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

Date: March 2021

Safety Assessment

Citation: Pol. & Proc. Man., §§ 2310; 3110

From the policy manual: When a report alleging abuse or neglect has been assigned for investigation or assessment, the caseworker shall determine the immediate safety of the child who is the subject of the report. 'Immediate safety' is whether the child is determined safe while the assessment is completed.

To determine immediate safety, an assessment is completed with the family and their safety network to engage all members in discussion of worries, what is working well, and next steps. This assessment helps the caseworker and family determine whether imminent danger (serious harm from maltreatment) is either present right now or if there is an imminent threat of danger to the child's safety.

The safety determination requires that Department for Children and Families (DCF) staff complete an in-person contact with the child who is the subject of the report, in a location where it is reasonable to expect the child to be found, within the assigned response time. Telephone or letter contact with the child is not sufficient.

Additional contacts and observations with parents or caregivers, siblings, alleged perpetrators, and others may be required to gather sufficient information to determine the safety of the child. If the caseworker determines additional information is needed to make a safety determination, the caseworker shall follow up to gather the additional information to assess the required factors and determine the safety of the child within the response time.

Safety assessments shall include the following factors:

  • There is a plausible threat or likelihood of serious physical harm.
  • Sexual abuse is suspected or substantiated, and the (alleged) perpetrator continues to have access to the child.
  • Caregiver actions or omissions have caused or are likely to cause serious impairment of a child's social, emotional, or intellectual functioning.
  • The caregiver is unwilling or unable to meet child's needs for food, clothing, or shelter, including situations where living conditions are hazardous and imminently threatening.
  • The caregiver is unable or refuses to seek treatment for a child's medical condition or to administer prescribed treatment for a diagnosed medical condition, which poses a serious threat to the child's physical health.
  • The caregiver has not, cannot, or will not provide supervision necessary to protect child from potentially serious harm.
  • The caregiver has given up or deserted a child, with the stated or apparent intention to not resume the relationship.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Pol. & Proc. Man., §§ 2310; 2462

When imminent danger threatens serious harm to a child, action shall be taken to protect the safety of a child. Various interventions and protective actions taken by the safety network, family, or DCF may occur to ensure immediate safety of a child. If DCF and the family are agreeing to actions the family and network will take to ensure safety in relation to the immediate threat, an immediate safety plan shall be completed.

The immediate safety plan shall be used to address immediate threats of danger to the child. The immediate safety plan is a temporary, short-term plan to keep the child and other members of the family safe while more permanent safety provisions can be put in place.

The immediate safety plan should be used whenever such a plan will enhance family safety and only when it is reasonable to believe safety can be achieved through the plan. The immediate safety plan may have useful application in an assessment assigned for any allegation or presenting situation.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Pol. & Proc. Man., §§ 2400; 3110

A 'lasting safety assessment' shall be completed by a caseworker for all cases assigned for further assessment. The lasting safety assessment is completed with the family, focusing the discussion on safety specific information for the assessment. Lasting safety (risk) refers to whether the children will be safe long term. Services may be identified to mitigate concerns for risk of future maltreatment.

The lasting safety assessment involves analyzing all information gathered from family members, along with other information gathered during the assessment, to an assessment map. The assessment map documents the lasting safety (risk) rating to assist in determining whether further DCF involvement with the family is needed, such as a referral for family services, family preservation services, and family first prevention services. When the worries indicate lasting/serious negative effects if something does not change, next steps are developed with the family identifying what will happen to mitigate the risk and build lasting safety.

Risk assessment shall include the following factors:

  • Parent or caregiver factors
  • Family factors
  • Child factors
  • Environmental factors

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Pol. & Proc. Man., § 2462

To be effective, all individuals who are necessary to the immediate safety plan must be able and willing to cooperate in carrying out the plan and should be involved in the planning. An immediate safety plan empowers the family to remain responsible for their lives, avoids resistance by the family to externally imposed conditions, and can be used as an assessment tool to help the caseworker and the family decide together whether change is possible.

In considering if an immediate safety plan is appropriate, the factors following factors must be considered and documented in the immediate safety plan:

  • Harm to child caused by removal from home
  • Severity of danger and the potential seriousness of the situation
  • The child's or others' ability to protect the child
  • The ability and likelihood that the adults in the home will protect the child
  • The alleged perpetrator's access to child and the nonabusing parent's ability to protect the child
  • The child's behavior as a factor in the family history or dynamics
  • Family isolation, either geographically or socially
  • The family's ability to participate in plan
  • The medical needs of the child

Immediate safety plans must be developed in conjunction with the child's family and any other persons required to carry out the plan. Decisions regarding the identification of those persons that should be included in the immediate safety plan will depend on the type of allegation and steps required to ensure safety.

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Pol. & Proc. Man., §§ 3110; 3122

The protection and safety of the child shall be assessed and evaluated through informal and formal safety and risk assessments. Safety and risk assessments shall be completed on an ongoing basis throughout the life of all cases and at critical times.

Critical times in the case include, but shall not be limited to, the following:

  • New allegations of abuse or neglect assigned to DCF
  • A change in the family condition causing concern for the child's safety
  • The occurrence of a critical or significant incident
  • Changes in family structure including, but not limited to, other adults moving into the home or having caregiving responsibilities; the birth of baby; other children moving into or out of the home, such as a sibling returning home; or a caregiver moving out of the home
  • A new concern of increased substance use or relapse by a family member, especially if person is a caregiver
  • Changes in a family member's mental health condition that may pose a threat to children's well-being
  • An incident of violence or domestic violence in the home
  • Known weapons in the home
  • A new pet that may pose a potential threat to the children
  • Loss of adequate housing
  • Transitioning the family from intensive services to less-intensive services while receiving family preservation services
  • New indications of a child with danger to self/self-harming behaviors
  • A significant change in visitation structure

Assessment of parental progress towards completing the tasks of the case plan shall an ongoing process, not one reviewed during the case planning conference alone. The assessment process shall include the child welfare case management provider and supervisor as well as the DCF caseworker and supervisor. Information can be obtained from several sources, including, but not limited, to the child's child-appointed special advocate, therapists involved with the family, resource families, family support workers, the child, birth parents, relatives or nonrelated kin, providers of other services such as specialized day care, and the child's school.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Pol. & Proc. Man., § 3110

Safety and risk assessments shall be completed on an ongoing basis throughout the life of all cases and at critical times. Critical times in the case include, but shall not be limited to, the following:

  • Upon reunification
  • Upon relative placement
  • Prior to case closure