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

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Safety Assessment

Citation: Code of Rules § 214-30-00-1; DCYF Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. 500.0040; 700.0075

A safety assessment is completed during each child protective services investigation to determine if a child or youth can remain safely in the home; guide and document decision making in the removal or return of a child to the child's family during investigations; and guide decision making on child safety factors that, if not addressed, pose an immediate safety threat to a child.

From the policy manual: The term 'present danger' means an immediate, significant, and clearly observable family condition or situation that is actively occurring or 'in process' of occurring at the point of contact with a family and will likely result in serious harm to a child.

The Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) utilizes a comprehensive assessment and service planning process for each child and family receiving services from the initial point of contact throughout case closure. This process is guided by principles of family-centered, culturally competent practice and utilizes standardized tools at various points throughout the involvement of DCYF with a family.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Code of Rules § 214-30-00-1

A child is considered safe when the safety assessment determines the child in his or her current living arrangement is not in immediate danger of harm and no interventions are necessary to ensure the child's safety. If the child is not safe, immediate interventions must be taken to ensure the child's safety. Safety interventions are responsive to the present danger of harm to the child and identify risks of future harm.

The safety plan contains one or both of the following elements, depending on the individual safety needs of each child in the family:

  • An in-home safety plan is developed when the protective capacity of the parent or caregiver can be enhanced or supported to create safety for the child.
  • An out-of-home safety plan is developed if reasonable efforts have been unsuccessful in preventing the removal of the child from the home or either of the following applies:
    • The existing protective capacity of the parent or caregiver cannot be enhanced or supported to provide for the child's safety.
    • There is no parent or caregiver to provide for the child's safety needs.

The safety plan is implemented if threats to child safety exist and caregiver protective capacities are insufficient to ensure a child is protected.

The safety plan is the initial stage of the family assessment process and contains information that must be reviewed at critical points through the DCYF's involvement with the family and documented in the family's service plan.

Each safety plan must do the following:

  • Specify any foreseeable danger threats
  • Identify how the foreseeable danger will be managed, including by whom; under what circumstances and agreements; and with specification of time requirements, availability, accessibility, and suitability of those involved
  • Consider caregiver capacities and acknowledgement of safety threats and caregiver acceptance and willingness for the plan to be implemented
  • Include how the plan will be monitored by DCYF staff across divisions

Risk Assessment

Citation: DCYF Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. 700.0075

Risk assessments address the likelihood of future maltreatment. While safety concerns require immediate interventions to ensure that children are protected, risk of future harm is addressed over time with services that result in long-term positive behavioral changes.

The documents used in the assessment process are the 'Family Story' and the 'Risk and Protective Capacity Assessment' (RPCA).

The Family Story is a social and assessment summary that is continually developed throughout DCYF involvement and includes, but is not limited to, social history; family background; and applicable educational, vocational, behavioral, medical, psychological, psychiatric, and neurological information.

The RPCA is a tool used to identify validated risks within the family situation that, if present, may contribute to child maltreatment or repeat maltreatment. The RPCA also identifies protective capacities to mitigate these risks.

The assessment is completed in partnership with the DCYF worker, the child (if age appropriate), parent(s)/caregiver(s), formal providers, informal providers, and natural supports to the family.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Code of Rules § 214-30-00-1; DCYF Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. 500.0040; 700.0075

The comprehensive assessment and service planning process identifies, considers, and weighs factors that affect child safety, permanency, and well-being. This process recognizes patterns in behavior over time and examines family strengths and protective factors to identify resources to support the family's ability to safely provide for the well-being of their children.

In policy: DCYF believes in the following:

  • Engaging parents to recognize issues that affect their ability to parent
  • Empowering families to identify formal and informal supports to help them achieve successful outcomes Understanding the conditions that impact child safety and areas to address to strengthen family functioning
  • Tailoring the approach and services to correspond to the family's strengths, needs, and resources
  • Using a child-focused and family-centered approach
  • Establishing strong community partnerships that can help support the family in future times of need

The service plan is time-limited, individualized, and strength-based and is designed to address the following:

  • How the family will mobilize their strengths and protective capacities to mitigate behaviors identified through the assessment process that contributed to child maltreatment and DCYF involvement
  • Necessary behavior changes linked to risk factors that affect safety, permanency, and child well-being
  • The mutual responsibilities and expectations of each parent; the child; DCYF; and formal, informal, and natural supports toward achieving the identified permanency goal
  • Action steps, in language the family can understand, which provide detail on the services and supports that are available to assist the family to reach the behavior change goal

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Code of Rules § 214-30-00-1; DCYF Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. 500.0040; 700.0075

The assessment of present and impending danger and subsequent decisions are made while considering the child's need for permanency and well-being and occur throughout the duration of the family's involvement with DCYF, specifically at critical decision points, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • At the initial opening of the case
  • When there is a change in family circumstances
  • When there is a change in the placement of the child

In policy: The frequency of follow-up home visits and contacts with collaterals is determined on a case-by-case basis in consideration of case circumstances, documented risk and safety concerns, and the age of the child. The on-going safety of each child must be reassessed during each subsequent contact in accordance with policy, depending on whether the family's case opens or remains open to DCYF.

The assessment of safety and risk and subsequent decisions are made while considering the child's need for permanency and well-being and occur throughout the duration of the family's involvement with DCYF.

The Family Story and RPCA are used to assess every child in the household at the initial assessment and formal 6-month reassessments.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Code of Rules § 214-30-00-1; DCYF Pol. & Proc. Man., Pol. 700.0075

The assessment of present and impending danger and subsequent decisions are made while considering the child's need for permanency and well-being and occur throughout the duration of the family's involvement with DCYF, specifically at reunification and case closure.

DCYF utilizes a comprehensive assessment and service planning process for each child and family receiving services from the initial point of contact throughout case closure.

In policy: The Family Story and RPCA are used to reassess risk on every child in the household prior to reunification or significant changes in the family situation.