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

Date: March 2021

Safety Assessment

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-1-105; Admin. Code §§ 340:75-3-220; 75-3-300

The term 'assessment' means a comprehensive review of child safety and evaluation of family functioning and protective capacities that is conducted in response to a child abuse or neglect referral that does not allege a serious and immediate safety threat to a child.

The term 'investigation' means a response to an allegation of abuse or neglect that involves a serious and immediate threat to the safety of the child, making it necessary to determine the following:

  • The current safety of a child and the risk of subsequent abuse or neglect
  • Whether child abuse or neglect occurred and whether the family needs prevention- and intervention-related services

The term 'safety threat' means the threat of serious harm due to child abuse or neglect occurring in the present or in the very near future and without the intervention of another person, a child would likely or in all probability sustain severe or permanent disability or injury, illness, or death.

The term 'safety analysis' means action taken by the Department of Human Services (DHS) in response to a report of alleged child abuse or neglect that may include an assessment or investigation based upon an analysis of the information received according to priority guidelines and other criteria adopted by DHS.

The term 'safety evaluation' means evaluation of a child's situation by DHS using a structured, evidence-based tool to determine if the child is subject to a safety threat.

In regulation: The purpose of Child Protective Services (CPS) is to protect children and provide services to the family, as opposed to a focus on criminal prosecution and punishment. The CPS investigation provides for direct involvement with the family, problem identification, service provision, and the development of a helping relationship. The investigation process includes gathering information about the reported allegations and family dynamics that jeopardize the child's safety and assessing the protective capacity of the family.

Evaluating child safety is a primary CPS function. Safety refers to the child's present security and well-being when the child is assessed to be at risk of abuse or neglect. The safety evaluation is an adaptable and continuous process that is not complete until the child is safe and the case is closed.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Admin. Code § 340:75-3-300

When an alternative to protective or emergency custody is determined appropriate in circumstances in which serious neglect or abuse is documented, a DHS form for an Immediate Protective Action Plan (IPAP) is completed and implemented when the person responsible for the child's (PRFC) health, safety, or welfare agrees to cooperate with DHS efforts to ensure the child's safety. The IPAP describes the present danger identified by the child welfare (CW) specialist and addresses actions to be taken to ensure the child's safety until a thorough safety evaluation is completed. The PRFC and identified safety monitors sign the IPAP and agree to cooperate with DHS oversight to ensure the child's safety.

A DHS form for a safety plan is completed and implemented under the following circumstances:

  • When serious neglect or abuse is documented
  • Upon completion of a thorough safety evaluation
  • When an alternative to DHS custody is appropriate
  • When the PRFC agrees to cooperate with DHS efforts to ensure the child's safety

The safety plan is developed and implemented by agreement without court intervention. It describes the impending danger identified by the CW specialist and addresses actions to take to control or eliminate any identified safety threat. The implementation of a short-term safety plan does not preclude DHS from recommending court involvement.

A recommendation to remove a child from the home is made when, upon evaluating relevant conditions, a determination is made that any of the following apply:

  • In-home safety responses are not available or acceptable.
  • The parent appears unable or unwilling to protect the child.
  • An emergency exists that prohibits the arrangement of timely resources or services to reduce risk and threats of abuse or neglect are unavailable.
  • Continued placement in the home is contrary to the child's health, safety, and welfare.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-4-201

When a determination is made by DHS that there is a significant risk of abuse or neglect, but there is not an imminent safety threat to the child, DHS may recommend a court-supervised and DHS-monitored in-home placement. DHS shall assist the family in obtaining the services necessary to maintain the in-home care and correct the conditions leading to the risk determination.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-2-105; Admin. Code § 340:75-3-300

DHS, when appropriate and in its discretion, shall identify prevention- and intervention-related services available in the community and refer the family to or arrange for such services when an investigation or assessment indicates the family would benefit from such services. DHS may provide such services directly.

In regulation: Child protective services (CPS) is a child welfare services provision that focuses on preventing, identifying, and treating child abuse and neglect and ensuring child safety. Efforts are made to maintain and protect the child in the child's own home when safety threats can be managed and controlled. The primary purpose of CPS intervention is to do the following:

  • Protect the child
  • Assess family strengths and needs
  • Provide services to remedy the conditions and behaviors that cause abuse, neglect, or safety threats

A child safety meeting is a collaborative decision-making process conducted to address each child's needs related to safety and to determine if the child's condition warrants a safety intervention including, but not limited to, a change in placement, and includes, at a minimum, appropriate DHS staff, the child's parents and, when the parent requests, an advocate or representative, as participants. To protect the safety of those involved and to promote efficiency, DHS may limit participants as determined to be in the child's best interests.

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, § 1-2-105

DHS shall document in the record its attempts to provide, refer, or arrange for the provision of voluntary services and shall determine within 60 days whether the family has accessed those services directly related to safety of the child. If the family refuses voluntary services or does not access those services directly related to safety of the child, and it is determined by DHS that the child's surroundings endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the child, DHS may recommend that the child be placed in protective or emergency custody or that a petition be filed.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Admin. Code § 340:75-3-300

When the DHS safety evaluation indicates the child does not face an imminent safety threat, DHS will restore the child to the custody and control of the parent, legal guardian, or custodian.