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

Date:

Safety Assessment

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981; CPS Safety Intervention Stds., §§ II; III

If the agency determines that there is reason to suspect that abuse or neglect, but that under the guidelines developed by the Department of Children and Families there is no immediate threat to the safety of the child and his or her family and court intervention is not necessary, the agency shall conduct a comprehensive assessment of the safety of the child and his or her family.

In policy: At the onset of the initial assessment or at any point of child protective services (CPS) involvement with families when there is a reported crisis or a new referral, CPS will begin a safety assessment by focusing on whether there are present danger threats to a vulnerable child's safety. Present danger threats are the primary basis for assessing child safety at the onset of the initial assessment. While it is possible to begin gathering information at first contact with families that may reveal indications of impending danger threats, these threats can be identified only through the collection of information about the family and family member functioning.

CPS must complete a present danger assessment (PDA) to assess and evaluate the family and home situation to determine whether there is present danger at the following points during the initial assessment:

  • Information gathering and screening at access
  • Determining the response time at access
  • Making the initial face-to-face contact with the child
  • Making the initial face-to-face contact with the parents or caregiver

When the alleged maltreatment is by a primary caregiver, CPS must conduct interviews and gather the following information to assess impending danger threats and develop a safety plan, if necessary:

  • The extent of maltreatment
  • The circumstances surrounding the maltreatment
  • Child functioning
  • Adult functioning
  • Parenting practices
  • Disciplinary practices

CPS also must complete an assessment of family functioning. This information is related to the family assessment and not to danger threats.

CPS must complete the safety assessment at the conclusion of the initial assessment relating to alleged maltreatment by a primary caregiver. The basis for assessing child safety at the conclusion of the initial assessment is the identification of impending danger threats. if impending danger threats are identified, then a child may be unsafe.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: CPS Safety Intervention Stds., §§ II, III

A protective plan is an immediate, short-term strategy in response to the identification of present danger threats. The protective plan provides a child with adult supervision and care to control for or shield from identified present danger threats and to allow for the collection of information that can be used to assess impending danger threats and parent/caregiver protective capacities. A protective plan is a negotiated arrangement made between a family, a local child welfare agency, and Tribal partners when working with Indian children and families. A temporary physical custody (TPC) request is a court action that is the result of identified present danger threats that cannot be controlled with a protective plan.

When implementing a protective plan with an Indian child, it is important to include Tribal representatives designated by the Indian child's Tribe, as Tribal representatives have substantial knowledge of the prevailing social and cultural standards and child-rearing practices within the Tribal community. Tribal representatives also may be a resource in evaluating the circumstances of the Indian child's family. The Tribal representative also may assist in the development of a protective plan by identifying the available resources of the Tribe and of the Indian community, including traditional and customary support, actions, and services to address the circumstances of the Indian family.

A safety plan is required when a safety assessment and safety analysis determine that a child is unsafe. A safety plan is a written, negotiated arrangement between parents or caregivers and CPS that establishes how safety intervention services will be utilized to control the identified impending danger threat(s). The safety plan is implemented and remains active as long as impending danger threats exist, and parent/caregiver protective capacities are insufficient to ensure a child is protected. The safety plan must describe the following information in detail:

  • The specific impending danger threats
  • The safety intervention services that will be used to control impending danger threats
  • The names of formal and informal providers that will provide safety intervention services
  • The roles and responsibilities of the safety services providers, including a description of the availability, accessibility, and suitability of those involved
  • The interventions, including frequency and duration
  • How CPS will manage and oversee the safety plan, including communication with the family and provider

When developing a safety plan, CPS must first assess and determine if a safety plan can be implemented and is sufficient to control identified impending danger threats to ensure child safety. CPS also must confirm that parents or caregivers are willing to cooperate with a safety plan and agree with the expectations, designated tasks, and time commitments set forth in the safety plan.

When a safety plan cannot control the identified impending danger threats in the home, CPS must initiate an out-of-home care placement. When this occurs, CPS must clearly outline in a safety plan what is needed (e.g., conditions, expectations, safety services) for the child to return to the home.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981

If the agency determines that there is reason to suspect that abuse or neglect has occurred, but that under the guidelines developed by the department there is no immediate threat to the safety of the child and his or her family, the agency shall conduct a comprehensive assessment of the risk of subsequent abuse or neglect.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981; CPS Safety Intervention Stds., § VII

If the agency determines that there is reason to suspect that abuse or neglect has occurred, but that under the guidelines developed by the department there is no immediate threat to the safety of the child and his or her family and court intervention is not necessary, the agency shall conduct a comprehensive assessment of the strengths and needs of the child's family to determine whether services are needed to address those issues assessed and, based on the assessment, offer to provide appropriate services to the child's family on a voluntary basis or refer the child's family to a service provider in the community for the provision of those services.

In policy: To assess and identify parent/caregiver protective capacities when a child is unsafe, CPS should do the following:

  • Review the results of the initial assessment, safety assessment, safety analysis, safety plan, and other relevant records
  • Verify that the safety plan continues to control identified danger threats
  • Make attempts to engage the family in a collaborative partnership in identifying any parent/caregiver protective capacities that must change to ensure child safety
  • Evaluate the parent's/caregiver's readiness to change
  • Gather information from the family's informal and formal support system to better understand danger threats, parent/caregiver protective capacities, unmet family needs, and prospective solutions and resources

To address child safety, CPS must make decisions about the following:

  • What parent/caregiver protective capacities are diminished and, therefore, result in impending danger threats that impact the child
  • What parent/caregiver protective capacities exist
  • The impact of adult functioning on parenting practices
  • Whether danger threats are being adequately managed and controlled

CPS should discuss the following with parents or caregivers:

  • The circumstances and family conditions related to identified impending danger threats
  • The rationale and necessity for safety plan and case plan or permanency plan services
  • The implications for parent or caregiver participation and commitment to the case plan or permanency plan
  • The potential outcomes of a successful or unsuccessful case plan or permanency plan
  • What specific conditions of the home or parent or caregiver behaviors need to change

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: CPS Safety Intervention Stds., § VI

Continually evaluating the effectiveness of what has been planned to control identified danger threats (safety plans) or enhance parent/caregiver protective capacities (case or permanency plans) is a critical CPS responsibility in safety and case management. Because family dynamics and situations can change, it is necessary to monitor safety on a continuing basis.

Effective management of safety plans includes the following:

  • Attempting to engage parents or caregivers in a process for change
  • Identifying parents/caregiver protective capacities
  • Integrating parent/caregiver protective capacities into case plans or permanency plans
  • Arranging and implementing services focused on enhancing parent/caregiver protective capacities
  • Communicating routinely with parents/caregivers and service providers
  • Identifying and removing barriers and conflict that can jeopardize the successful implementation of the safety plan
  • Evaluating parent/caregiver progress
  • Reassessing the presence of present danger threats or impending danger threats
  • Closing the case when a safe home has been achieved

The CPS professional must continuously conduct a review and evaluation of the adequacy of the safety plan. This includes the following:

  • Twice a month face-to-face contact, at a minimum, with parents/caregivers and children, unless a need for more immediate contact is indicated by information obtained about the family by a safety service provider
  • Once a month contact, at a minimum, with service providers involved in the safety plan

In families where there is a safety plan, information gathered from the parents/caregivers, children, and service providers is used to evaluate and confirm child safety by the following:

  • Ensuring that the safety intervention services put in place continue to adequately control identified danger threats
  • Ensuring that the commitments by the family and providers remain intact
  • Determining whether previously identified danger threats have been eliminated or whether there are changes in how the danger threats impact the family
  • Determining if new danger threats have emerged
  • Modifying the safety plan (related to impending danger threats) or case plan or permanency plan (related to protective capacities), when appropriate

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: CPS Safety Intervention Stds., §§ IX; X

Prior to a child being reunified, the following safety criteria must be met:

  • Child safety can be maintained within the child's home.
  • Circumstances and behavior that resulted in removal can now be managed through a safety plan.
  • A judgment can be made that a safety plan can be sustained while services continue.

When the assessment and evaluation of case progress indicates that diminished parent/caregiver protective capacities are sufficiently enhanced to manage identified danger threats, CPS initiates the process to reunify a child with his or her family. As a part of this process, CPS must do the following:

  • Conduct a safety assessment and analysis before completing the reunification process
  • When a child is unsafe, create a safety plan to be implemented when the child is reunified

Safety intervention at case closure relates to confirming that there are no danger threats or that sufficient parent/caregiver protective capacities exist to protect the child from impending danger. CPS responsibilities in determining that a safe home exists include the following:

  • A formal safety assessment to make a judgment concerning the absence or presence of danger threats
  • Reassessing parent/caregiver protective capacities

The ongoing services worker should work with the family to ensure informal or formal supports are in place prior to case closure. These supports include arrangements and connections within the family network or community that can be created, facilitated, or reinforced to provide the parent or caregiver resources and assistance once CPS involvement ends.