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

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Safety Assessment

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-37-01; JFS 01401, § 2

The public children services agency (PCSA) shall complete the 'Comprehensive Assessment Planning Model, Safety Assessment' in the statewide automated child welfare information system (SACWIS) for all the intrafamilial child abuse and neglect reports.

The PCSA shall complete the safety assessment with the family of the alleged child victim. 'Family' includes all the following individuals, as applicable:

  • The alleged child victim
  • The siblings of the alleged child victim, including step- or half-siblings residing in the home
  • The parents, guardian, or custodian of the alleged child victim
  • The paramour of the custodial parent who is residing in the home
  • Any children of the paramour residing in the home
  • Other children residing in the home of whom the parent, guardian, or custodian has custody or guardianship
  • A related or unrelated adult residing in the home who has routine responsibility for the care of the alleged child victim and his or her siblings

The PCSA shall document the assessment of safety threats, past history, child vulnerability, and family protective capacities on the safety assessment tool to determine the safety response.

The PCSA shall, at a minimum, conduct a face-to-face interview with each alleged child victim and at least one parent, guardian, or custodian or a caregiver having routine responsibility for the care of the alleged child victim report within the first 4 working days from the date the report was screened in as a child abuse, neglect, or dependency report to assess the safety of the child and record it on the safety assessment.

The specific safety factors listed in the assessment instrument include the following:

  • A child has received serious, inflicted, physical harm.
  • The caregiver has not, cannot, or will not protect the child from potential serious harm, including from other persons having access to the child.
  • The caregiver or other person having access to the child has made a credible threat that would result in serious harm to the child.
  • The behavior of any family member or other person having access to the child is violent and/or out of control.
  • Acts of family violence pose an immediate and serious physical and/or emotional danger to the child.
  • Drug and/or alcohol use by any family member or other person having access to the child suggests the child is in immediate danger of serious harm.
  • The behavior of any family member or other person having access to the child is symptomatic of mental or physical illness that suggests the child is in immediate danger of serious harm.
  • The caregiver is unwilling or unable to meet the child's immediate needs for sufficient supervision, food, clothing, and/or shelter to protect the child from immediate danger of serious harm.
  • Household environmental hazards suggest that the child is in immediate danger of serious harm.
  • Any family member or other person having access to the child describes or acts toward the child in predominantly or extremely negative terms and/or has extremely unrealistic expectations of the child.
  • The family refuses access to the child or there is reason to believe the family will flee.
  • The caregiver has an unconvincing or insufficient explanation for the child's serious injury or physical condition.
  • The caregiver is unwilling or unable to meet the child's immediate and serious physical or mental health needs.
  • Child sexual abuse and/or sexual exploitation is suspected, and circumstances suggest that the child may be in immediate danger of serious harm.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-37-02; JFS 01401, § 6

The PCSA shall immediately develop and implement a safety plan if the PCSA determines a child is in immediate danger of serious harm due to an active safety threat.

If, after the assessment of safety, the safety response is to implement an in-home safety plan or an out-of-home safety plan, the PCSA shall develop the safety plan. If after the assessment of safety, the safety response is to implement a legally authorized out-of-home placement, the PCSA shall contact law enforcement and/or remove the child pursuant to rule 5101:2-39-01 of the Administrative Code.

Completion of a safety plan is not required for a legally authorized out-of-home placement safety response.

The safety decision should be based on the assessment of all available information related to identified safety factors, vulnerabilities of the child, and the family's protective factors. The appropriate safety response includes the following:

  • Safe: For all children there are no currently active safety threats or the protective capacities of the family are controlling any identified threats.
  • For at least one child, the protective capacities cannot manage currently active safety threats, therefore, one or more of the following responses is necessary:
    • In-home safety plan
    • Out-of-home safety plan
    • Legally authorized out-of-home placement (no safety plan required)

Risk Assessment

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-36-03; JFS 01400, § 6

The PCSA shall complete the report disposition and arrive at a final case decision by completing the 'Comprehensive Assessment Planning Model, Family Assessment' no later than 45 days from the date the PCSA screened in the referral as a child abuse and/or neglect report.

The risk assessment tool has two separate scales: one for neglect and one for abuse. The neglect scale examines whether any of the following items apply to a caregiver:

  • Number of prior reports for neglect
  • Problems with parenting skills
  • Mental health issues
  • Involvement in harmful relationships, including domestic violence
  • Problems with substance use
  • Financial difficulties
  • Motivation to improve parenting skills

The abuse scale examines whether any of the following items apply to a caregiver:

  • Number of prior reports for abuse
  • Prior CPS service history
  • History of childhood abuse
  • Current substance abuse problem
  • History of domestic violence
  • Major problems with parenting skills
  • A child with special needs or a history of delinquency

All items on both scales are scored and totaled to provide a measure of the level of risk, which includes low, moderate, high, or intensive.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-37-02; JFS 01400, § 4

In formulating the safety plan, the PCSA and the parent, guardian, or custodian shall mutually do the following:

  • Identify the action steps to control the active safety threats
  • Identify each individual or community resource responsible for conducting an action step specified on the safety plan
  • Agree to the participation of that individual or community resource on the safety plan

The assessment of family strengths and needs includes the following elements:

  • Child functioning, including the following:
    • Capacity for self-protection
    • Physical, cognitive, and social development
    • Emotional and behavioral functioning
  • Adult functioning, including the following:
    • Cognitive abilities
    • Physical, emotional, and mental health
    • Domestic relations (including domestic violence)
    • Substance use
    • Response to stressors
    • Parenting practices
  • Family functioning, including the following:
    • Family roles, interactions, and relationships
    • Resource management and household maintenance
    • Extended family, social, and community supports
  • Family history, including the following:
    • Caregiver's victimization of other children
    • Caregiver's own childhood abuse or neglect
    • Impact of past services

The assessment also must factor in the family's perception of their own strengths and problems.

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 5101:2-37-02; 5101:2-36-03

The PCSA shall monitor safety plans by assessing safety to ensure the action steps are controlling the identified safety threats. Monitoring the plan requires the following:

  • For an in-home safety plan, the PCSA shall conduct weekly home visits. During the home visits, the PCSA shall make face-to-face contact with each child identified on the safety plan and each parent, guardian, or custodian residing in the home. During the visit, an assessment of the active safety threat is to be completed.
  • For an out-of-home safety plan, the PCSA shall have weekly contact with the children or persons responsible for an action step. The PCSA shall have face-to-face contact with each child and responsible party involved every other week. During the visit, an assessment of the active safety threat is to be completed.

The PCSA must implement alternative safety interventions when any of the following applies:

  • An active safety threat is not controlled.
  • A parent, guardian, custodian, or responsible person is unwilling to sign the safety plan.
  • The parent, guardian, custodian, or responsible person is not cooperating or willing to follow the action steps outlined in the safety plan.
  • The PCSA has not been able to complete the required monitoring contacts despite concerted efforts being made, and the following occurs:
    • Face-to-face contact has not been made on an in-home safety plan for 2 weeks with each child identified on the safety plan and each parent, guardian, or custodian residing in the home.
    • Face-to-face contact has not been made on an out-of-home safety plan for 4 weeks with each child identified on the safety plan.

When the child abuse and/or neglect report involves a principal of the report who is currently receiving ongoing protective services from the PCSA, the PCSA shall complete the report disposition by completing the JFS 01402 'Comprehensive Assessment Planning Model - I.S., Ongoing Case Assessment/Investigation.' The reassessment includes a safety review and the completion of the risk reassessment scale.

The safety reassessment determines which of the following apply:

  • A safety threat is not currently active.
  • A safety threat is not currently active but had been active at any time since the last assessment was completed.
  • A safety threat is active now.

The risk reassessment scale includes the following items:

  • Whether either caregiver has major parenting skills problems
  • Whether either caregiver is currently involved in a harmful relationship
  • Whether either caregiver has a current substance use problem
  • Whether there have been any new complaints of abuse or neglect since the last assessment
  • Whether the caregiver is making progress toward case plan goals or is actively participating in programs and services

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 5101:2-37-04; 5101:2-37-02

The PCSA shall complete the 'Comprehensive Assessment Planning Model - I.S., Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure' in the statewide automated child welfare information system (SACWIS) to support and document the PCSA's assessment of the family's reunification readiness if the child has been placed out of the home through either a voluntary out-of-home safety plan or a legally authorized out-of-home placement for 30 days or more, regardless of the circumstances precipitating the child's placement out of the home or who holds custody of the child.

If the PCSA determines a safety threat is no longer active or is being controlled through the family's protective capacities and the child is no longer in immediate danger of serious harm, the safety plan shall be discontinued. The PCSA shall notify the parent, guardian, or custodian and each responsible party in writing within 2 working days of the discontinuation of the safety plan.

The PCSA shall not close a case if a safety plan is active.