Case Planning for Families Involved With Child Welfare Agencies - Massachusetts

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When Case Plans Are Required

Citation: Code of Mass. Reg. Tit. 110, §§ 6.02; 6.05

Every family receiving services from the Department of Children and Families shall have a service plan.

A service plan shall be completed within the following time periods:

  • For all cases within 10 working days after a comprehensive assessment is completed but in no event later than 55 working days after the opening of the case
  • For a placement made on an emergency basis to ensure the immediate safety of a child, where there is no service plan, a service plan shall be completed within 30 working days after the placement

Except in an emergency, every family shall have a service plan prior to placing a child in substitute care.

For purposes of developing a service plan the opening of the case occurs upon one of the following:

  • The decision to support a chapter 119, § 51A report (of abuse or neglect) after an investigation
  • The decision to open a case for services after an initial assessment
  • The receipt of an application for voluntary services
  • A court order giving custody to the department

Who May Participate in the Case Planning Process

Citation: Code of Mass. Reg. Tit. 110, §§ 6.02; 6.06

The service plan should include both parents, including the nonresident parent when possible. If either parent is not included in the service plan, an explanation should be included in the case record.

A service plan shall be, to the maximum extent possible, jointly developed by the department and the family receiving services from the department. If the parties are in agreement about the service plan, it shall be signed by all parties, and a copy shall be provided to the family.

If the parties are not in agreement about the service plan, the department shall prepare the service plan, and a copy shall be provided to the family. The department also shall inform the family that they may seek a review of the service plan by using the department's grievance procedure.

If the parties are in agreement about some but not all of the service plan, the family member has the option of noting and initialing the sections he/she does agree with, or adding services he/she would like the department to offer, and signing the service plan with reservations.

Contents of a Case Plan

Citation: Code of Mass. Reg. Tit. 110, §§ 6.01; 6.03; 6.04

A service plan is a written document that describes in detail the tasks to be undertaken, the behavioral changes needed, and the services to be provided to:

  • Strengthen a family unit
  • Reunify a family unit for a child who has been removed from his or her home
  • Provide an alternative permanent home for a child who has been removed from his or her home

The service plan shall provide a basis for assessing the progress of family members in meeting the goal of the service plan.

Each service plan shall contain the following elements:

  • A statement indicating whether the goal of the service plan is to:
    • Strengthen the family unit
    • Reunify the family unit
    • Provide an alternative permanent home for a child who has been removed from his or her home
  • A statement of the strengths of the family, the areas needing improvement, and behavioral changes family members need to make to achieve the goal of the service plan and close the case
  • A statement of each task the family member must complete to achieve the goal of the service plan and the time by which or the frequency at which the task is to be completed
  • A statement of the tasks the department and other parties must complete and the time by which or the frequency at which the task is to be completed
  • A listing of the services to be provided to family members and the time by which or the frequency at which the service is to be provided

A service plan for a family with a child in substitute care shall contain the elements listed above and each of the following additional elements about the child:

  • The type of placement (foster care, intensive foster care, congregate care, etc.)
  • The history of any previous placements
  • The reason for the child's current placement
  • Efforts made by the department and the family to prevent the need for placement
  • The visiting schedule between the family and the child, or, if no visits are to be scheduled, an explanation why
  • The visiting schedule between siblings who are not placed together, or if no visits are to be scheduled, the reason why visits are not in the child's best interests
  • The identification of the permanent plan for the child, which can be any of the following:
    • Permanency through stabilization
    • Permanency through reunification
    • Permanency through adoption
    • Permanency through guardianship
    • Permanency through living with kin
    • Alternative permanency planned living arrangement
  • The projected date by which the child may return home or be placed in another permanent living situation
  • A description of the child's specific health, dental, and educational needs while in placement