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

Date: March 2021

Safety Assessment

Citation: Ann. Code § 62A-4a-203.1; Admin. Code R512-201-4; CPS Prac. Guidelines, § 202.6

Child welfare caseworkers within the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) shall use an evidence-informed or evidence-based safety assessment to guide decisions concerning a child throughout a child protection investigation or proceeding. As part of the safety assessment, DCFS shall assess at least the following:

  • Threats to a child's safety
  • A child's particular vulnerabilities
  • Interventions required to protect a child

In regulation: A child protective services (CPS) investigation shall include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • SDM Safety and Risk Assessment: The DCFS caseworker shall assess the immediate safety needs of a child and the family's capacity to protect the child, as well as any ongoing risk to a child. The DCFS caseworker shall include a domestic violence assessment in cases with allegations or indicators of domestic violence-related child abuse.
  • CPS Investigation and Assessment: The investigation may include, but is not limited to, the following:
    • Assessment of immediate risk, safety, and protection needs of a child
    • Assessment of risk, protection, and safety needs for any siblings or other children residing in the home as a sibling or child at risk
    • Determination of the child's eligibility for enrollment or membership in a Native American Tribe

From the Practice Guidelines: The SDM safety assessment is used to identify possible threats to a child's safety and interventions necessary to protect a child from threats to their safety. It guides the CPS caseworker through the information gathering and safety decision-making process in order to make the most appropriate safety decision. The outcome of the SDM safety assessment helps to guide the decision about the need for ongoing intervention with the family.

The caseworker will complete the SDM safety assessment on all CPS investigations, including out-of-home perpetrator investigations.

The initial SDM safety assessment is required during the first face-to-face contact with the child victim. In the event the child cannot be seen and/or the caseworker is denied access to the child, the safety assessment is completed based on initial face-to-face contacts with the caregiver(s) or other contacts if the family refuses. The safety assessment will be recorded in case record by the end of the fifth business day.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: CPS Prac. Guidelines, § 202.6

The caseworker will complete an SDM safety plan for all children in the household when any threat to safety has been identified and it is determined a child can be kept safe through effective safety planning.

If the child is 'safe with a plan' and the CPS case is closed and additional agency services will not be provided, case documentation will specify how all identified threats to safety were resolved.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Ann. Code § 62A-4a-203.1; CPS Prac. Guidelines, § 202.7

DCFS caseworkers shall use evidence-informed or evidence-based risk assessments to guide decisions concerning a child throughout a child protection investigation or proceeding. As part of the risk assessment, DCFS shall assess the likelihood of future harm to a child.

In policy: The SDM risk assessment is a research-informed tool that identifies the likelihood a child will experience abuse or neglect in the next 12 to 18 months. The result of the SDM risk assessment is part of the consideration for whether the agency will offer ongoing services.

The caseworker assigned to the CPS investigation will complete the SDM risk assessment.

The SDM risk assessment will be completed on all CPS cases prior to case closure after the CPS caseworker has reached a finding regarding the allegation (supported, unsupported, or without merit) and prior to a decision to open a case for services or close without further services.

The SDM risk assessment identifies the level of risk of future maltreatment. The risk level guides the decision to close a referral or open an ongoing case. In most instances, a case is not opened when the final risk level is 'low' or 'moderate.' A case must be opened for services when the risk level is 'high' or 'very high.'

'Low' and 'moderate' risk cases should be opened if the most recent SDM Safety Assessment finding was 'safe with a plan' or 'unsafe.' For cases opened for ongoing services following the investigation, the risk level is used to determine the contact requirements for the case (i.e., service level).

The SDM risk assessment is completed on households. A household includes all persons who have a familial or intimate relationship with any person in the home and who have significant in-home contact with the child, excluding employees.

Only one household can be assessed on the risk assessment form. The caseworker must always assess the household in which the child abuse/neglect/dependency incident is alleged. A second SDM risk assessment will be completed for any noncustodial parent who will receive reunification services.

Sources of information used to determine the caseworker's score of the item may include statements by the child, caregiver, or collateral persons; caseworker observations; or reports.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Ann. Code § 62A-4a-203.1

As part of the evidence-informed or evidence-based safety and risk assessments, DCFS shall assess the protective capabilities of a parent or guardian, including the parent or guardian's readiness, willingness, and ability to plan for the child's safety.

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.