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

Date:

Safety Assessment

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303

The term 'safety assessment' refers to a Commonwealth-approved systematic process that assesses a child's need for protection or services based on the threat to the safety of the child.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6375

Within 60 days of receipt of a report alleging maltreatment of a child, an assessment shall be completed, and a decision shall be made on whether to accept the family for services. The county agency shall provide or arrange for services necessary to protect the child during the assessment period.

Upon the completion of the assessment, the county agency shall immediately notify the Department of Human Services whether the report was determined to be valid or invalid and whether the family was accepted for services or referred to community services.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303; Admin. Code Tit. 55, §§ 3490.321; 3490.232

The term 'risk assessment' refers to a Commonwealth-approved systematic process that assesses a child's need for protection or services based on the risk of harm to the child.

In regulation: The standards established for risk assessment shall include the following:

  • A statement of purpose for the process
  • The core set of factors against which risk shall be assessed

The factors that shall be assessed by the county agency include the following:

  • The characteristics of the environment in which the child abuse occurred, including any history of prior abuse and neglect
  • The characteristics of the parent, caregiver, household member, primary person responsible for the welfare of a child, and perpetrator, including any history of drug and alcohol abuse
  • The characteristics of the family, including any history of family violence

The county agency shall rate each factor and shall provide documentation in the record to support the identified level of risk and to ensure the child's safety. Each factor shall be rated using one of the following designations: no risk, low risk, moderate risk, or high risk.

At the time of the report of suspected child abuse or allegations of children in need of general protective services, the county agency shall make an initial determination of the risk to the child.

The county agency shall use the risk assessment process to do the following:

  • Aid in its assessment of whether to accept the family for services
  • Ensure that its assessment is comprehensive
  • Help determine the need for general protective services
  • Assist in the development of the family service plan

The county agency shall complete an assessment within 60-calendar days to determine whether the child and family should be accepted for general protective services, be referred to another agency for services, or close the case.

The county agency shall see the child and visit the child's home during the assessment period. The home visits shall occur as often as necessary to complete the assessment and ensure the safety of the child. There shall be a least one home visit.

The county agency shall interview the child, if age appropriate, and the parents or the primary person who is responsible for the care of the child. The county agency also shall conduct interviews with those persons who are known to have or may reasonably be expected to have information that would be helpful to the county agency in determining whether the child needs general protective services.

The county agency shall provide or arrange appropriate services to ensure the safety of the child during the assessment period.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6375; Admin. Code Tit 55, § 3130.61

The county agency shall prepare a written family service plan in accordance with regulations adopted by the department.

To alleviate conditions that present a risk to the safety and well-being of a child, each county agency shall make the following available for the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect:

  • Multidisciplinary teams
  • Instruction and education for parenthood and parenting skills
  • Protective and preventive social counseling
  • Emergency caregiver services, shelter care, or medical services
  • Part-day services or out-of-home placement services
  • Therapeutic activities for the child and family

In regulation: Within 60 days of accepting a family for service, the county agency shall prepare a written family service plan for each family receiving services through the county agency. The service plan shall be a discrete part of the family case record and shall include the following:

  • Identifying information pertaining to both the child and other family members
  • A description of the specific circumstances under which the case was accepted
  • The service objectives for the family, identifying changes needed to protect children in the family in need of protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation and to prevent their placement
  • The services to be provided to achieve the objectives of the plan
  • The actions to be taken by the parents, children, the county agency, or other agencies and the dates when these actions will be completed

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6375; Admin. Code Tit. 55, §§ 3490.321; 3130.63

The county agency shall frequently monitor the provision of services; evaluate the effectiveness of the services; conduct in-home visits; and make a periodic assessment of the risk of harm to the child, which shall include maintaining an annually updated photograph of the child and verification of the identification of the child.

In regulation: Periodic assessments of risk shall be completed by the county agency as follows:

  • At the conclusion of the intake investigation, which may not exceed 60 calendar days
  • Every 6 months in conjunction with the family service plan or judicial review unless one of the following applies:
    • The risk to the child remains low or no risk.
    • The child has been placed out of the home for more than 6 months and there are no other children in the home.
  • Within 30 calendar days before and after the child is returned to the family home unless one of the following applies:
    • The risk to the child remains low or no risk.
    • The child's return home was not anticipated by the county agency. A risk assessment for these cases shall be completed within 2 weeks of the child's return to the home.
  • Within 30 calendar days prior to case closure

The county agency shall conduct a risk assessment as often as necessary to ensure the child's safety.

The county agency shall assess the safety and risk of the child when the circumstances change within the child's environment at times other than required under this section.

The county agency shall review service plans at least every 6 months. The service plan review shall be recorded in the plan and shall include the following:

  • An assessment of the progress made toward alleviating the conditions necessitating service
  • An assessment of whether planned actions have occurred and services have been provided
  • An assessment of whether the children continue to be safe in the home
  • Amendment to the plan as determined by the review

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6375

For those children assessed under this section as being at high risk for abuse or neglect who are remaining in or returning to the home in which the abuse or neglect occurred, the county agency shall ensure that those children are seen at least once a week, either directly by a county agency worker or through purchase of service, until they are no longer assessed as being at high risk for abuse or neglect.