home services are used, the child has been in care for at least 12 months, and the goal is not adoptive placement, documentation of the compelling reason or reasons why termination of parental rights is not in the child's best interests
  • If the case plan has as its goal for the child a permanent plan of adoption or placement in another permanent home, documentation of the steps the agency is taking to find an adoptive family or other permanent living arrangement for the child; to place the child with an adoptive family, an appropriate and willing relative, or a legal guardian; and to finalize the adoption or legal guardianship
  • When appropriate, for a child who is age 16 or older, the transitional independent living plan, which is a written description of the programs and services that will help the child, consistent with the child's best interests, prepare for the transition from foster care to successful adulthood
  • For youth age 16 or older, documentation that a consumer credit report was requested annually from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies at no charge to the youth and that any results were provided to the youth
  • When a child who is age 10 or older has been in out-of-home placement in a group home for 6 months or longer, an identification of individuals, other than the child's siblings, who are important to the child and actions necessary to maintain the child's relationship with those individuals, provided that those relationships are in the best interests of the child