Family Finders Overview

Family Finders

Overview

Within each person is the desire to have relationships with others.  The kinds of relationships we have, as well as those we possibly don’t, and the strength or depth of those relationships certainly impact our quality of life.  When our youth enter the foster care system, it often impacts their relationships. Having the support of family and friends matters to our children, regardless of how young or old they may be.  We need to help foster and facilitate loving, caring relationships for all our youth in care.  We must never underestimate how much relationships matter! 

The goal of the Safe Children Coalition’s Family Finders program is to have our children make lasting connections to their own family members, and if possible and needed, to find a home for them living with one of these family connections.  Kevin Campbell, who developed the Family Finding model, has said “Our purpose in Family Finding is to restore the opportunity to be unconditionally loved, to be accepted, and to be safe in a community and a family.”  The Family Finders program is not just about “finding” or locating family members or “placements.”  It is designed to locate, engage, connect, and support family resources for the children we serve. 

In our efforts to increase the connectedness our children have with their families and other supports, Family Finders and Case Managers must work together to achieve the best outcomes.  Our roles in the process can be different, but our goal should always remain the same as we partner together through the process.  Family Finders primarily focuses on locating, connecting, and engaging with relatives, and Case Managers focus on assessing the various family members and looking at ways to incorporate them into the lives of our children in care.  Just because a relative cannot take “placement” of a child, does not mean the relative doesn’t have anything of value to contribute in the child’s life.  It is very important that we look for ways to rule family members “in” instead of “out”, as often as possible.

Communication is key to the successful teamwork between Family Finders and Case Managers.  Family Finder Specialists regularly touch base with case managers in person, through emails or over the phone to provide any significant updates on contacts with located relatives and family connections, as well as to plan with case managers how best to proceed in light of the current status of each case and any particular issues surrounding an individual child.  Family Finders also provides monthly updates on open cases directly to Case Management Supervisors.  Family Finders seeks to support and enhance the family work case managers are already doing.  Partnering together will produce greater outcomes for connection and permanency for our children in care.

Any referrals for Family Finders should be sent to:  familyfinders@thesarasotay.org

 

 

Cerebral Palsy – Overview and Resources

Cerebral Palsy – Overview and Resources

While Cerebral Palsy (pronounced seh-ree-brel pawl-zee) is a blanket term commonly described by loss or impairment of motor function, Cerebral Palsy is actually caused by brain damage.

The brain damage is caused by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after. Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning. Symptoms usually appear in the first few years of life and once they appear, they generally do not worsen over time. Disorders can be classified into four categories:

  • Spastic (awkward reflexes, stiffness in one part of the body, contractures, abnormal gait)
  • Ataxic (difficulty speaking, problems with depth perception, shakiness or tremors, spreading feet apart when walking)
  • Athetoid/Dyskinetic (stiff or rigid body, floppiness in limbs, problems with posture, issues feeding)
  • Mixed (a mix of two or more of the above)

Here are some facts to note about Cerebral Palsy:

  • About 10,000 babies per year in the U.S. will develop Cerebral Palsy.
  • An estimated 764,000 people have Cerebral Palsy in US.
  • About 2-3 children per 1,000 have Cerebral Palsy.
  • In 2003 dollars, the average lifetime cost of Cerebral Palsy is an estimated $921,000. This does not include hospital visits, emergency room visits, residential care, and other out of pocket expenses.
  • Two-thirds of children with Cerebral Palsy will be mentally impaired.
  • Two in three people with Cerebral Palsy can walk
  • Three in four people with Cerebral Palsy can communicate verbally

Treatment for CP can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, braces, custom splints, and custom therapy equipment.  Sometimes surgery or Botox injections are used to lessen the effects of the CP; however there is currently no cure for the condition.

Case Managers advocate with the family to ensure a child with CP is receiving appropriate medical care and the most suitable education.  Contacting the Children’s Medical Services (CMS) Social Worker assigned is the first step. The phone number for CMS is (941) 361-6250.

Once CMS is involved the next step is to ensure constant communication with CMS and all of the medical providers, as well as any other service providers. This includes the school system.

Assisting the family in advocating for the child’s rights to a quality education, that will enrich her life and open doors for the future is important.  This means ensuring that the school has created a learning environment that is nurturing and respectful of her unique needs. If the child does not qualify for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), a 504 Plan may be the answer. Required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the first civil rights law guaranteeing equal opportunity for more than 35 million Americans with disabilities.

The 504 Plan is not federally funded like the IEP, so it doesn’t have the “legal teeth” that an IEP does. But it does provide some legal rights.  In order for the child to qualify for a 504 Plan, her learning or physical disability cannot interfere with her education. If it does, then she needs an IEP. If she is considered “not IEP qualified,” and you feel she needs daily support, then she may qualify for the 504 Plan.  While the 504 Plan is a civil rights law, it provides less legal protection to the child than an IEP (IEPs fall under federal education law). With the 504 Plan, schools are not required to report progress, adhere to specific goals, or provide specialized instruction to disabled students.  However, a 504 Plan is better than having no plan at all.

ADHD Positive Characteristics

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that can make it hard for a person to sit still, control behavior and pay attention.  A child with ADHD often possesses a lot of positive characteristics.  The list below highlights some of these positive characteristics:

Energetic

Highly Verbal

Spontaneous

Creative

Exciting

Persistent

Innovative/Imaginative

Risk-Taker

Tenacious

Warm-hearted

Helpful

Ingenious

Compassionate

Accepting/Forgiving

Resilient

Fun

Sensitive to others

Caring

Resourceful

Gregarious

Highly intelligent

Humorous

Outgoing

Improvising

Able to find solutions

Observant

Full of ideas

Can think on feet

Good in a crisis

Empathetic

Below are some tips if you are working with a child with ADHD:

1.    Give the child immediate feedback - Praise, praise, praise!  Boost your child’s self esteem and provide frequent feedback. Catch your child being good and tell them about it.  Compliment simple things.

2.    Act, don’t yak - Lecturing is generally ignored by a child and ineffective.  Stay calm to stay in control of the situation.  Give the child choices that work best.  Talk to the child about the positive behavior you want to see, not the behavior you want to stop.  Reinforce the positive behavior frequently.

3.    Clarify expectations - Make expectations clear and reasonable.  Be very specific about the desired behavior. Know that children with ADHD may have difficulty understanding body language, gestures and personal space.  Stick to a decision once you have made it, don’t be wishy washy with an ADHD child.

4.    Time out works - Generally calculate one minute of time per the age of the child.  Caregivers need time out too. Time outs remove the caregiver from the situation and allow for time to cool off.

5.    Pick your battles - Make a list of all the rules and rank them in order of least to most important.  The top 3 become the non-negotiable rules.  Post these 3 rules and what will occur if violated (loss of privilege).  Be consistent and don’t get pulled into a debate.

6.    Establish routines - Help the child organize themselves.  Behavior plans and charts can be effective.

7.    Plan ahead for problem situations especially out of the home - Review rules, rewards and punishments prior to going on outings and stick to them.

8.    Prepare for transitions - ADHD children do not shift well from one activity to another. Try to give time warnings when an activity or event is going to be taking place.

9.    Practice forgiveness each day - Forgive the child with ADHD for transgressions. Forgive others for misunderstanding the child.  Forgive yourself when you make mistakes.  Maintain a sense of humor.

**Focus on the positives and help the child with ADHD excel in all of life’s challenges.**

Documentation

In training and in supervision you hear “if it isn’t written, it didn’t happen”.  This is true in a legal sense.  You may have observed visits with a child and parent, and the parent was not interacting well with the child.  If the observation was not detailed in a FSFN note objectively without bias then negative consequences could occur.  Direct observations are critical in determining a permanency plan for the child and must be documented. 

Every event that occurs while working with a family or on their case must be documented in FSFN:

  • All contacts with parents, caregivers, family, service providers, the child, attorney and other parties related to the case, whether on the phone, face to face, fax, email, etc.  All contacts must be documented in your notes in FSFN within 48 hours of the contact
  • All progress notes must accurately reflect the services and the conversations that were provided.  Report the FACTS clearly and concisely.  All contact must be documented objectively, using facts, direct statements, observable behaviors etc.  Conversations should be quoted when possible.  Professional conclusions, opinions or analysis must be labeled as such and attributed to the person making them.
  • All activities that you do such as sending or receiving documents, observations, interactions etc. on a case must be documented.
  • Whenever you are closing or transferring a case you must ensure that FSFN notes are up-to-date at the time of closure or transfer.
  •  All notes should include who, what, why (when possible), when, where, and how.  They should tell a complete objective story.  Case Manager should ensure that:

ü  All data entry fields in FSFN are completed.

ü  Notes state where the contact occurred.  Ensure the address is documented in the note.

ü  List who was contacted.  For service providers and any person not in the FSFN case, supply the full name, telephone number, address and other information that is pertinent.

Remember:

  • Someone else will have to read and understand your notes.
  • Files will be audited and must contain complete details of services provided.
  • The file and you may be subpoenaed for Court or trials.  It is important to have clear documentation (evidence) and not rely on your memory.
  • The longer the lapse in time between and event and note completion, the less accurate the details.
  • Avoid terms that show judgment

Terms to avoid:

Properly: rather, explain in behavioral terms what is meant by “proper”.

Appropriate/inappropriate: rather, describe the client behaviors necessary to reduce risk.

Adequate/inadequate: rather, state specifics of what is meant

Suitable: subject to interpretation; state the specifics.

Stable: What is meant by “stable employment”?  A 15 hour a week job?  A 40 hour a week job for 3 months?

A.S.A.P.:   is not a time frame.  Do you mean 7 days or overnight?  State that.

Ongoing: is not a time frame.  Instead, choose a date or specific date range.  Since when?

Successful Completion: Changing behavior is more than completing a program.  Define the behavioral changes that will occur as a result of completion

Currently: since when? How long?

It has been reported:  who is reporting?

Appears: impression of being…not concrete or sure

Give yourself credit for all the hard work and services you provide.

Document everything you do in FSFN.

Legal – Communication and Documentation

The most important thing we do is to ensure the children we serve are getting all of their needs met!  We do this in our everyday interactions with the families, as well as through the legal system.  Below are tips which can assist in collaborating with legal services.

Documentation is critical!  Policy is to ensure every event in a case- be it an email, referral, letter, attempted phone call etc. is documented in FSFN within 48 hours of the event.  The longer the lapse in time between an event and documenting it- the less likely there will be accurate details.  Don’t rely on your memory!  Presentation is everything so ensuring documentation is concise, clear, has proper grammar and is free of typos is important.  At times we cut and paste from one document to the next and we forget to change names, expiration dates, etc. 

Open lines of communication are critical.  If an issue arises, we must immediately communicate the concern, provide evidentiary proof it is a concern, and work with Children’s Legal Services (CLS) to find a positive resolution.  If we can’t resolve an issue quickly it is important to follow the chain of command to get a timely resolution.

CLS is being guided by two critical principles:

Ø  Use of Common Sense - Is what we are trying to achieve making sense?

Ø  A Sense of Urgency - If a change is needed, not waiting until the next scheduled hearing - but proactively requesting a sooner hearing or staffing to ensure the needed change is facilitated

When communicating with CLS, GAL, parents, co-workers, providers or others involved with the children we serve:

Ø  Don’t Take it Personally

Ø  Don’t Make Assumptions

Ø  Be Impeccable with Your Word (Do What You Say)

Ø  Always Do Your Best

Effective communication with CLS is critical.

Ø  Understand that attorney’s perspective is different

Ø  Attorneys are part of the team to keep children safe

Ø  Personality issues can prevent flow of information

Ø  Address communication barriers

All of us working together as a team through open lines of communication and more diligence in our documentation will lead to timelier permanency for the children we serve!

Licensing Violations

Foster Parents are our partners, not our clients. Any time Case Managers

have questions or concerns they should speak with the Foster Parent

first. The Licensing Staff should also be consulted about the

 concerns and what actions were taken.

There are many rules that govern the licensure and ongoing certification of foster homes. Below are some of the more common violations that may be encountered. Most violations are not malicious in nature. Often, it is a lack of knowledge or understanding that led to the violation.

Discipline.  Any physical punishment, withholding of meals, mail, visits, or threatening to have a child removed. Any form of discipline that does or may cause injuries, any type of punishment that is humiliating or degrading to the child or their birth family. Even just the threat of certain punishment can be grounds for a licensing violation

Unapproved household members.  This may mean a paramour, adult friend or relative who seems to be living in the foster home that has not been screened by licensing. This may also include children other than those of the foster family who have moved into the home without the knowledge of licensing or children the foster parent is providing day care for.

Unapproved babysitter or childcare arrangement.  A child too young to be left alone or in the care of another child (under 16) unless they are 14-15 years old and they are known to and trusted by the foster parent and have completed an approved babysitting course, should be reported. Foster parents do have the ability to select and approve alternate caregivers for babysitting without the requirement of a background check.

Incident Notification.  Failure of the foster parent(s) to report a child being hospitalized, seriously injured or ill, to have runaway, or to have been abducted.

Health. Failing to report or have treated any child's injury or illness. Failure to follow-up on doctor's orders, dispensing prescription medication as directed or failing to keep medical or therapy appointments. Housekeeping standards that may affect a child's health, such as, dirty clothes, dirty dishes, roach infestation, or rodents. If you have concerns that a foster parent is getting a doctor to prescribe medication to sedate a problem child, this too may constitute grounds for making a report.

Safety issues.  There are many things that could constitute safety hazards; anything you have concerns about should be addressed directly with the foster parent and then forwarded to licensing. The following list is a sampling of what you may look for; power tools, pool or household cleaning products, medicines, alcohol or any other dangerous products. Firearms must be stored in a secure location separate from ammunition, inaccessible to children. Swimming pools must be fenced or caged.  Access to the pool from the home must be secured by locked doors.  Any animal that is aggressive or dangerous.

Confidentiality.  Any disclosure of information about the reasons for a child being in care, the identity of the birth family, the child's history of abuse or neglect, or the child's psychological or medical information would constitute a violation of confidentiality unless it is approved by SCC.

Sleeping arrangements. Unless otherwise approved, children over the age of one may not share a bedroom with an adult. Children over the age of three may not share bedrooms with children of the opposite gender, unless they are siblings. Each foster child must have their own individual bed.  They may not share a bed even with sibling. Foldout, rollaway, or trundle beds are not acceptable. Children under age 6 should not sleep in a top bunk bed and top bed should have protective railings.

Investigative Summary – Key Elements

The Florida Abuse Hotline (1-800-96-ABUSE) accepts reports (Intakes) of child maltreatment, elderly or disabled adult abuse, special condition referrals (child on child sexual report, parent unavailable, parent needs assistance etc), and foster care referrals.  The information is reviewed using the Child Maltreatment Index to determine if an “Intake” should be generated.  If yes, then the ‘Intake’ is created in FSFN capturing the information that was obtained by the hotline.  If a response is warranted, the Hotline contacts the local investigations unit who creates the ‘Investigation’ in FSFN, commences and completes the investigation. The Child Protective Investigator (CPI) enters findings from the investigation into the FSFN ‘Investigation’.  These findings are compiled into an ‘Investigative Summary’ that is used to assist Case Management in determining service needs, strengths and risks/safety issues for the family if a ‘Services Case’ is generated as a result of the investigation. 

The key elements found in the Investigative Summary are:

The header provides the dates and times of the call to the hotline and the commencement. The ‘Intake Number’ aka Investigation Number is the year - the number of the report to the hotline – the number of calls for this report (example 2010- 081773-02). Each call after the first call to the hotline is coded as ‘Additional’ (new information) or ‘Supplemental’ (Similar concerns but more information or a new reporter).

Section I: Allegation Narrative

The ‘Allegation Narrative’ provided by the reporter to the hotline is included in this section, as well as any safety concerns for the worker.

Section II: Victims and Section III: Other Participants

These sections provide demographic information (names, addresses, relationships, location of occurrence, hotline operator, investigator assigned, etc) the type of intake, and the roles of each case participant (acronyms below). Each participant can be assigned up to 5 roles:

RN – Report Name

JS – Alleged Juvenile Sex Offender

HM – Household Member

NM – Non-Household Member

AP – Alleged Perpetrator

CH – Child in the Home

PC – Parent Caregiver

SO – Significant Other

V / VC – Victim Child

The Maltreatments are also summarized in Section II. Each child and victim can have multiple alleged maltreatments detailed here. When an investigation is concluded the overall finding for each is also entered into this section. The overall finding can be:

Verified – The alleged abuse or neglect is found to have occurred with a preponderance of credible evidence to support this finding.

Not Substantiated – The alleged abuse or neglect did have some credible evidence of occurrence but there is not enough evidence to verify the report.

No Indicators – No evidence was found to substantiate the allegations.

Section IV: What is the extent of the maltreatment? What surrounding circumstances accompany the alleged maltreatment, precipitating events, history?

This is where the summary of the implications for child safety/risk is detailed.  It includes Summary of Allegations, Summary of the Maltreatment and Nature of the Maltreatment, Summary of Priors, Sources/People Interviewed, Findings and Analysis.

Section V: Safety Analysis Summary

Provides the rationale for the overall findings summarized in Section II.

NOTE:  It is CRITICAL for case managers to read the entire Investigative Summary as well as the CPI’s notes in FSFN to learn what information was found or not found that led the CPI to the overall findings. This will also allow the case manager to better understand the finding terminology.

Home Visits with Children

What is the purpose of a Home Visit?

The purpose of a home visit is to assess the risk, safety and well- being of the child as well as address concerns and needs of the child and/or caregivers, determine appropriateness of the placement and provide the caregivers with the progress of the case. 

When must a Home Visit be done?

·         Initial face-to face (FTF) contact with the child and caregiver is to occur within 2 working days after the case is accepted for services at the child’s current place of residence. 

·         When a child is in Shelter status (The legal status that begins when the child is taken into protective custody of the department and ceases when the court: grants custody to a parent and/or after a child is adjudicated) FTF contact shall occur every seven days.

·         Once the child has been Adjudicated Dependant (after Disposition) by the Court FTF contact is required with each child a minimum of once every 25 days and in each calendar month at the child’s current place of residence. FTF contacts must occur more frequently when the child’s situation dictates more frequent contact as assessed by the case manager and the case manager supervisor.

·         At least once every three months the case manager will make an unannounced visit to the child’s current place of residence. 

·         Once a child in run away status returns, a FTF home visit must take place with the child within 24 hours of notification to assess the safety and well being and determine the reason for the run.

Expectations/Guidelines of a Home Visit:

·         Meet with the child and caregivers in their current residence.

·         Speak with each child individually, alone and away from others, to assess child’s      adjustment, progress, needs and/or concerns and overall well-being.

·         Observe interactions between the caregivers/family members and the child.

·         Examine the child for cleanliness, health, and signs of injury, abuse and/or neglect.

·         Evaluate the home environment for appropriateness and safety.

·         Discuss safety plans actions to monitor/modify

·         Discuss concerns and/or needs with the caregiver and provide referrals for services.

·         Discuss case plan progress and task updates.

·         Inform the caregiver and child (if age appropriate) of upcoming court hearings, staffings, etc.

·         Obtain updates and copies of the child’s medical and dental records, appointments, procedures, prescriptions and dosage.

·         Discuss psychotropic medication and complete specific requirements/forms  (if applicable)

·         Discuss educational progress and obtain copies of the child’s educational records (if age appropriate).

·         Obtain updated photographs of the child using the MindShare application on your phone.

·         Sign the Child Resource Record and review it during each home visit to ensure that information is current.

·         Follow up on previous concerns or referrals with caregiver and/or the child.

·         Document where the child sleeps and who (if applicable) sleeps in the bedroom with the child.

·         Discuss family visitation arrangements, outcomes from child’s perspective (parents, siblings, grandparents)

·         Independent Living Skills (if applicable)

·         Document home visit information in FSFN within 48 hours of the FTF visit occurring.

FSFN Case Plan Overview

According to Florida Statue 39.01(11) Case Plan is defined as a document prepared with input from all parties, follows the child from voluntary services through dependency foster care, termination of parental rights proceeding or related activity or process. A well-crafted Case Plan describes “what will occur in order to effect what must change”.  

The Case Plan establishes a road map to achieve the child’s safety, well-being, and permanency by outlining the desired outcomes for the caregivers and the steps necessary to achieve those outcomes.  It keeps a record of the tasks and activities designed to change the conditions or the behaviors that affect the child’s safety, well-being and permanence.  Case Planning requires involvement and input by the parent(s) and the children (if age appropriate) in order to identify the correct outcomes and steps for the family.  The services described in the Case Plan must be written simply and clearly in English or the primary language of the child’s parent.  The Case Plan must be distributed to all parties whose whereabouts are known, not less than 3 business days before the disposition hearing, but must be submitted to the court no later than 60 days from the child’s removal from the home.  Case Plans must be individualized to meet each family’s specific needs and to utilize and enhance each family’s strengths. 

The Case Plan for each child must include a description of the services offered and provided to prevent removal of the child from the home and must include the Rilya Wilson Act requirements. The Rilya Wilson Act was passed by the Florida Legislature to add a layer of protection for Florida children who are in the custody of the State.  The Act requires that CBC providers communicate and share information with local School Readiness Coalitions and licensed early education or child care providers (Licensed Childcare) and provides priority childcare for children ages birth to the age of school entry. The Act requires that these children attend 5 days a week unless exempted by the Court.

  • The recommendations from the child’s Comprehensive Behavioral Health Assessment (CBHA) must be included in the Case Plan. It may be necessary to submit an amended Case Plan to the court if the recommendations are not known at the time the initial Case Plan is written.   
  • If the child is 13 years and older the Case Plan must include Independent Living Skills tasks.

Creating the Case Plan in FSFN requires that the Ongoing Family Functioning Assessment for the case be completed first to ensure that all necessary information has been gathered and assessed to create a Case Plan tailored to the unique needs of the family.

A Case Plan Worksheet must be completed for each household that has an Ongoing Family Functioning Assessment created.  Case Plan tasks for individuals residing in a household in which a Family Functioning Assessment was not required, can be added to the Case Plan Worksheet for the removal household.

After completing the Case Plan Worksheet, a legal document must be created to generate the Case Plan in a format that can be filed with the court.

Sibling Separation

Consideration must be given to the fact that a sibling relationship is the longest lasting relationship for a child and placing siblings together, whenever possible, preserves the family unit. In determining whether to separate the siblings, as a team, staff must consider positives and negatives of keeping children together, thoroughly explore, and decide best interests. Special issues exist for siblings from homes where there has been exposure to violence, chronic neglect, or other abuse.

  • Consider the emotional ties existing between and among the siblings.
  • Consider the degree of harm which each child is likely to experience as a result of separation.
  • Consider the positives and negatives of keeping the children together.
  • Short term and long range effects of separation on the children must be addressed in making the decision.
  • Consider their sibling bonds/relationships if placing separately is necessary.

Who is considered a sibling?

A child who shares a birth parent or legal parent with one or more other children; OR

A child who has lived together as a family with one or more other children whom he or she identifies as a sibling.

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351) is the first federal law which specifically addresses the importance of keeping siblings together. It provides for:

·         Reasonable Efforts

·         Placing siblings removed from their home together unless contrary to their safety or well-being and if separated, provide frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction unless contrary to their safety or well-being

Separated sibling visitation

There must be a plan for future contact between children if separation is approved. The plan must be one to which each caretaker can commit. If visits are ordered but will not begin within 72 hours after shelter hearing, we must provide justification to the Court for the delay or lack of visits. Sibling contact and efforts to reunite siblings must be addressed at Judicial Review hearings for separated siblings.

How often must visitation occur between separated siblings?

  • Weekly, in person, unless Court determines otherwise

Strategies to preserve ties between separated siblings

  • Place siblings with relatives who are relatives to one another or who have a relationship to one another
  • Place siblings in geographical proximity to one another
  • In addition to arranging for regular visits as required:

Ø  Arrange for contact by mail, email, social media, etc.

Ø  Arrange for joint outings or joint participation in summer programs

Ø  Arrange for joint respite care

Practical Advantages

  • Case worker, GAL, and service providers are able to attend to all of the children in one location
  • Visits with parents may be simplified
  • No need to facilitate sibling visitations

Separated siblings and sibling visitation is not only addressed in the federal law, Fostering Connections Act, but also more specifically in Chapter 39 and Florida Administrative Code

Media Communications

 

It is the policy of Safe Children Coalition (SCC) to ensure confidentiality of clients and accuracy of information presented, as allowed by law. This applies to all requests from media sources of any type. It is important for Case Managers, Supervisors, Program Managers and all staff in the Child Welfare arena to be aware of how to handle media inquiries or issues -- both positive and negative.

Each Provider agency has its own internal policy on how to handle agency specific issues. Those policies work in concert with the SCC policy so all involved persons are clear on the message to be conveyed and the facts that can or cannot be shared, based on confidentiality or contractual requirements.

Only the President/CEO, VP of CBC or designee of the Lead Agency will speak for the CBC or the Lead Agency when approached by the media regarding specific issues, emergency processes, operational/management concerns, positive events such as promotional, non-client specific activities, recruitment of foster/adoptive homes and community collaboration related to those activities. 

One well intentioned but misguided statement to the media can destroy an individual employee’s and agency’s reputation, including possible criminal and financial consequences.   

How to handle these situations: 

If CBC staff is approached by media or any other person (that is not an authorized party to a case) wanting information or asking case specific questions, stop what you are doing and pleasantly address the reporter.  Ask them what they need and listen to what they say.  Respond by saying you are not the right person to talk to but you will be happy to take their contact information and that you will share this information with the proper contact in the organization.  If it is a TV crew, DO NOT put your hand in front of the camera or get up and walk away.  Instead, stay calm and pleasant and say you are not the appropriate person to comment but you will pass along their information.  You may have to continue to repeat this.  Conduct yourself as if everything you do is being video taped.  A reporter might ask for your name and what you do.  It is okay to share that information.  Do NOT say “no comment” to any questions, as that sounds evasive.  Instead, simply state you are not an authorized spokesperson but you will pass along their request.  The goal is to refer the reporter to the official media spokesperson.

Any time such inquiries occur, staff should contact their Supervisor immediately. The Supervisor will follow both the SCC and the individual agency protocols which include generating an incident report; as well as ensuring that the appropriate SCC staff is immediately notified.

Children and Hyperthermia

Children and Hyperthermia

What is Hyperthermia?

Hyperthermia is the condition of having a body temperature greatly above normal.

Florida is a warm state.  It is one of the characteristics that draw many people to Florida.  It can also be a characteristic that is deadly for children.  Heat stroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 104o F.  The body’s thermoregulatory mechanism becomes overwhelmed and can no longer keep the body at the normal 98.6o F temperature.  A core body temperature of 107 o F is considered lethal.  Children's thermoregulatory systems are not as efficient as an adult's and their body temperatures warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. 

Five Florida Children Died of Hyperthermia in 2016

Each of the five children died due to being in a hot vehicle for an extended period of time.

When sunlight enters a car, the windows may warm very little however, the objects inside the car can warm up very quickly.  A dark seat or dashboard can reach 180 to 200 o F.  This heat not only warms the object but it warms the air inside the car.  In a vehicle heat study which was conducted, temperatures inside a car were found to rise 19 o F after just 10 minutes.  That means that with an outside temperature of 80 o F the car’s interior temperature climbs to 99 o F after just 10 minutes.  After 30 minutes the interior temperature rose to 114 o and after 60 minutes rose to 123 o degrees!  Cracking the windows of the car had very little effect on the interior temperature.  It would take a relatively short period of time for a child’s body temperature to climb to levels which can cause serious physical problems or even death.

So...what steps can be taken to protect our children from unnecessary harm?

·         Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle (not even for “I’ll only be a minute!”).

·         If a child is missing, always check the pool first, then the car, including the trunk

·         Glance inside cars as you walk past.  If you see a child left unattended in a car, call 911 immediately.

·         Teach children that a car is not a play area.

·         Lock your car and make sure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.

·         Use a trigger to remind yourself to check the back seat(s).  Put something you have to take with you when you leave the car in the back seat, put a sticky note that says “Check the Back” someplace conspicuous in the front seat, make checking the back seat(s) a routine every time you leave the car.

·         Notify the daycare or school if your child’s drop off or pick up routine changes.

·         If the child is not dropped off as expected and the daycare/school does not hear from the parent, within 15 minutes they call the parent to make sure the child is supposed to be absent.  This can be a critical trigger to check the back seats of the vehicle.

Awareness is the key to keeping our children safe!

Childhood Drowning Prevention

 

Florida's drowning death rate among children under age 5 is the highest in the nation.

 In Florida, drowning occurs year round but the highest number drownings occur in the spring and summer. Florida loses more children under age five to drowning than any other state. Over 60% of these drowning deaths occur in residential swimming pools every year.

Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old. Children less than a year old are more likely to drown at home in the bathroom or a bucket. Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming pools. Annually, in Florida, enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown and do not live to see their fifth birthday.

Common household items are involved in many deaths of children under age 5.

  • Infants and toddlers can fall head first into 5 gallon buckets that have very little water in them, and drown. The same scenario applies to toilets.
  • Covered spas or hot tubs that have covers on them are also a threat. Toddlers can get under the cover and go un-noticed.
  • Other household items such as coolers, fish tanks, ponds, or anything else that holds 2 inches or more of water – are drowning hazards for infants and toddlers.

How can we prevent drowning?

  • Any time a child age 5 or under is in the bath tub – maintain constant supervision. Even one minute left alone, could result in drowning. Bath rings or seats have been involved in drowning and do not guarantee child safety. “Children can drown quickly and silently”. (CPSC)
  • Ensure the toilet seat is down. Keep the bathroom door shut and put a safety latch on it to ensure the toddler does not get inside the bathroom without supervision.
  • Never leave containers with water in them around the yard or house. Empty mop buckets, blow up pools and other water vessels immediately after use. Turn the items upside down once emptied to ensure water can not get back in them if it rains.
  • Always secure the safety cover on your spa or hot tub; and put security fencing or alarms around pools.

With the above prevention methods, most of these drowning accidents can be avoided. As a precaution it is also a good idea to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) - it can be a lifesaver.

Swimming Pool Safety:  Layers of Protection

1 SUPERVISION 2 BARRIERS 3 EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

Layer 1. Supervision: Supervision, the first and most crucial layer of protection, means someone is always actively watching when a child is in the pool.

Layer 2. Barriers: A child should never be able to enter the pool area unaccompanied by a guardian. Barriers physically block a child from the pool.

Layer 3. Emergency Preparedness: The moment a child stops breathing there is a small, precious window of time in which resuscitation may occur, but only if someone knows what to do. Even if you're not a parent, it’s important to learn CPR. The techniques are easy to learn and can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, it is critical to have a phone nearby and immediately call 911.

Home Visits with Children

What is the purpose of a Home Visit? The purpose of a home visit is to assess the safety and well- being of the child, as well as, address concerns and needs of the child and/or caregivers, determine appropriateness of the placement, and provide support to the caregivers and inform the progress of the case. 

When must a Home Visit be done?

·         Initial face-to face (FTF) contact with the child and caregiver is to occur within two working days after the case is accepted for services at the child’s current place of residence. 

·         When a child is in Shelter Status FTF contact shall occur every seven days.  (Shelter Status=legal status that begins when the child is taken into protective custody of the department and ceases when the court: grants custody to a parent and/or after disposition of the petition for dependency.)

·         Once the child has been Adjudicated Dependant (after Disposition) by the Court, FTF contact is required with each child a minimum of once every twenty five days in the child’s current residence. FTF contacts must occur more frequently when the child’s situation dictates more frequent contact as assessed by the case manager and the case manager supervisor.

·         At least once every three months the case manager will make an unannounced visit to the child’s current residence. 

·         Once a child in run away status returns, a FTF home visit should take place immediately in order to assess the child’s mental/physical state and gain insight into the reason he/she ran away. 

Expectations/Guidelines of a Home Visit:

·         Meet with the child and caregivers in their current residence.

·         Speak with each child individually, alone and away from others, to assess child’s                         adjustment, progress, needs and/or concerns and overall well-being.

·         Examine the child for cleanliness, health, and signs of injury, abuse and/or neglect.

·         Evaluate the home environment for appropriateness and safety.

·         Discuss concerns and/or needs with the caregiver and provide referrals for services.

·         Discuss stages of change and progress and/or concerns with services.

·         Inform the caregiver and child (if age appropriate) of upcoming court hearings, staffings,           etc.

·         Obtain updates and copies of the child’s medical, dental and mental health records,                   appointments, procedures, prescriptions and dosage.

·         Obtain updates and copies of the child’s educational records and progress (if age appropriate).

·         Observe interactions between the caregivers/family members and the child.

·         Obtain updated photographs of the child using the Mindshare mobile application.

·         Review the Child Resource Record at each home visit to ensure that information is                     current.

·         Follow up on previous concerns or referrals with caregiver and/or the child.

·         Discuss how visitation is going with parents/siblings.

·         Assess and discuss Safety Plan in effect with the current participants, their role in the                 plan and the safety management techniques being utilized to determine if the current               safety plan is still effective.

·         Document where the child sleeps and who (if applicable) sleeps in the bedroom with the           child.

·         Document home visit information in FSFN or the Mindshare mobile application (which               uploads to FSFN) within 48 hours of the FTF visit occurring.

Importance of Connecting With Teachers

 

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. ~Robert Maynard Hutchins

Education is a vital foundation for everyone and yet it can also be a great challenge for children involved in the child welfare system.  National data shows that children in state care have disabilities at a greater rate than the general population

Research indicates that the future success of children in foster care is correlated to education.  Children who have been removed from their home experience a great deal of transition and oftentimes school is the only stability they have.  Teachers and case managers are an integral part of this stability.

Contacting a child’s teacher as soon as possible will allow the case manager and teacher to begin developing a relationship and share information which can benefit the child.  Making the personal, face to face contact makes the process of developing this relationship much easier.

Case managers may have a depth of knowledge about children that can be extremely helpful in the classroom.  Have they been exposed to physical or emotional trauma?  Have they developed any new behaviors since child welfare became involved?  Are they receiving services in-home or are they placed in out of home care?  If they are in out of home care, how are they adjusting?  Are they currently able to visit with the parent(s) or are visits currently not able to be conducted.  All of these factors will have a tremendous impact on children’s ability to concentrate, participate, comprehend, and retain what is happening in school.

Teachers can provide valuable feedback to case managers related to the progress children are making in school.  Are they exhibiting any new behaviors?  Are they integrating with other classmates or isolating?  Are they progressing well related to assignments, homework, tests and projects?  Are they regularly attending school?  Are they able to concentrate, participate, comprehend, and retain what is happening in school?

The coordination between schools and child welfare agencies can reduce delays in school enrollment and disruption of daily attendance.  As studies suggest, a change or delay in school attendance can cause children to lose four to six months of progress so it is critical not only to get our children in school but to keep them attending.

The importance of connecting with teachers is to support what is best for children.  This collaboration between child welfare staff and educators will lead to a greater understanding of the role each plays in the life of the child and help move toward more support for those we serve.

Everyone is responsible for the education of a child in foster care:   School, case-worker, parent or foster parent or other caregiver, GAL and courts.

Child Placement Agreements

What are Child Placement Agreements?

•       Child Placement Agreement means that a Caregiver and a Child Welfare Professional have agreed upon specific care expectations for a child in out-of-home care whose behaviors or circumstances require additional supervision or safeguards.

Who needs a Child Placement Agreement?

•       A Child Placement Agreement needs to be created when there are concerns suspected or dependable information that a child has any of the following:

§  Severe self-harm

§  Problematic sexual behavior

§  Victim of sexual abuse

§  Victim of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

§  Juvenile sexual abuse

§  Behavior(s) that are a significant threat to others

What is the difference between the 2 types of Child Placement Agreements?

•       Care Precautions are considered the least restrictive type of agreement. The requirements are intended to be in place for a short period of time until more information is known about the child. Once more information is known, the child’s placement requirements can be modified as necessary.

•       Behavior Management Plans are needed for children who have demonstrated any of the following behaviors within the past twelve months:

§  Juvenile sexual abuse

§  Behaviors that are a significant threat to others

Who creates Child Placement Agreements?

•       CBC Case Manager will create the Child Placement Agreement with the Caregiver and child and complete document in FSFN.

Who are our local qualified assessors?

•       CPT, CPC, Therapist, Psychiatrist, Psychologist

How are Child Placement Agreements monitored?

•       A Lead Agency POC consult is required within 24 hours of determining that a Child Placement Agreement is needed to help determine which type of plan is necessary.

•       Child Placement Agreements will be reviewed by the Lead Agency POC and the Case Manager Supervisor after development to ensure it keeps the child or other children in the home safe. 

•       The Child Placement Agreement will be reviewed in the 90 day staffing(s)with all participants in attendance along with information reported in the Progress Update

•       Discussions will occur during monthly consults/supervision between the Case Manager and the Case Manager Supervisor.

•       Case Manager will monitor during monthly home visits via discussions with the Caregiver and the child (if age appropriate).

•       Lead Agency POC will attend 6 month staffing(s) unless required to attend a staffing sooner.

What is the process for obtaining information from a qualified assessor?

When a Behavioral PLAN is developed

•       A referral will be made by the Case Manager for an assessment to be completed within the 45 days of initial placement or after determination Behavioral Plan is required.

•       If the child is being considered for a modified or terminated plan then a qualified assessor will be used to review the current plan and behaviors to determine if the plan can be terminated. This process will be completed by the Case Manager.

•       A qualified assessor is not needed for Precaution Plan.

What is the protocol for children being placed with respite care provider?

•       The respite care provider will be made aware during the time arrangements are made by placement that the child has a Child Placement Agreement. The plan will be developed/modified to meet the respite home environment by the Case Manager.

•       If there are no changes to the existing plan then the respite provider will be entered into the FSFN system and a new plan will be printed and brought with the Case Manager to be signed at the time of placement.

What is the protocol for terminating a Child Placement Agreement?

•       For previously created SAR’s a discussion will occur between the Case Manager, Case Manager Supervisor, Lead Agency POC and the Caregiver to determine if the plan is still needed.

•       Precautionary Plans require a consult with the Lead Agency POC, Caregiver, Case Manager, and Case Manager Supervisor to review whether the plan can be terminated.

•       Behavioral Plans require a qualified assessor to complete documentation that the Behavioral Plan is no longer required. Upon receipt of the document by the qualified assessor a consult should be held with the Lead Agency POC, Caregiver, Case Manager, and Case Management Supervisor and any other party needed to discuss terminating the Behavioral Plan or developing a Precautionary Plan.

No plan should be terminated without the appropriate documentation and discussions occurring.

LGBTQ Group Home Rules

In December, 2016, Florida Administrative Code (FAC) was amended to support and protect our LGBTQ+ youth in care, specifically those in group homes. We are only the 14th state to have anti-discrimination laws that protect youth based on sexual orientation AND gender identity. Some states have anti-discrimination laws for only sexual orientation; others have nothing in place for this population.

Definitions

Sexual orientation: a person’s sexual, emotional or physical attraction to members of the same gender, different gender, or any gender. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and pansexual are examples.
Gender identity: a person’s perception of having a particular gender, or none at all. May or may not match the gender they were assigned at birth.
Transgender: a person whose gender identity is different than what is listed on their birth certificate.
Gender expression: the way people express their gender through mannerisms, behaviors, expressions, or physical appearance (clothing, hairstyle, etc.). Also may or may not match the gender they were assigned at birth

FAC changes pertinent to the LGBTQ population

65C-14.021 Discipline and Behavior Management

  • Group Home staff cannot engage in discriminatory treatment or harassment based on gender expression or sexual orientation.
  • Group Home staff cannot permit harassment or bullying of children by staff or other youth based on gender expression or sexual orientation.

65C-14.018 Individual Needs for Children in Care

  • Group Home staff cannot restrict access to hygiene, grooming and personal care items based on the child’s gender identity or expression.

65C-14.040 Admission, Placement, and Ongoing Services

  • For transgender youth, a decision will need to be made whether that child should be placed with their gender on the birth certificate, or their identified gender.
  • Factors to include while making the decision: physical safety, emotional well-being, youth preference, and opinions of case manager, GAL, parent (if rights aren’t terminated) and therapist.
  • Child placing agency must take into account the capacity of the placement to meet the child’s needs, and the needs of the other children already placed in that setting.

65C-14.023 Personnel and Staffing Requirements

  • Direct child care staff must obtain training within their first full year of employment in the area of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

This information is ever-changing.

Safety Plans - Modifying

Once a case has been transferred from Investigations to Case Management, it is the Case Manager’s responsibility for developing and implementing modifications to the Safety Plan based on the Case Manager’s ongoing assessment of Safety Plan sufficiency within 5 days of case assignment. The Safety Plan should consist of the least intrusive actions necessary to protect the child consistent with diminished caregiver protective capacities and danger threats.  The Case Manager will exercise due diligence to modify Safety Plans in response to changing family dynamics, including when Conditions for Return are achieved.

A Safety Plan must be modified when any of the following changes occur:

  • A new danger threat has been identified
  • Danger threats have been eliminated

·         A child is released to the other parent, relocated in a family arrangement, or sheltered

·         Parent/legal guardian meets the Conditions for Return

·         There are changes in family dynamics or conditions which change the types and or level of safety services needed, including but not limited to:

Ø  A new child is born or comes into the home

Ø  A parent/legal guardian becomes involved with a new intimate partner relationship

Ø  There are significant changes to the household composition

Ø  There are changes in the availability of a physical location in which the Safety Plan can be implemented

Ø  The Safety Plan needs to become an out-of-home plan

Actions for modifying Safety Plans: 

The primary Case Manager will take the following actions to create a new Safety Plan.

  • Take protective actions immediately in order to keep the child from being harmed
  • To the extent possible, the Case Manager, the parent/legal guardian and any provider involved in the formulation of the original Safety Plan will collaborate to revise the Safety Plan.

Ø  Adhere to special considerations involving domestic violence

Ø  Review and discuss current family dynamics and conditions relative to criteria for an in-home Safety Plan or Conditions for Return

Ø  Review each specific component of the Safety Plan and whether any modifications are necessary

Ø  Identify options for plan modifications needed, eliciting family resources

Ø  Agree on modifications

Ø  Follow up with CLS when a Safety Plan is part of the court order

  • Identify whether there are ways to manage the identified danger threat with the child in the home; and if yes contact safety services providers who will participate in ongoing Safety Plan
  • Consult with your supervisor if assistance is needed in developing a sufficient ongoing Safety Plan.
  • The Case Manager should revise the ongoing Safety Plan and obtain signatures of the parents and any informal Safety Plan providers and file with the court.

FSFN/Documentation for Modifying Safety Plans:

  • Document any safety plan monitoring activity within 2 business days of any assessment information or action related to the assessment of the Safety Plan sufficiency.
  • Document modifications to any existing Safety Plan by terminating the current safety plan in FSFN and create a new version.  The date needs to be changed to capture the date of the modification.  This will allow for a complete history to the Safety Plans. Upload a signed version within 2 business days of creation.
  • The Case Manager will formally document an updated safety analysis when completing the FFA and any Progress Updates.
  • Supervisor or Case Manager will record supervisor case consultations about Safety Plans within 2 business days using supervisory case consultation functionality in FSFN.

Safety Planning Requirements

Florida Administrative Code defines “Safety Plan” as the specific course of action necessary to control threats of serious harm or supplement a family’s protective capacities implemented immediately when a family’s protective capacities are not sufficient to manage immediate or serious harm threats.” 

A safety plan addresses a specific parent behavior, emotion or condition that results in a child being unsafe.  A safety plan controls and manages danger threats to a child when a parent/legal guardian is unavailable, unable, or unwilling to protect their child.  A safety plan will be in effect as long as a case remains open and parents/legal guardians do not have the protective capacity necessary to protect the child from identified danger threats. 

Safety planning is an ongoing process, not an event and should be developed jointly between the case manager and the family.  The child welfare professional responsible for the case has primary responsibility for developing, monitoring and managing the safety plan. As individual and family circumstances change, safety plans require updates based on the changes.  

In order to have confidence in the sufficiency of the safety plan we must analyze danger threats, family functioning, and family and community resources. This depends on having collected sufficient, pertinent, relevant information. The intention is to arrive at a decision regarding the most appropriate and least restrictive means for controlling and managing identified danger threats and therefore assuring child safety.

The child welfare professional creating, monitoring or modifying the safety plan will determine that:

·         The safety plan controls the behavior emotion or condition that results in the child being unsafe

·         The effect of a safety plan is immediate, and/or continues to protect the child every day

·         The safety plan describes each specific action necessary to keep the child safe, including:

Ø  The person responsible for each specific action

Ø  Resources or people who will help with each action

Ø  The frequency of the action, including times and days of the week

Ø  The person responsible for monitoring each action is occurring as planned

·         The safety plan may be exclusively and in-home, an out-of-home, or a combination of both

·         The child welfare professional will develop separate safety plans with the perpetrator of domestic violence and the parent/legal guardian who is a survivor of domestic violence.

·         The safety plan will not include promissory commitments by the parent/legal guardian who is currently not able to protect the child. Example of INAPPROPRIATE safety plan actions include, but are not limited to:

Ø  Mom will not spank

Ø  Parents will remain sober

Ø  Mom will file an injunction and will not let the batterer back in the home

Ø  Dad will not use drugs

All safety plans must be documented in FSFN by the child welfare professional.

 

 

 

Critical Junctures

 

A Critical Juncture is any change to a family’s circumstances which has the potential to impact the safety of a child. Therefore, a Critical Juncture necessitates a re-assessment of the family.  A new Progress Update will be created in FSFN at a minimum every ninety days from the approval date of the Ongoing Family Functioning Assessment OR the approval date of the last Progress Update. A new Progress Update will be created sooner when fundamental decisions are being made for the children, or when Critical Junctures are occurring that necessitate a formal re-evaluation of protective capacities and child needs. Such times include but are not limited to the following Critical Junctures:

  • When safety management has resulted in a decision to remove a child from home.
  • At the birth or death of a sibling.
  • Upon the addition of a new family member, including intimate partners.
  • Before changing the case plan to include unsupervised visits.
  • Before recommending or implementing reunification as Conditions for Return are met.
  • Before a recommendation for case closure.
  • When case has been dismissed by the court.

The case manager shall seek a supervisory case consultation to review case dynamics when case circumstances include any of the following. The case consultation will determine if a Progress Update should be completed prior to the 90 day period based on the discretion of the supervisor.

  • When significant changes in family members’ and/or family circumstances warrant a

          review and possible revision to the safety plan and/or case plan, such as a change

          to unsupervised visitation.

  • When an emergency change in a child's out-of-home safety plan placement is

 needed.

  • When the children and/or caregivers are making little or no progress toward the

established outcomes and/or an immediate change in the case plan is needed.

  • After any review (i.e., judicial, administrative, State, or County QA) recommends or

directs that changes be made.

  • At receipt of a new investigation or report of domestic violence in the home.

Supervisory case consultation will be required at Critical Junctures in the development and updating of Family Functioning Assessments; safety planning and safety monitoring; and case planning and progress assessments.