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

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Safety Assessment

Citation: Admin. Rules §§ 413-015-0115; 413-015-0422; 413-015-0428; 413-015-0415; 413-015-0425

A 'child protective services (CPS) assessment' is an investigation into a report of abuse that includes activities and interventions to identify and analyze safety threats; determine if there is reasonable cause to believe abuse occurred; and ensure safety through protective action plans, initial safety plans, or ongoing safety planning.

The term 'initial contact' means the first face-to-face contact between a CPS worker and a family. This includes face-to-face contact with the alleged victim, his or her siblings, the parent or caregiver, and any children and adults living in the home; accessing the home environment; and gathering sufficient information on the family conditions and functioning to determine if present danger safety threats or impending danger safety threats exist.

The CPS worker must gather relevant information and facts necessary to complete all parts of the CPS assessment. The CPS worker must gather information through interview and observation about the following:

  • The extent and circumstances of the abuse
  • Child and adult functioning
  • Parenting skills and disciplinary practices
  • The physical condition of the alleged victim, including any observable effects of abuse
  • The emotional state of the alleged victim
  • The reactions of the parents to the concerns
  • The emotional and behavioral status of the parents
  • The interactions between family members
  • The condition of the home and the living space
  • The sleep environment of each child

When the CPS worker determines an impending danger safety threat is present, the CPS worker must identify how the impending danger safety threat is occurring in the family to determine the necessary level of safety intervention required to ensure child safety. The CPS worker must use the information gathered to determine the following:

  • Who is creating or allowing the threat
  • What they are doing or not doing
  • Which children are affected
  • When the family behaviors are occurring
  • What family conditions contributes to the threat
  • How often the threat occurs
  • How long the family condition has been occurring
  • How persistent the family condition or threat is

For the CPS assessment, the CPS worker must complete the following actions:

  • Review of the family's records to identify information related to the following:
    • Present danger safety threats or impending danger safety threats
    • A history or a pattern of abuse
    • Child and family support systems and protective capacity
  • Contact collateral sources who can clarify or supplement the information in the records

If the CPS worker knows or has reason to know that the child is an Indian child, the CPS worker must give notice within 24 hours to the Indian child's Tribe that a CPS assessment is being conducted unless the screener documented completion of this notification in the referral.

At initial contact and at any time during the CPS assessment, the CPS worker must determine if a present danger safety threat is occurring. To determine there is a present danger safety threat, the CPS worker must conclude the danger is immediate, significant, and clearly observable.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Admin. Rules §§ 413-015-0432; 413-015-0435; 413-015-0445

When a present danger safety threat or impending danger safety threat is identified, a CPS worker must put a safety plan in place to manage the threat. There are three types of safety plans: the protective action plan that manages present danger safety threats, the initial safety plan, and the ongoing safety plan that manages impending danger safety threats.

When developing any safety plan, the CPS worker must do the following:

  • Ensure the plan focuses on and controls the identified present danger safety threat or impending danger safety threat
  • Not use a parent or caregiver who is the alleged perpetrator of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic violence to provide protection or any other adult who was aware of the threats to child safety and did not protect
  • Include safety service providers that have been confirmed to be suitable to provide safety for the child
  • Involve the child's parent or caregiver
  • Involve the child's Tribe as a resource when the child is an Indian child
  • Ensure it has been approved by a supervisor

The plan, whether in-home or out-of-home, must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a written document
  • Provide a detailed description of the present danger safety threat or impending danger safety threat
  • Describe how identified present danger safety threats or impending danger safety threats will be managed, including how the plan will be monitored
  • Identify the safety service providers and the safety services necessary to implement the plan
  • Establish the time commitments and availability of those involved in the plan

An in-home initial safety plan or in-home ongoing safety plan is required when all the following in-home safety plan criteria are met:

  • There is a home-like setting where the parent and child live.
  • The home is calm enough to allow safety service providers access and activities to occur.
  • At least one parent is willing to cooperate with the plan.
  • The necessary safety activities and resources are available to implement the plan.

When any of the in-home safety plan criteria are not met, an out-of-home initial safety plan or out-of-home ongoing safety plan is required.

A protective action plan, initial safety plan, or ongoing safety plan may be a combination of in-home and out-of-home to ensure the least intrusive intervention.

If the CPS worker determines the child is unsafe due to a present danger safety threat, the CPS worker must immediately initiate a protective action plan. This usually occurs during the initial contact but must occur at any time during the CPS assessment if it is determined that the child is unsafe due to present danger. When developing a protective action plan, the CPS worker must ensure that the plan does the following:

  • Manages present danger safety threats
  • Is in place before the CPS worker leaves the home
  • Does not remain in place longer than 10 calendar days or after the CPS assessment is complete

After all the necessary information is gathered for the CPS assessment and the disposition has been determined, the CPS worker must determine if the child is safe or unsafe.

If the CPS worker determines one or more impending danger safety threats are present, the CPS worker must conclude the child is unsafe. When the CPS worker concludes the child is unsafe, the CPS worker must determine how the impending danger safety threat is occurring to support the development of an ongoing safety plan.

If the CPS worker determines no impending danger safety threats are present, the CPS worker must conclude the child is safe.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Admin. Rules § 413-015-0115; Child Welf. Proc. Man., Ch. 3, § 5

'Impending danger safety threat' means a family behavior, condition, or circumstance that meets all five safety threshold criteria. When it is occurring, this type of threat is not immediate, obvious, or occurring at the onset of the CPS intervention. This threat is identified and understood more fully by evaluating and understanding individual and family functioning.

'Moderate to high needs' means observable family behaviors, conditions, or circumstances that are occurring now and over the next year without intervention are likely to have a negative impact on a child's physical, sexual, psychological, cognitive, or behavioral development or functioning. The potential negative impact is not judged to be severe. While intervention is not required for the child to be safe, it is reasonable to determine that short-term, targeted services could reduce or eliminate the likelihood that the negative impact will occur.

From the policy manual: Impending danger safety threats often are not obvious. They may not be occurring at the onset of CPS intervention or in a present context. However, they may be identified and understood more fully upon a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of individual and family functioning. Without safety intervention, impending danger safety threats could reasonably lead to severe harm.

During the assessment, the CPS worker should identify whether one or more, or none, of these impending danger safety threats exist within the family. If a threat is identified, an initial safety plan must be developed.

The impending danger safety threats include the following:

  • No adult in the home is routinely performing parenting duties and responsibilities that ensure a child's safety.
  • One or both parents' behavior is violent, and/or they are acting (behaving) dangerously.
  • One or both parents' behavior is impulsive or they will not or cannot control their behavior.
  • The parents' perceptions of a child are extremely negative.
  • The family does not have or use resources necessary to ensure a child's safety.
  • One or both parents' attitudes, emotions, and behavior are such that they are threatening to severely harm a child, are fearful they will abuse or neglect the child, and/or request placement.
  • One or both parents' attitudes or emotions are such that they intend to seriously hurt the child.
  • One or both parents lack parenting knowledge, skills, and motivation necessary to ensure a child's safety.
  • The parents' attitudes and behavior result in overtly rejecting CPS intervention, refusing access to a child, and/or there is some indication the parents will flee.
  • The parents' attitude, behavior, or perception result in the refusal and/or failure to meet a child's exceptional needs that affect their safety.
  • The family's living arrangements seriously endanger the child's physical health.
  • A child has serious physical injuries or serious physical symptoms from abuse or neglect.
  • A child shows serious emotional symptoms and/or lacks behavioral control that results in provoking dangerous reactions in parents or caregivers.
  • A child is fearful of the home situation or people within the home.
  • Because of perception, attitude, or emotion, parents cannot, will not, or do not explain a child's injuries or threatening family conditions.
  • One or both parents have a child out of their care due to child abuse or neglect or have lost a child due to termination of parental rights.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Admin. Rules § 413-015-0115; Child Welf. Proc. Man., Ch. 3, § 5

The term 'protective capacity' means behavioral, cognitive, and emotional characteristics that can specifically and directly be associated with a person's ability and willingness to care for and keep a child or (when applicable) a young adult safe.

In policy: The protective capacity assessment (PCA) process begins during the CPS assessment when a petition has been filed or safety threats are identified in a cooperative in-home case. The caseworker completes the initial PCA within 30 days unless a supervisor approves an exception.

The findings of the PCA include identification of the parents' enhanced and diminished protective capacities directly related to the identified safety threats. The caseworker uses the information to develop the written case plan. Understanding the parents' enhanced and diminished protective capacities provides in-depth information on how behaviors, conditions, or circumstances resulted in an unsafe child, and the related behaviors, conditions, or circumstances that must change to sustain child safety.

The caseworker documents the description of the specific behaviors, conditions, and circumstances that must be present to sustain child safety. The descriptions are called the 'expected outcomes of the case plan.'

The PCA process guides and focuses the interactions between the caseworker and parents toward a mutual understanding of what must change for the parents to regain responsibility for the child's safety. A clear understanding of the specific behaviors, conditions, and circumstances that caused the child to be unsafe helps the caseworker and parents select services and activities focused specifically on building on the foundation of the parents' enhanced capacities (strengths) and enhancing the diminished protective capacities. It promotes effective case planning and implementation.

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Child Welf. Proc. Man., Ch. 4, § 5

The assessment of protective capacity continues throughout the life of the case, and the caseworker updates the PCA's findings at each 90-day review of the case plan. The updates are used to measure progress toward achieving the expected outcomes.

Following the protective capacity assessment conducted in the first 30 days, the caseworker continually assesses parents' protective capacities throughout the life of the case. Parental protective capacities are used to measure progress toward achieving the expected outcomes and to guide decisions regarding the appropriate actions, services, and activities needed to facilitate change. As the relevant protective capacities are enhanced, the safety threats are diminished. Once the protective capacities are sufficient to eliminate, reduce, or manage the safety threats to ensure sustained child safety, the expected outcomes have been met and the case is closed.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Child Welf. Proc. Man., Ch. 4, §§ 14; 16

When the parents have met the conditions for return and reunification, the caseworker must do the following:

  • Inform the child's parents, the child, and the child's substitute caregivers that a return home is being considered
  • Inform service providers currently working with the child of the plan to return the child or young adult with an in-home ongoing safety plan
  • Conduct a safety analysis, including an analysis of the safety threats that continue to exist and how they are occurring (frequency, intensity, influences, etc.)
  • Determine that the safety threats can be managed, and child safety can be managed within the family home with an in-home ongoing safety plan because of the following:
    • There have been specific changes in the family circumstances and/or increased protective capacities.
    • Safety threats have been mitigated or eliminated.
    • Safety services and safety service providers are available and accessible at the level of effort required to ensure safety in the home.
    • The parents are willing and able to continue participating in case plan services.
    • The in-home safety plan will provide the proper level of intrusiveness and level of effort to manage the safety threats.
  • Determine that an ongoing safety plan can be sustained while ongoing case plan services continue because of the following:
    • The home environment is stable enough to sustain the use of an in-home safety plan.
    • Parents are willing to be involved and cooperate with the use an in-home safety plan and are agreeable to the expectations within the plan.
    • Safety service providers are committed to participating in the in-home safety plan.
    • Parents are willing for safety services to be provided in the home according to the ongoing in-home safety plan.
    • Parents are willing to be cooperative with the participants carrying out the ongoing in-home safety plan.
    • Parents are agreeable to the designated actions and time requirements in the plan.
  • Review reports from service providers, safety plan participants, and others involved in the case
  • Review the strengths and needs of the child and any services being provided to the child to build upon the strengths or meet the needs
  • Consider how the parents will be able to meet the child's identified supervision needs
  • Consider what supports can be set up to support a successful transition
  • Review any personal care services the child may be receiving when the child has identified medical needs addressed in the substitute caregiver's home through personal care services and how the parents will be able to meet the child's identified medical needs

When the family has made significant progress in achieving the expected outcomes of the case, child safety is being sustained in the child's home, and/or the safety threats have been eliminated or mitigated, and the child's safety can be sustained without the ongoing intervention of safety service providers, the case is nearing closure. The caseworker is guided by administrative rule in determining to close an in-home ongoing safety plan. Those requirements include the following:

  • Caseworker observations of the child and the parents in the home
  • Evaluations and reports from service providers
  • Reports from participants in the ongoing safety plan
  • Measured progress on the extent the expected outcomes have been achieved
  • The reduction or elimination of a safety threat
  • Consultation with others who may be participating with the family to sustain child safety