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

Date: March 2021

Safety Assessment

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 390, Ch. 4

In any initial assessment conducted by child protective services (CPS), the following tasks apply:

  • Interview the child, parents, siblings, and other relevant family members or collateral contacts
  • Gather information from any other sources who may have information about the presenting problem or alleged maltreatment or the risk and safety of the child
  • Observe the child, siblings, and parents; interactions among family members; and the home and neighborhood
  • Document and analyze the information gathered

Specific areas for observation include the following:

  • The physical condition of the child, including any observable effects of maltreatment
  • The emotional status of the child, including mannerisms, signs of fear, and development status
  • The reactions of the parents to the concerns of the Department of Health and Human Services
  • The emotional and behavioral status of the parents during the interviewing process, levels of denial and resistance, and use of defense mechanisms
  • Interactions among the family members, including oral and facial expressions and body language
  • The physical status of the home, including cleanliness, structure, hazards, or dangerous living conditions; signs of excessive alcohol use; and use of illicit drugs
  • The climate of the neighborhood, including level of violence and support and accessibility of transportation, telephones, or other means of communication

The protocol from the Decision Making Handbook will be used to gather information, make decisions, and ensure that all family members are involved in the interview process whenever possible. Effectively carrying out this protocol will lead to a case status determination. The purpose of the established protocol is to determine child safety issues and maltreatment or risk of maltreatment. This is accomplished by collecting information and assisting in the identification of the following:

  • The family's ability to protect the child
  • The characteristics of each family member, including parenting practices, tolerance of stress, coping skills, behaviors, and feelings about the child
  • The family's involvement with others
  • The history of the family
  • The family's ability to meet basic needs

To gain the broadest understanding of the family situation, interviews with family members will be conducted in the following order:

  • The identified child
  • Siblings
  • The nonmaltreating parent
  • The maltreating parent

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 390, Ch. 4

Safety determinations and service responses will be approached in the least intrusive manner possible. A safety plan determination will be used to identify needed safety services.

Services to control the child's safety and to assist in preventing the child's removal from the home will be provided if unsafe conditions are identified and documented by the worker.

Possible safety services include the following:

  • In-home family support
  • Routine and emergency mental health care
  • Supervision and observation
  • Child care and respite care
  • Basic management and life skills and basic parenting assistance
  • Social and emotional supports and crisis counseling
  • Financial services
  • Chore services
  • Food, clothing, housing, and transportation services
  • Routine and emergency health care

If services are accessible at the level identified, they will be implemented immediately. If in-home safety services are not available or accessible at the level of service required, an out-of-home placement will be considered.

Out-of-home placement will be considered when any of the following circumstances apply:

  • The safety determination indicates safety is a problem.
  • Safety cannot be controlled in the home.
  • Reasonable efforts have been made to prevent the need for placement.
  • An emergency exists.

Department staff will use Tribal social services whenever possible when working with Native American parents and children. Case planning and service provision will be based upon the social and cultural standards of the Tribe. Active efforts will be made to provide culturally relevant remedial and rehabilitative services to prevent the breakup of the family and to reunify the child and family.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 390, Ch. 4

The protocol from the Decision Making Handbook will be to determine the risk of maltreatment.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 390, Ch. 5

Workers will provide the child and family with opportunities for change by helping them to identify positive outcomes and to set goals that address the problems that place the child at risk of maltreatment and that also address the issues that brought the child or family to the attention of the agency. The overall goal in child welfare cases is to reduce or eliminate the risk of maltreatment so that parents can protect their children and meet their developmental needs.

A written case plan will be developed following the assessment of family or child's needs. Case plan evaluation and revision will then occur at least every 6 months.

Case planning is the responsibility of the worker with the active involvement of the child and family and the members of the team supporting services to the family. The case-planning process will do the following:

  • Focus on the problems identified in the assessment of the family and youth
  • Identify a permanency objective
  • Establish and prioritize goals
  • Identify the action steps needed to reunite the family or to prevent out-of-home placement
  • Use the family's resources
  • Build upon the family's and child's strengths
  • Develop or maintain family responsibility
  • Identify who is responsible for tasks
  • Establish time frames for achieving case goals, projected discharge, and case closure
  • Establish an evaluation process to assess whether outcomes are being achieved

Goals will be prioritized based upon the following considerations:

  • Those most directly linked to the risk and needs of the child
  • Those most directly linked to the presenting problem
  • The family's view of the most important issues to address
  • The achievement needed for further goal accomplishment


Goals will be stated in positive, actionable terms and in clear and understandable language. Goals will be realistic in terms of time frames and available resources.


Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 390, Ch. 5

The primary purpose of the evaluation of family and child progress is to measure what changes have occurred in the most critical factors identified during the assessments. The worker will collect and organize information, apply standards to measure and analyze information, and evaluate and interpret the meaning of information with the assistance of supervisory staff.

The process of evaluating family and child progress is a continual case management function. Once the case plan is established, the worker's contacts will be focused on assessing the progress made towards achieving established goals and tasks.

Once the case plan has been developed, the worker is responsible to see that the identified services are in place. During this phase, the worker's activities include the following:

  • Monitoring child safety and risk
  • Consulting with the case consultation team at the key decision points
  • Meeting regularly with the family and child
  • Measuring progress toward goal achievement and permanency objectives
  • Monitoring services and coordinating with service providers
  • Evaluating the services provided
  • Participating in the evaluation of the support system

Elements of the case plan will be modified to meet any issues that are identified that pertain to child safety and risk.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 390, Ch. 5

In determining whether to close a case, a worker will focus on the issues that brought the family and child to the attention of the department. Department intervention will be terminated, and a case will be closed based on the following:

  • The goals established in the case plan have been achieved.
  • The child is safe, and the risk of future maltreatment and delinquency have been sufficiently reduced.

The criteria used to determine whether to close a case is 'minimal standards,' not 'optimal standards,' for family functioning. If families and children need ongoing support and treatment following case closure, help will be provided to the family and child to arrange for these services from the community before case closure.

The worker will involve the child, family, involved service providers, and supervisory staff in evaluating the appropriateness of case closure. In cases where the court has ordered the department involvement, the court will be informed in writing of the recommendation to close the case. Closing of child welfare court-ordered cases will occur after a court order is received ordering the closure or following an administrative closure of a court case.