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6500 Family Reunification

6510 Completing a Reunification Assessment Tool

CPS August 2019

The Reunification Assessment is a tool from the Structured Decision Making suite. This tool helps DFPS when DFPS makes critical case management decisions for a child or children who have a goal of family reunification (see 6234.1 Family Reunification). The tool helps the caseworker to assess the family in the areas of risk, safety, and quality of visitation. DFPS uses the Reunification Assessment tool to gain information that contributes to DFPS’s recommendations to the court about visitation and reunification.

The Reunification Assessment tool supports DFPS’s decision to do one or more of the following:

  •  Return a child to the household from which DFPS removed him or her.

  •  Have the child remain in a living arrangement other than the parent’s home.

  •  Consider changing the permanency goal.

When to Complete the Reunification Assessment Tool

The caseworker is required to complete the Reunification Assessment tool at the following times:

  •  Before any reunification staffing (see 6521 Reunification Staffing), if the last Reunification Assessment tool was completed more than 30 days before.

  •  At least 30 days before a required permanency hearing, if family reunification is either the primary or concurrent goal for a child.

  •  Before removing family reunification as either a primary or concurrent permanency goal.

A Reunification Assessment tool can be completed at any time, in addition to the times listed above.

A Reunification Assessment tool is not required if either of the following apply:

  •  Family reunification is not the primary or concurrent goal for the child.

  •  Reunification is with a parent who was not a perpetrator of abuse or neglect of the child that resulted in DFPS removing the child.

See Structured Decision-Making (SDM) Reunification Assessment Procedure and Reference Manual.

6520 Starting the Reunification Process

CPS August 2019

When considering moving a child from substitute care back to a parent’s home, the caseworker does as follows:

  •  Completes and reviews criminal and CPS background checks of any adults living in the home, if not already completed.

  •  Completes the Reunification Assessment tool.

  •  Conducts a Family Reunification (FRE) staffing (see 6521 Reunification Staffing).

  •  Begins services to support the child and the family during the child’s transition to the parent’s home.

  •  Recommends that the court authorize the child to return home.

The court must approve the child’s return to the parent before DFPS returns the child home. The caseworker documents this approval and enters it in the case file.

6521 Reunification Staffing

CPS August 2019

DFPS staff members who are involved in the child’s case meet to discuss reunification. See the definition of staffing.

The caseworker and program director review the following:

  •  The parent’s progress in showing significant behavior changes and addressing the dangers that led to the child being removed from the home.

  •  The Reunification Assessment tool.

  •  Any services that the family needs in order to lower risk and support reunification.

  •  The plan to help the child adjust to returning home.

The reunification plan requires the program director’s approval.

6530 Returning a Child

CPS August 2019

CPS is required to follow court orders, as well as the Fourth Amendment requirements about entry into the home and transportation, when CPS visits the home or has any contact with a child who has returned home.

If all children in the family whose goal is reunification have returned, the caseworker completes the following within 30 days after the last child’s return:

  •  The Family Strengths and Needs Assessment (FSNA).

  •  The family reunification Family Plan of Service (FPOS).

The caseworker documents reunification services in the Family Reunification (FRE) stage in IMPACT. The only exception is when at least one child returns home and at least one child remains in substitute care. In that situation, the caseworker documents contacts and services in the Family Substitute Care (FSU) stage. IMPACT opens the FRE stage when all children have returned home.

See 1124 Definition of Stages of Service.

6531 Providing Services and Ensuring Child Safety after a Child Returns Home

CPS August 2019

After a child has returned home, CPS may provide up to six months of supervision to do the following:

  •  Make sure that the family is safely caring for the child.

  •  Offer support services.

When a child returns to his or her family from substitute care, and DFPS is still the managing conservator of the child, the child’s caseworker does the following:

  •  Supervises the placement, as described in 6540 Maintaining Contact with the Family When a Child Is Returned Home.

  •  Provides support services to help the child and the family adjust to the child’s return.

  •  Completes criminal and CPS background checks on anyone who becomes part of the household or who provides care for the child when the parent is not present.

  •  Completes a Safety Assessment tool if there is a change in the members of the household, such as someone new moving into the home or someone moving out of the home.

  •  Completes a Risk Reassessment tool every 90 days. If the risk score is High or Very High, the caseworker completes a new FSNA and FPOS to make sure appropriate services are in place to keep the child safe.

As soon as it is clear that the child can live safely at home without CPS help, the caseworker asks the court to dismiss DFPS as conservator.

6540 Maintaining Contact with the Family When a Child Is Returned Home

6541 Initial Visit

CPS August 2019

The caseworker visits the child no later than two working days after the child returns home.

6550 Conducting Follow-up Visits with the Family When a Child Is Returned Home

CPS August 2019

The caseworker makes face-to-face contact with the child at least weekly for the first eight weeks after the child is returned home. However, the supervisor or program director may approve and document less or more contact after reviewing the circumstances.

After the first eight weeks, CPS visits each child, at a minimum, on a monthly basis in the child’s home. Ordinarily, the frequency of contact decreases after the first eight weeks as the family and child adjust to their reunification. The caseworker visits should be well planned and focused on issues relevant to ensuring the safety, permanency, and well-being of the child.

Staff follows the contact policy in 6411 Contact With the Child and its subitems.

6551 Preparing for the Visit

CPS August 2019

To prepare for the visit with a child after the child has been returned home, the caseworker does as follows:

  •  Reviews the Family Plan of Service for expectations and progress.

  •  Contacts collaterals and service providers to review progress, if appropriate.

  •  Reviews any other notes or materials necessary to be familiar with the child’s current needs and the family’s progress.

  •  Reviews any information that may need to be provided to the family.

6552 Conducting the Visit

CPS August 2019

The caseworker talks with each child and parent separately and together. The separate conversations are important as they allow the child or parents to bring up concerns that they might not share in front of others.

During the monthly or more frequent visits, the child’s caseworker discusses with the child and parents the progress in addressing the Family Plan of Service (FPOS) since the last visit. The caseworker asks them about what has gone well, what are the problems or difficulties, and how have they handled these. The caseworker asks them about their use of family and community support and resources, as needed. The caseworker reviews expectations and progress in addressing the FPOS.

6552.1 During the Visit

CPS August 2019

During the Visit with the Child

During the visit with the child, the child’s caseworker asks about and discusses the following:

  •  Child’s safety.

  •  Child’s thoughts and feelings about being back with the family.

  •  Child’s interactions with other children in the home.

  •  Child’s school situation.

  •  Child’s health, growth and development, racial and ethnic identity development.

  •  Services that have been provided.

During the Visit with the Parent

During the visit with the parent, the child’s caseworker asks about and discusses the following:

  •  Parent’s thoughts and feelings about having the child in care returned.

  •  Parent’s thoughts and feelings about caring for children in the home.

  •  Parent’s progress in addressing the issues and expectations in the Family Plan of Service (FPOS).

  •  Parent’s use of family and kinship resources and support systems.

  •  Parent’s difficulties, if any, in completing the requirements of the FPOS and any assistance or services that CPS might provide that could help him or her complete the requirements.

  •  Parent’s desire to make any needed changes in the FPOS.

The caseworker helps the child and parent with adjustment issues as needed. The caseworker observes the interaction of the parent and child.

If the caseworker identifies a danger during the Family Reunification (FRE) stage, the caseworker immediately takes protective action.

If the situation can be addressed immediately, then the caseworker develops a safety plan with the family, after discussing the situation with the supervisor and the attorney representing CPS.

If the situation requires the caseworker to arrange a plan to secure safety for the child, the caseworker contacts the supervisor immediately for guidance.

6553 Assessing the Visit

CPS August 2019

Both during and after a visit with a child or family, the caseworker assesses the following:

  •  The parent’s ability, willingness, and effort to address the issues identified in the Family Plan of Service.

  •  The safety of the children who may be in the home.

  •  The parent’s interaction with any children who may be in the home.

  •  The parent’s ability, willingness, and efforts to care for the children in the home and meet their needs, particularly safety needs.

  •  Each child’s progress and ability to protect himself or herself.

6554 Following Up

CPS August 2019

As follow-up to a monthly visit, the caseworker does as follows:

  •  Ensures that any identified needs of the child are addressed.

  •  Ensures that any identified needs of the family are addressed.

  •  Revises the Family Plan of Service as needed.

6560 Completing a Risk Reassessment Tool

CPS August 2019

The purpose of the Risk Reassessment tool is to help caseworkers and supervisors assess whether the risk to child safety has decreased enough for CPS to recommend closing a case. The tool helps them see whether the family’s behaviors and actions have changed.

The Risk Reassessment tool combines items from the original Risk Assessment tool with additional items that evaluate a family’s progress toward the goals in the FPOS.

The caseworker completes a Risk Reassessment tool at least every 90 days after all children whose goal was reunification with the parent from whom they were removed have returned home.

The caseworker completes the Risk Reassessment tool sooner if the case has any of the following:

  •  A court review.

  •  New circumstances.

  •  New information that could affect risk.

The caseworker continues to use the Reunification Assessment tool (not the Risk Reassessment tool) to assess the family if there is a plan for another child or children to return to the home.

See Structured Decision-Making (SDM) Risk Reassessment Procedure and Reference Manual.

6570 Closing a Case with a Child in a Parent’s Home

6571 Tasks Required before Dismissal

CPS August 2019

Before recommending that the court dismiss DFPS conservatorship, the caseworker completes a Safety Assessment tool on the home. The completed Safety Assessment tool requires the supervisor’s approval.

When the court dismisses DFPS as conservator, CPS does the following:

  •  Updates the Legal Status in IMPACT within 24 hours.

  •  Tells eligibility staff about the dismissal within seven days.

  •  Enters an end date for the child’s placement in IMPACT with a reason for removing the child that is consistent with the reason for closing the case.

See Structured Decision-Making (SDM) Safety and Risk Assessment Procedure and Reference Manual.

6572 Tasks Required before Closure

CPS August 2019

If the court dismisses DFPS, CPS does the following:

  •  Files any paper documentation in the case record.

  •  Completes a Closing Summary under each IMPACT stage.

  •  Closes each IMPACT stage.

  •  Submits the IMPACT stages and case record for the supervisor’s approval.

  •  Tells contractors who are providing services to the child and family that DFPS is closing the case.

When the case is being closed, the caseworker returns certain documents and items to the child’s parents, as follows (if this was not already done when the child returned home):

  •  CPS gives the following items to the child’s parents:

  •  The child’s clothing and toys.

  •  Photographs.

  •  The child’s medication, if any. (If the prescription is near empty, a current refill is necessary so the family will have time to make an appointment with a physician to get it refilled.)

  •  Two Texas Health Steps brochures:

  •  Don’t Miss a Beat (medical and dental checkups).

  •  Brush up on Healthy Habits (dental checkups and tips).

  •  The caseworker makes a copy of the following items and gives the originals to the child’s parents:

  •  The child’s birth certificate.

  •  The child’s Social Security card.

  •  A copy of the final court order. (The family’s attorney should give them a copy of the court order, but the caseworker makes sure the family receives one before closing the case.)

  •  The child’s school records, including the most recent report card.

  •  The child’s medical and dental reports, exams, and information in the Health Passport.

  •  The child’s immunization record.

  •  The child’s psychological evaluation (when appropriate).

  •  The child’s Medicaid card (valid until the end of the month in which the child leaves DFPS care).

The caseworker makes sure that the parent knows how to get Medicaid for the child or helps the parent do so, if the child qualifies for Medicaid. The caseworker also gives the family information on local reduced-cost insurance programs for children, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), if needed.

6573 Approval for Case Closure

CPS August 2019

The caseworker submits the closed IMPACT stages to the supervisor for written approval to close the case. For information on the supervisor’s options when reviewing and approving case actions in IMPACT, see 1433 Supervisory Approval Process in IMPACT.

For more information, see:

  •  Appendix 6000-1: Discharging Children from Substitute Care. (This includes a checklist to use.)

  •  Texas Health Steps in the Medical Services Resource Guide.

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