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

Date: March 2021

Safety Assessment

Citation: Prot. & Juv. Serv. Man., Pol. # 1.2.1

In policy: The purpose of this policy is to assess whether any child is likely to be in present or imminent danger, which would require a protecting intervention, and to help guide what interventions will be initiated or maintained to provide appropriate protection, which may include protective custody.

The followings definitions apply to this policy:

  • Danger: Credible worries or concerns that the Department of Family Services (DFS) and others in the community have about actions the caregiver may take in the future that could harm the child.
  • Harm: Past actions by the caregiver that have hurt the children physically, developmentally, or emotionally.
  • Imminent danger: Includes threatened harm and means a statement, overt act, condition, or status which represents an immediate and substantial risk of sexual abuse or physical or mental injury.
  • Primary household: The home where the alleged safety threat occurred.
  • Safety: Actions of protection taken by the caregiver that mitigate the danger over time.
  • Safety assessment: The process focusing on identifying threats of harm, evaluating their potential severity, determining the imminence of the threat, and identifying what protective capacities exist in the children's environment.
  • Secondary household: The location children may be with a secondary caregiver, such as a noncustodial parent or relative/kinship placement. This household shall have an informal safety assessment.

A safety assessment shall be initiated on all open cases and continue through the life of a case. The safety assessment and plan shall be completed with the family.

Safety Decisions and Safety Planning

Citation: Prot. & Juv. Serv. Man., Pol. # 1.3.2

After the initial meeting with the family and the completion of the safety and risk assessments, the determination as to what shall occur next shall be made based on one of the following:

  • Case closed--child safe: It may be used if it is determined at the time of the initial contact that any of the following apply:
    • The family feels they can resolve the issues on their own.
    • The initial contact is all the intervention required.
    • There was no substance to the referral.
  • Case closed--family declined assessment: It may be used when the family declines services and, if after the completion of the safety assessment, a written safety plan is not necessary. However, if a written safety plan is needed and the family has refused to work with DFS, the DFS caseworker shall work with the supervisor to encourage the family to accept the safety plan and case assessment and document all information on the safety assessment, written safety plan, and narrative.
  • Assessment will proceed: This disposition is to be used when safety and/or risk factors have been identified and the family is willing to engage in a family service plan.

Risk Assessment

Citation: Prot. & Juv. Serv. Man., Pol. # 1.2.2

The purpose of the risk assessment and reassessment is to evaluate the possibility of future risk to the children, guide the case planning process with the family, and guide case decisions, such as when to return a child to the home or close a case in a structured, systematic way.

The followings definitions apply to this policy:

  • Danger: Credible worries or concerns that DFS and others in the community have about actions the caregiver may take in the future that could harm the child.
  • Risk assessment: The risk tool to be completed in the DFS database.
  • Service provision: The set of activities and the relationships utilized to address safety and help children and families control and manage their lives. Services provided should be least intrusive as possible.

DFS shall initiate a risk assessment on all open cases within 30 days of case opening.

Family Strengths and Needs Assessment to Determine Service Needs

Citation: Prot. & Juv. Serv. Man., Pol. # 1.2.2; 1.3.2

The Wyoming Practice Model (WPM) is a solution-focused, family-centered approach that uses strategies and techniques that build on the children and family's strengths to find solutions that ensure safety, permanency, and well-being for children. The Department of Family Services has integrated elements of evidence-based practices and techniques into an its overall case management philosophy. WPM is an encompassing term for the philosophy and tools of our best practice casework. WPM aims to build, strengthen, and collaborate across professional systems and family networks to foster a family-centered practice and shape the environment to help support families.

DFS shall conduct a family assessment on all cases for the purpose of ensuring appropriate services are provided to the identified needs and to guide the case planning process.

The followings definitions apply to this policy:

  • The term 'formal assessment' refers to the family assessment tool completed in the department database.
  • The term 'informal assessment' refers to asking questions associated with the family assessment and to be used during monthly face-to-face visits, case plan reviews, and/or contacts with a secondary household.

The family assessment shall be completed on all case types within 45 days and documented in the department's data system. The results of the family assessment shall be used to inform the case plan and case plan goals.

The assessment track is designed to create a climate in which families will be comfortable in acknowledging family concerns and seek assistance when there are allegations of abuse and/or neglect, but the criteria of an investigation is not met, and services to the family could prevent problems from escalating to a level for which an investigation is warranted. The caseworker shall work with the family to identify strengths and needs, so they may resolve issues that have become problematic and allow for community involvement in meeting the needs of the family. The outcome of the assessment track is the identification of natural supports for the family, development of a functioning referral network for the family, and achieving goals developed in a family service plan to alleviate the problems identified by the family and the caseworker.

Ongoing Assessment to Evaluate Progress on the Service Plan

Citation: Prot. & Juv. Serv. Man., Pol. # 1.2.1; 1.2.2

The purpose of the ongoing safety assessment is to assess any impending danger and ongoing safety threats over the life of a case.

The risk reassessment shall be completed at a minimum of every 6 months from the completion of the initial risk assessment.

Assessment for Reunification and/or Case Closure

Citation: Prot. & Juv. Serv. Man., Pol. # 4.1

Case closure is the process of ending the relationship between the DFS caseworker and the family. Case closure occurs when it has been determined that the child can safely remain with or return to the parent's home. The risk reassessment tool in the DFS database will be completed as this guides the decision on case closure.

Key decisions to close a case include the following:

  • Safety and risks have been assessed and are managed outside DFS. The family has support and services within their community to maintain family safety, permanency, and well-being.
  • Goals of the family service plan have been achieved.
  • Reunification or an alternate permanency plan is achieved.
  • The child and his or her family have been linked with community resources.

For case closure, the following steps must be completed:

  • The caseworker shall review the family service plan to determine goal completion/achievement, as follows:
    • Planning for closure shall begin when developing the family service plan with the child and family.
    • The goals and objectives in the family service plan shall define at what point services will be ended, based upon achievement of mutually agreed upon goals and objectives.
    • A timeline for case closure should be discussed with the family.
  • The caseworker shall assess current safety and risk factors. If risk factors are present, the caseworker shall identify how those factors are and will continue to be managed.
  • The caseworker shall ensure the child and family have adequate community linkages, including identification of any transitional services the child and family may require and where to obtain the services.