The Use of Safety and Risk Assessment in Child Protection Cases - Colorado

Date: March 2021

Safety Assessment

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-2, § 7.104

The assessment shall begin with face-to-face contact with the alleged child victim, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Face-to-face contact with the primary caregiver
  • Assessing for current or impending danger and taking action to secure safety, if indicated
  • Assessing risk, needs, protective capacities, and strengths of the child and families

To assess for safety, county departments shall consider the following:

  • The safety threshold criteria for current or impending danger of moderate to severe harm
  • The current or impending dangers described in the Colorado Family Safety Assessment tool
  • Child vulnerabilities and strengths
  • Caregiver strengths and protective capacities
  • Actions that respond to the current or impending danger

The assessment shall include the following:

  • Face-to-face interviews and/or observations with all child victims and household members
  • Documentation of efforts to engage noncustodial parent(s) and other persons who may have information regarding the alleged abuse and/or neglect
  • The extent of child abuse and/or neglect, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Impact to the child
    • The type and severity of injuries, if applicable
    • The child's explanation of the abuse and/or neglect
  • Circumstances surrounding the child abuse and/or neglect, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Caregiver explanation of the abuse and/or neglect
    • Environmental influences
    • Contributory factors
  • Child functioning and caregiver functioning
  • Parenting practices and disciplinary practices

The assessment shall include visiting the alleged child victim's place of residence or place of custody if the home conditions are the subject of the assessment. The assessment shall determine the names and conditions of any children living in the same household as the alleged child victim.

The assessment also shall include consideration of race/ethnicity, religion, accepted work-related practices of agricultural communities, and accepted child-rearing practices of the culture in which the alleged child victim participates.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-2, §§ 7.104; 7.107.16; 7.107.17

If the child is unsafe, the caseworker shall analyze whether the following apply:

  • A safety plan can reasonably be expected to control current or impending danger while the assessment continues, and if so, the caseworker shall develop a safety plan.
  • If a safety plan cannot reasonably be expected to control current or impending danger, the caseworker shall, if necessary, initiate an out-of-home placement.

If the child is unsafe, the safety plan or decision to initiate an out-of-home placement shall be reviewed and approved by a supervisor as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours from the face-to-face interview or observation with the alleged victim child.

When current or impending danger is identified, one of the following shall be initiated:

  • A safety plan shall be developed that can reasonably be expected to control for identified current or impending danger to the child(ren)/youth.
  • Human or social service's custody shall be obtained if it is the only plan that sufficiently controls for the current or impending danger.

A safety plan shall be developed for all children or youth in current or impending danger when a safety plan can reasonably be expected to control for identified dangers. Safety plans shall include the following:

  • Identification of each family member and safety management provider who is participating in the plan
  • A description of actions to be taken that address each specific current or impending danger, including the following:
    • The frequency of each action
    • The person responsible for each action
  • The safety response that shall have an immediate impact on controlling the identified current or impending danger
  • Be readily accessible at a level required to ensure safety
  • When available, caregivers' acknowledgement of current or impending dangers and willingness to participate in the safety plan
  • Caseworker activities to oversee the safety

Safety plans shall not be developed if the safety analysis results in the decision that human or social services custody is the only plan that is sufficient to control for all identified current or impending danger.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-4, § 7.107.21

The Colorado Family Risk Assessment tool shall be completed with the household members. The tool shall be used for the following purposes:

  • To determine risk for future abuse and/or neglect
  • To aid in determining if services should be provided
  • To aid in determining the appropriate level of services

The risk assessment tool is to be completed for the household of the primary caregiver when the alleged abuse and/or neglect has occurred in that household. This assessment shall be completed with the family within 30 calendar days from the date the referral was received.

The risk assessment is always completed for a household. When a child's caregivers do not live together, the child may be a member of two households. In this case, the assessment should be completed for the household of the alleged person responsible for abuse or neglect. The risk factors examined by the assessment include the following:

  • The number of prior assessments
  • The number of children in the household
  • The characteristics of the children in the household
  • Whether the household has previously received child protective services
  • Whether the caregiver has history of abuse or neglect as a child
  • Whether the caregiver was placed in protective services as a child
  • Whether the caregiver has a substance use problem
  • The recent presence or history of domestic violence in the household
  • Whether the caregiver is involved in disruptive or volatile adult relationships
  • Whether the caregiver has a history of mental health treatment
  • Whether the caregiver has a history of homelessness
  • Whether the caregiver provides supervision inconsistent with child's needs

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-4, § 7.301

Safety assessment and risk assessment are ongoing processes throughout the life of the case and shall be the basis for case planning. The family, including relatives with caregiving responsibilities for children in the household, shall be involved in all phases of assessment and case planning.

As a result of this assessment/evaluation, the caseworker and family shall identify the family's current safety and risk, including the level of functioning, areas of strengths, specific areas of concern to be addressed, and changes that must occur to remedy the concerns that brought the family to the agency. This information shall be included in the family services plan.

The treatment/prevention plan in the family services plan shall document the following:

  • That services to be provided are directed at the areas of need identified in the assessment
  • That outcomes to be achieved as a result of the services provided will be described in terms of specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, time-limited objectives and action steps to be accomplished by the parents, child/youth, service providers, and county staff
  • That placement prevention strategies for the child/youth allow the child/youth to remain safely at home or with kin
  • That services to be provided are designed to ensure that the child receives safe and proper care
  • That services to be provided are culturally and ethnically appropriate and trauma-informed

Appropriate cultural or ethnic considerations should include, but are not limited to, consideration of the child/youth's family, community, neighborhood, faith or religious beliefs, school activities, friends, and the child/youth's and family's primary language.

Integration of safety and risk requirements into the case plan in the family services plan shall be accomplished in the following ways:

  • Safety and risk assessments shall automatically become a part of the case when a case is opened.
  • Current or impending danger identified on the safety assessment will be the basis for developing treatment/prevention plan objectives.
  • Risk factors identified during a thorough and balanced assessment shall be considered in the treatment/prevention plans.

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-3, § 7.202.1

If a safety plan exists, the assigned caseworker and supervisor shall review it as the first step in ongoing services planning.

Ongoing child protection services shall be based on the safety and risk issues identified in the safety assessment tool and plan, risk assessment tool, family social history, and assessment summary in the family services plan. Services shall be provided to protect the child from further abuse or neglect through building parental capabilities and increasing parental involvement. This shall be accomplished in a manner that preserves the family when this can safely be done.

The primary purposes for case contacts shall be to ensure child safety and well-being and move the case toward achieving identified treatment goals, regardless of the reason the case is open. The county department shall have face-to-face and telephone contact with the children and youth, parents, and relevant collateral contacts as often as needed to ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of the children.

A face-to-face contact is defined as an in-person contact for the purpose of observation, conversation, intervention, or interviewing about substantive case issues, such as safety, risk and needs assessment, or family service planning that may help to reduce future risk of abuse and neglect and promote case progress and permanency. A face-to-face contact is required every month with the following:

  • The child or youth
  • The parent or guardian of the child
  • The intended permanent caregiver, when applicable

The primary purposes for contacts with parents are to assess the parents' ability to provide safely for the child or youth and make progress toward family service plan goals. Such contact shall occur at least monthly and shall be a face-to-face contact completed by someone who has knowledge of the case and is employed or contracted with a county department of human/social services.

Monthly engagement shall occur with all parents and permanent caregivers as determined by the county, regardless of ability or requirement to have face-to-face contact. This may include monthly efforts to engage through telephone calls, letters, or electronic communication.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-4, § 7.301.3

A continuing reassessment and documentation of the family services plan in relationship to goal progress shall be done. If a significant change in client service needs occurs, a redetermination of eligibility and/or a reassessment of services shall occur and the family services plan shall be amended, if applicable. The reassessment should be performed jointly with the client, and in situations where joint evaluation cannot occur, the reasons shall be documented in the case record.

When assessment indicates reunification is appropriate, the treatment/prevention plan shall be updated to reflect the specific timeframe and services necessary for the child to be safely returned to and maintained in the home.