Office of Inspector General Reporting

Within each Office of Inspector General, there are two distinct functions: audits and investigations.

The audit function is an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve the agency’s operations or operations funded by the agency. In carrying out the audit responsibilities, the Inspector General reviews and evaluates internal controls to ensure fiscal accountability of the agency. Audits are conducted in accordance with professional auditing standards.

In carrying out the investigative duties, the Inspector General initiates, conducts, supervises, and coordinates investigations designed to detect, deter, prevent, and eradicate fraud, waste, mismanagement, misconduct, and other abuses in government. Each Inspectors General Office also conducts investigations pursuant to the Whistle-blower’s Act (Sections 112.3187-112.31895, Florida Statutes).

Reportable Incidents:

  • Inappropriate employee acts or omissions that result in client injury, abuse, neglect or death;

  • Fraud;

  • Theft;

  • Breaches of confidentiality by an employee, unless inadvertent and self-reported;

  • Falsification of official records;

  • Misuse of position or state property, employees, equipment/supplies for personal gain/profit.

  • Failure to report known or suspected neglect or abuse of a client;

  • Improper expenditure or commitment of public funds;

  • Contract mismanagement;

  • Computer related misconduct;

  • Any violation under §435, F.S., Title XXXI, Employee Screening, that would result in disqualification from client contact duties;

  • Any other wrongdoing that would be a violation of statute, rule, regulation or policy.

Suspected or confirmed allegations must be reported to the IG within two (2) business days of discovery. The report can be filed by letter, fax or email. Failure to report may be deemed a violation of § 60L-36.005, Florida Administrative Code. The standards of conduct require employees to exercise due care and reasonable diligence in the performance of job duties, to protect state property from loss or abuse, to maintain high standards of honesty, integrity and impartiality, and to place the interest of the public ahead of personal interests.  Any violation of these standards will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

The IG will determine the violation type, whose jurisdiction the incident falls under and assign it to that Regional Office for investigation. Then the Regional IG investigates and prepares an Investigative Report that details the findings. The Investigative Report Summary is reviewed by the Inspector General and approved. The Summary report is redacted and posted on the IG website.  Any recommended actions or corrective actions are followed up on by identified agency.

All employees are expected to fully cooperate with any investigation or audit conducted by the IG. Refusal to fully ooperate constitutes employee misconduct pursuant to Rule 60L-36.005(3) and (4), Florida Administrative Code, and will result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

For more information please see the CFOP or the IG website at www.dcf.state.fl.us/admin/ig . The Inspector General can be contacted via email at IG_Complaint@myflfamilies.com or by phone at (813) 375-3922.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

According to the Mayo Clinic, “even the best-behaved children can be difficult and challenging at times. But if your child or teenager has a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness toward you and other authority figures, he or she may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).”

Symptoms Include: Angry and irritable moods, argumentative and defiant behavior and vindictiveness.

There are three levels of ODD: mild, moderate and severe.

Causes: There is no determined cause of ODD. However, researchers indicate that likely genetics and environment play a role in the disorder. Children can have a natural disposition or temperament and possibly neurobiological differences in the way nerves and the brain function. From an environmental stand point, problems with parenting that may involve a lack of supervision, inconsistent or harsh discipline, or abuse or neglect.

Researchers have identified several risk factors that may contribute to the development of ODD:

  • Temperament — a child who has a temperament that includes difficulty regulating emotions, such as being highly emotionally reactive to situations or having trouble tolerating frustration

  • Parenting issues — a child who experiences abuse or neglect, harsh or inconsistent discipline, or a lack of parental supervision

  • Other family issues — a child who lives with parent or family discord or has a parent with a mental health or substance use disorder

  • Environment — oppositional and defiant behaviors can be strengthened and reinforced through attention from peers and inconsistent discipline from other authority figures, such as teachers

Possible issues surrounding ODD:                                          Co Occurring Disorders:

  • Poor school and work performance                      - ADHD

  • Antisocial behavior                                                 - Conduct disorder

  • Impulse control problems                                         - Depression

  • Substance use disorder                                           - Anxiety

  • Suicide                                                                        - Learning and communication disorders

Diagnosis must come from a professional who completes a thorough psychological evaluation with a child. This is necessary due to symptoms of ODD also being common with other illnesses.

Treatment modalities include: parent training, parent-child interaction therapy, individual and family therapy, cognitive problem-solving training and social skills training.

Mayo Clinic. (2019). Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/oppositional-defiant-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20375831

In-Home Safety Analysis and Conditions for Return

Question #1:

The parents/legal guardians are willing for an in-home safety plan to be developed and implemented and have demonstrated that they will cooperate with all identified safety service providers.

Willing to accept and cooperate refers to the most basic level of agreement to allow a Safety Plan to be implemented in the home and to participate according to agreed assignments. Caregivers do not have to agree that a Safety Plan is the right thing nor are they required liking the plan; plans are not negotiable in regards to the effectuation of the plan.

Conditions for Return and Use of an In-Home Safety Plan:

CFR statements associated with a caregiver’s lack of acceptance and willingness to participate in developing an in-home safety plan should reflect what would be different in comparison to what was determined to be the justification for why an in-home safety plan could not be used.

Question #2:

The home environment is calm and consistent enough for an in-home safety plan to be implemented and for safety service providers to be in the home safely.

Calm and consistent refers to the environment, it’s routine, how constant and consistent it is, its predictability to be the same from day-to-day. The environment must accommodate plans, schedules, and services and be non-threatening to those participating in the Safety Plan.

Conditions for Return and Use of an In-Home Safety Plan:

CFR statements associated with the home environment should reflect what would need to be different in comparison to what was determined to require an out-of-home safety plan.

Question #3:

Safety services are available at a sufficient level and to the degree necessary in order to manage the way in which impending danger is manifested in the home.

Safety Management Services are dependent upon the identified impending danger threat. Available refers to services that exist in sufficient amount. Access refers to time and location. Accessible services are those that are close enough to the family to be applied and can be implemented immediately.

Conditions for Return and Use of an In-Home Safety Plan:

CFR statements associated with the sufficiency of resources should reflect what would need to exist in comparison to what was determined to be the justification for an out-of-home safety plan. See the previous examples related to the justification for an in-home safety plan as a reference point for considering possible Conditions for Return related to sufficient resources.

Question #4:

An in-home safety plan and the use of in-home safety management services can sufficiently manage impending danger without the results of scheduled professional evaluations.

This question is concerned with specific knowledge that is needed to understand Impending Danger Threats, caregiver capacity or behavior or family functioning specifically related to Impending Danger Threats. The point here is the absence of such information obviates DCF’s ability to know what is required to manage threats. Evaluations that are concerned with treatment or general information gathering (not specific to Impending Danger Threats) can occur in tandem with In-Home Safety Plans.

Conditions for Return and Use of an In-Home Safety Plan:

CFR statements associated with a caregiver’s capacity should reflect what would need to be different in comparison to what was determined to be the justification for why an in-home safety plan would be insufficient.

Question # 5:

The parents/legal guardians have a physical location in which to implement an in-home safety plan.

Physical location refers to (1) a home/shelter exists and can be expected to be occupied for as long as the Safety Plan is needed, and (2) caregivers live there full time. Home refers to an identifiable domicile. DV or other shelter, or friend or relative’s homes qualify as an identifiable domicile if other criteria are met (e.g., expected to be occupied for as long as the safety plan is needed, caregivers live there full time, etc.).

Conditions for Return and Use of an In-Home Safety Plan:

CFR statements associated with a caregiver’s residence should reflect what would need to exist in comparison to what was determined to be the justification for an out-of-home safety plan.

Conditions for Return

 ü  The Conditions for Return describe what must exist or be different with respect to specific family circumstances, home environment, caregiver perception, behavior, capacity and/or safety service resources that would allow for reunification to occur with the use of an in-home safety plan.

ü  Impending danger threats do not have to be reduced or eradicated in order for children to be reunified with their families if an in-home safety plan can sufficiently control the threat.

ü  What is necessary for children to return to their families is the establishment of well-defined circumstances within a child’s home that mitigates threats to child safety.

ü  The basis for Conditions for Return is the In-Home Safety Analysis and Planning section of the Family Functioning Assessment and Progress Update and the five questions located there.

ü  Conditions for Return are the explanations of how a “No” to Safety Analysis questions can be changed to a “Yes”.

ü  Once all five questions are answered with a “Yes” the reunification process must begin and the child must be returned to the home with an In-Home Safety Plan.

The 5 In-Home Safety Analysis Questions

1.    Are the parents willing and cooperative?

2.    Is the home environment calm and consistent enough?

3.    Are sufficient safety services available?

4.    Can danger be managed without professional evaluations? (i.e.- psychological)

5.    Do parents have a residence/stable home?

ü  For each In-home Safety Analysis Question to which you answer “No” there must be a Condition For Return. Each Condition For Return should have two parts.

o   The first part (A) should begin with:

“An in home safety plan is not possible because…” Explain why

o   The second part (B) should begin with:

“In order for an in home safety plan to be considered…”Explain what would make it safe for the child in the home specifically

ü  After all of the Conditions For Return, the following statement should conclude this section: 

“An in-home safety plan will become an option after the determination is made that the child’s safety, well-being, physical, mental and emotional health are not endangered by being placed in the home.”

The conditions for return must be addressed and discussed at all staffings and hearings

Placement Changes

 

Often, children involved in the system have to move placements due to a variety of circumstances. There are many factors to consider- will the child be moving from relative/non-relative to relative non-relative, relative/non-relative to foster care or foster care to relative/non-relative.

Relative/Non Relative to Relative Non-Relative Placement

OR

Foster Care to Relative/Non-Relative Home

 

  1. Complete a home study and background check on the proposed home.

  2. Complete an affidavit for Modification of Placement (MOP) and submit to CLS.

  3. Notify the parents and GAL (if applicable) that a motion to move the child(ren) has been filed and to contact their attorney if there is an objection.  

    1. Once the MOP is approved, the child can be moved to the new home.

    2. Be sure to collect the child(ren)’s belongings, Child Resource Record(s), Medication(s)*, Medication Administration Record Log(s) to provide to the new caregivers.

    3. Update Safety Plan and review with new caregivers.

  4. Once the child has moved, complete an edit request in SCC Portal to reflect the new placement information and include all demographic information of the caregivers.

  5. Complete a Progress Update to reflect the child’s new placement.

  6. Complete a new Relative Caregiver Communication Form and submit to RevMax.

Relative/Non-Relative Home to Foster Care

  1. Attempt to find another relative/non-relative for placement. If none are available, discuss with Operations the need for the child to be moved into foster care.

  2. Complete a placement intake packet (J:Drive> CBC Forms in Alpha Order> Placement Intake Form).

  3. Send Placement Intake Form to county specific Placement Coordinator (Siobhan Hardcastle for Manatee or Shmir Corzine for Sarasota/Desoto).

  4. Complete an affidavit for Modification of Placement (MOP) and submit to CLS.

  5. Notify the parents and GAL (if applicable) that a motion to move the child(ren) has been filed and to contact their attorney if there is an objection. 

    1. Once the MOP is approved, the child can be moved to the new home.

    2. Be sure to collect the child(ren)’s belongings, Child Resource Record(s), Medication(s)*, Medication Administration Record Log(s) to provide to the new caregivers.

    3. Update Safety Plan and review with new caregivers

  6. Once the child has moved, complete an edit request in SCC Portal to reflect the new placement information.

  7. Complete a Progress Update to reflect the child’s new placement.

Child Exit Survey (CES): Complete a CES if the child was in a foster home for 30 days or more and is over the age of 5 within 5 days of move.

*For movement in medications, complete the Medication Inventory (J:Drive > CBC Forms in Alpha Order > Medication Inventory)

Missing Children: Efforts to Locate

Imagine if your child, mother, dog/cat- anyone who is important to you- went missing. How diligently would you try to locate them when it is someone close to you? When trying to locate our children that we serve who have runaway or gone missing, we must use the same (or more) diligence to locate them. There are many hostile and dangerous environments on the streets or with a parent who has absconded with a child and time is of the essence when making diligent efforts to locate the child and bring that child back into a safe environment. We are the life supports for the children we serve and child safety is our number one priority.

Case managers are required to make diligent and ongoing efforts to locate missing children within specific time during the period of time that they are missing. The first attempt must be completed within the first 24 hours of the child being reported missing. After the 24 hour time frame has elapsed, the Case Manager must make at least one attempt to locate the child every 7 days until the child is recovered.

Examples of Efforts to Locate the Child (this list is by all means not all-inclusive and are only examples of various avenues to explore in attempting to locate a child):

  • Contacting the child’s parents and other relatives

  • Contacting the child’s cell phone

  • Contacting the child’s school

  • Contacting the child’s place of employment

  • Contacting the child’s friends  

  • Contacting the child’s therapist or other service providers

  • Contacting former placements

  • Contacting the child’s JPO or DJJ worker

  • Contacting Hospitals

  • Check locations that the child has been known to frequent

  • Check activity on the child’s social media sites (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc)

In addition to completing efforts to locate, the Case Manager must also maintain contact with the Law Enforcement entity assigned. Although this communication is required, it is not to be used as an “effort to locate.” The Case Manager should provide Law Enforcement with any additional information that may be useful in locating the child, as well as any updates regarding the efforts that the Case Manager has made to locate the child.

Please remember that documentation of these efforts to locate and communication with Law Enforcement should be entered into FSFN within 48 hours.

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.

Legal - Courtroom Presentation

Court Preparation 

When attending and testifying in court it is extremely important to present confidently in order to have positive outcomes.  Many times we allow ourselves to get pulled into unnecessary courtroom drama that diminishes or reduces our effectiveness when testifying.  The tips noted below were provided by Children’s Legal Services (CLS) to help us in being better prepared for courtroom situations.   

Integrity–noun –

1.  adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2.  the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

If we have integrity in our dealings with each other, the families we serve, the providers and the courts we will be effective in accomplishing our goals.  All parties to the cases we work are critical members of the team – if one person on the team is resistant it delays progress of the whole. 

CLS believes there are 3 “P’s” that allow us to maintain our integrity when testifying in Court:

Ø Preparedness:

§  Make sure you have detailed notes (maybe on index cards)

§  Know your case well (If you are “covering” you still must know the case.)

§  Communicate with your attorney BEFORE the day of court

§  Review the file- maybe develop a timeline

§  Dress for success- Court is a formal event.  Dress in professional attire!

Ø Promptness:

§  Be on time to all meetings, staffings, court etc. – or a little early

§  Ensure court documents are provided within time frames for legal for review, file and disseminate.

§  If things have changed since the original document was submitted, be sure to write an addendum and have it available as early as possible (or notify CLS of any immediate changes).

Ø Professionalism/Credibility:

§  Presentation is everything- respond to Judge only; do not argue, answer questions of parent attorney, parent or GAL directly;

§  Use honesty and integrity in all communications and interactions

§  Avoid in courtroom spats, interrupting, excuses, blaming and defensiveness

§  Present evidence and testimony that is relevant and CONCISE

§  Avoid negative body language or emotions (rolling eyes, facial expressions, head shake, etc.)

§  Speak with confidence avoid saying “I think”, “I believe”, “in my opinion” etc.

§  It is OK to say “I don’t know” and to advise you will get the requested information ASAP.  Make sure to specify a time-frame when the information will be provided to the court.

§  Treat everyone with respect. Say “sir” or “ma’am” when responding to others

 Remember: A detailed and concise written document can avert many questions and confusion. 

Don’t forget to use your courtroom voice- the Judge wants to hear you!

Educational Inter-agency Agreement - Circuit 12

An Educational Inter-agency Agreement (EIA) was developed to effectively address educational, developmental or other disabilities, job training and employment issues by including all parties who are involved with a child in the dependency case planning process including Desoto, Manatee & Sarasota School Boards (SB), Department of Children & Families (DCF), Safe Children Coalition (SCC), Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MSO), Career Source (FW), Agency for Persons with Disability (APD), and Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

SCC case management staff notify all appropriate parties at the time of case planning development and case plan review, including DJJ and APD staff who have a child actively receiving their services.  Through substantive information sharing and communication between parties; education and employment outcomes for the youth we serve will improve. Some of the key elements in Circuit 12’s EIA are as follows:

Educational Stabilization:

  • The SB shall enroll youth in state care who have previously been enrolled in Florida public School immediately even if they do not have all necessary paperwork.

  • Foster parents have the authority to enroll children in their care for school. The “Placement Letter” provided by SCC is sufficient documentation for a foster parent for enrollment and to participate as a “guardian” on behalf of foster child.  Parents may use this letter to maintain child in current school for School Choice program.

  • SCC will provide authorization to foster parents and case workers to provide permission for youth to participate in school clubs, after school activities, sports, and social events.

Transportation:

  • The SB or DCF/SCC will make every effort to provide school transportation for students in out-of-home care when it is deemed in their best interest to attend a school outside of their attendance zone of the out-of-home care location.

  • For student who meet the McKinney Act definition, the SB must provide transportation to the school of origin for the remainder of the year when in the student’s best interest.

  • DCF/SCC will retain the responsibility to coordinate temporary transportation for students to and from school during the time that the SB transportation is being arranged.

Sharing Information/Documentation:

  • SCC will provide the SB a monthly updated list of children in out of home care residing in licensed settings actively enrolled in school and their location and notify SB of changes.

  • The SB will provide youth attendance records and quarterly academic transcripts to CMs upon request.

  • SCC will ensure that the School Enrollment Form and its attachments (custody letter) is provided to the school liaison for school age children in SCC custody within 72 hours.

  • The SB will provide notice to CM staff when district mandated parental correspondence is released.

  • Subject to being provided appropriate releases, consents and orders from court/legal guardians, current CBHA, psychological, psychiatric, medical evaluations, social work assessments, transitional assessments will be exchanged between the SB and SCC.

  • All requests for student information by SCC will be accompanied by a signed release from parent or a Shelter Order.

Early Intervention/Post Secondary Education/IL:

  • SCC and the SB will work to promote education progress and assist students in acquiring essential independent living skills, including readiness for pursuit of higher education goals and/or employment.  The SB will assist with the education of youth known to the department, as well as, youth adopted over the age of 13, regarding the availability of financial assistance, to include tuition exemptions.

  • DCF, MSO, SCC, SB will engage in collaborative efforts for identifying pre-school age youth who may qualify to ensure that early intervention services are provided. 

Exceptional Student Education (ESE):

  • A surrogate parent will be appointed by the SB or Court for a youth who qualifies as soon as the child is determined to be without a parent who can act for youth with consideration given to individuals who know the child and recommendations made by DCF, MSO, SCC and the courts so the surrogate can follow the education of the youth during entire time in state custody.

  • The CM may refer a child for an assessment.  The CM may not sign as the parent or the surrogate for the consent for an evaluation of an IEP or authorizing participation in program.

Training

  • The SB will offer training to individuals desiring to become educational surrogate parents and will allow Guardians ad Litem (GALs) and foster parents to attend the trainings offered through the SB.

  • The SB will consult with CMs, supervisors, GALs, caregivers or other interested parties at their request regarding the programs available for Exceptional Students

***Terms of this EIA will continue through 6/30/19 and will be reviewed annually.It is available in it’s entirety on the J-drive

Educational Outcomes for Children in Care  

There are consistent and widespread deficits for educational progress or success for our children in out-of-home care.  School age children in foster care commonly experience a number of moves while in out-of-home care.  These changes can significantly impact their school experiences.  Children who change schools frequently make less academic progress than their peers, and each time they change schools they fall farther behind.  These negative effects on academic achievement are also associated with dropping out.

Children who experience frequent school changes may also face challenges in developing and sustaining supportive relationships with teacher or with peers.  Supportive relationships and a positive educational experience can be powerful contributors to the development of resilience and are vital components for healthy development and overall well-being. 

Behavioral problems that children in foster care experience impact their academic success.  Children in foster care experience school suspensions and expulsions at higher rates than non-foster care peers.  It is believed that a failure to address the needs of children in foster care leads to behavioral problems at school.  It is also important to understand the impact of trauma on the lives of our children in care.

Research consistently documents that significant percentages of foster children have special education needs and/or are receiving special educations services.  Research also suggests that children in care who receive special education services tend to change schools more frequently, be placed in more restrictive educational settings, and have poorer quality education plans than their non-foster care peers in special education.  While screening foster youth for special education needs increases those receiving needed services, it is important to focus on those children receiving quality services timely.

Youth in care graduate at relatively low rates as when compared to non-foster care peers.  Studies consistently show that children in foster care tend to experience high levels of grade retention and because of grade retention are more likely to be old for their grade.  This is important because retention and being old for grade are both strong predictors of dropping out of school.  Young people in foster care are less likely to graduate from high school if they experience repeated placement changes. 

Research suggests that college enrollment is more likely when young people are allowed to remain in care until age 21 or receive mentoring services.

Educational Facts from national and multi-states data

Likelihood of being absent from school 2x that of other students

Foster youth who change schools when first entering care 56 – 75%

17-18 year olds in care who have experience 5+ school changes 34%

Likelihood of 17-18 year old foster youth having an out of school suspension 2x that of other students

Likelihood of 17-18 year old foster youth being expelled 3x that of other students

Average reading level of 17-18 year olds in foster care 7th grade

Likelihood of foster youth receiving special education 2.5 - 3.5x that of other students

Foster youth who complete high school by 18 50%

17-18 year old foster youth who want to go to college 84%

Foster youth who graduated from high school who attend college 20%

Former foster youth attain a bachelor’s degree 2 - 9%

We are likely to think about educational achievement of vulnerable children as an issue of the individual child, however, the data above indicates otherwise.  When supported, positive school experiences can help counteract the negative effect of abuse, neglect, and lack of permanency experienced by children and youth in foster care.  A concerted effort by child welfare professionals can lead to significant progress in changing the educational outcomes for children in care.  Advocacy, programs, and interventions can lead to success and influence the deficits above for our children and youth in foster care.

Surrogate Parents for Exceptional Students

Surrogate Parent is an individual appointed to act in the place of a parent in educational decision-making and in safeguarding a student’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to F.S. Chapter 39 - When a child is placed into licensed out of home care (including Specialized Therapeutic Foster Care and Residential Programs) and has been identified as requiring/potentially requiring ESE services; the GAL, Foster Parent, Surrogate Parent, or other caretaker may serve as the parent for educational purposes if:

  • The students natural parents’ whereabouts or identity is unknown; or

  • A court of competent jurisdiction has terminated the parents’ rights; or

  • There are more than five children in the licensed out of home placement; or

  • The child is entitled by law to a surrogate but does not fit the criteria, will be determined on a case by case basis.

Exceptional Student means any student who has been determined eligible for a special program in accordance with rules of the State Board of Education.  The term includes students who are gifted and students with disabilities who have an intellectual disability including:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder                                          

  • Speech Impairment

  • Language Impairment

  • Orthopedic Impairment

  • Other Health Impairment

  • Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Visual Impairment

  • Emotional or Behavioral Disability

  • Specific Learning Disability Including But Not Limited To: Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Developmental Aphasia

  • Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing Or Dual Sensory Impaired

  • Hospitalized Or Homebound Students

  • Children With Developmental Delays

What are the duties of a Surrogate Parent?

A Surrogate Parent is expected to:

  • Become familiar with the district’s procedures for providing services to exceptional students.

  • Meet the student.

  • Meet the student’s teacher(s) and others who work with the student.

  • Observe the student’s school day.

  • Become familiar with the student’s background, abilities and disabilities.

  • Participate in IEP, Educational Plan (EP), Academic Improvement Plan (AIP) and other educational meetings

  • Help make decisions about the student’s education.

  • Give or withhold consent for actions proposed by the district, as appropriate.

  • Give permission for field trips, release of records, photographs, etc. to be an appropriate part of the student’s educational program.

  • Ask the school to take actions related to the student’s education.

  • Understand all procedural safeguards available and invoke them as appropriate.

Responsibilities which are not part of the Surrogate Parent:

The following areas are specifically excluded from the Surrogate Parent:

  • Care, maintenance and custody of the child.

  • Residential treatment placement.

  • Identification and evaluation of activities not relating specifically to special education.

Termination of a Surrogate Parent is appropriate when:

  • The child is determined to no longer be eligible for or in need of special education programs.

  • The legal guardianship of the child is assigned to a person who is able to assume the role of the parent.

  • The parent who was previously unknown becomes known, or the whereabouts of the parents that were previously undiscovered are discovered.

  • The child reaches the age of majority and is no longer in need of a Surrogate Parent for educational matters.

The SCC case manager may not sign as the parent or surrogate for a referral for an evaluation for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or as authorizing participation in the program

Educational Records and Documentation

When supported by strong practices and policies, positive school experiences can counteract the negative effects of abuse, neglect, and abandonment experienced by children and youth in foster care. Education provides opportunities for improved well-being in physical, intellectual, and social domains during critical developmental periods and supports economic success in adult life.  A concerted effort in supporting our youth could lead to significant progress in changing the educational outcomes for children in foster care.

To ensure the children served by the Safe Children Coalition (SCC) are having their educational needs met, Case Managers conduct multiple assessments and compile that information in the FSFN Educational Record, FSFN narrative notes, and ASK filing system. Following are assessments/activities that must occur and be addressed and documented in FSFN:

  • School stability

  • Prompt enrollment for school changes

  • Regular school attendance

  • School behaviors

  • Meeting special education needs

  • Support to succeed and graduate

  • Support transitions to college

  • Support for caregivers

Advocating educationally for our youth in the public education system can help close the achievement gap we see with performance of children in care for standardized test performance, high school graduation rates, and post secondary education.

The FSFN Education Record is used to document the education information and education history.  This record is created and maintained by the Case Manager in FSFN for all children receiving educational services such as Occupational Therapy (OT), Speech Therapy (ST), and Physical Therapy (PT). As well as, children in school, daycare, preschool, or being home schooled.

Every time there is a change in educational placement or grade this record is updated within 48 hours of notification. The contents of this record feed directly into the FSFN Case Plan and the FSFN Judicial Review Social Study Summary, therefore it is very important to update with current information.

In addition to the Education Record, the Case Manager must create a narrative note in FSFN each time a record is requested and/or received, when contacts with the school occur, or an educational meeting is attended.  The note should reflect the outcome of the contacts/meetings and detail recommendations that were made.  Information or progress made as to the recommendations and follow ups should also be documented in a narrative note in FSFN.  All educational records and written correspondences received are to be filed in ASK and with the court.

Professional Boundaries

Professional Boundaries

Professional Boundaries are the separation of personal and professional lives.  Blurring of boundaries can bring risks of damages and liabilities for the staff, co-workers, the agency, and the clients served.  Establishing and maintaining professional boundaries is important in the work we do.

How do boundaries become blurred? As Child Welfare professionals, we may play a variety of roles with clients—these include mentors, advocates, teachers, and mediators.  This can easily lead to dual relationships if the worker does not establish and maintain clear boundaries. Dual relationships occur when more than one kind of a relationship is formed between workers and clients or between co-workers.

Dual Relationships and Blurring of Boundaries 

Examples of dual relationships that should be avoided.

Gifts

Ò  Receiving or giving gifts

Favors/Work

Ò  Business and real estate transactions

Ò  Receiving discounts

Ò  Accept volunteer work

Ò  Awarding contracts

Ò  Loans and favors

Special Treatment

Ò  Outside of what all clients would normally have available to them

Ò  Beyond regular job duties

Religion and Politics

Ò  Discussing or promoting religious or political beliefs

Language and Behaviors

Ò  Obscene or discriminatory jokes

Ò  Use offensive conversations, swearing, and make sexual innuendos

Ò  Inappropriate e-mails and text messages

Friendships

Ò  Romantic/sexual or personal relationships

Ò  Visiting homes outside of business

Ò  Date, socialize with, or invite clients to employee’s home

Transport

Ò  Transporting client outside of approved official business

Ò  Allowing client to drive personal vehicle

Ò  Allowing client or family member to drive company vehicle

Personal Information

Ò  Exchange personal phone numbers or share home address

Ò  Calls with clients outside of business

Ò  Self-disclosure

Confidentiality

Ò  Discuss cases and confidential information outside of work

Ò  Access client files and information outside of job duties (HIPAA violation)

Substance Use

Ò  Use alcohol, tobacco, medication, or illegal substances while on duty

Establishing and Maintaining Professional Boundaries 

Keep our staff, agency, and clients safe by establishing and maintaining boundaries.

®     Clarify roles and responsibilities with clients and co-workers up front

®     Create an environment with constructive and open communication

®     Be aware of risks and liabilities

®     Be aware of positions of power versus positions of vulnerability

®     Anticipate and avoid boundary blurring and dual relationships

®      Avoid personal relationships between supervisors and supervisees

®      Avoid socializing with present and previous clients

®      Be aware that perceived boundary violations and dual relationships can be just as harmful

Staff should be familiar with their agency’s policies as they relate to professional boundaries.  Any staff member who violates policy may be subject to disciplinary action.  Employees are expected to immediately report unethical, illegal, or dangerous activities of clients, family members or staff.

Recognizing Trauma in Foster Children

The majority of children in foster care have experienced trauma due to exposure to abuse, neglect, and abandonment.  Being in foster care itself, may further traumatize children as they are removed from family, school, and their community, which contributes to the loss of relationships and bonds. The effects of trauma are cumulative and if children are chronically exposed to trauma, the risk of developing symptoms increases. 

It is important for child welfare professionals to understand trauma-informed practice and children’s responses to trauma.  Youth need adults who can help them make sense of their trauma histories and the impact on child functioning in order to be able to help promote healing.  Addressing the underlying trauma is key for adults to be able to support youth in their journey of healthy development, healing and building resilience. Trauma-informed services involve the integration of understanding, commitment, and practices organized around the goal of addressing the trauma-based needs of children.  It is critical that youth in foster care have adults who understand trauma and behavior reactions related to that trauma. 

Children’s Reaction to Trauma

INTERNALIZING REACTIONS

  • Guilt

  • Depression

  • Confusion

  • Emotional numbing

  • Avoidance of stimuli

  • Flashbacks/nightmares

  • Withdrawal/isolation

  • Somatic complaints

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Academic decline

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Revenge fantasies

EXTERNALIZING REACTIONS

  • Substance abuse

  • Anti-social behavior

  • Aggressive responses

  • Interpersonal conflicts

  • School refusal/avoidance

Trauma Related Conditions

·          Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

·          Dissociative identity disorder

·          Substance abuse disorder

·          Depression

·          Anxiety/panic disorder

·          Medical illness/somatization disorders

·          Eating disorders

·          Bipolar disorder

·          Borderline personality disorder

·          Self harm

The need to recognize the different types of reactions along with the related conditions can give the trauma-informed child welfare professional the ability to assess children’s needs for specific interventions that can promote healing and improve outcomes for this vulnerable population.  The lack of understanding can lead to overuse of psychotropic medications, inaccurate labeling in schools, placement disruptions, and ineffective services that can further traumatize youth.  Therefore, it is essential to understand the whole child, which involves understanding the child in the context of family, social, and community and provide support and guidance.

When to Leave Kids Home Alone

Is this child old enough to begin staying home alone?   When older children are placed in situations of independence that they can handle, it can help them learn responsibility.  However, asking too much too soon is dangerous and holds consequences for the child and the parent.  Children left unsupervised or in the care of young siblings are at increased risk for accidental injury and behavioral and academic problems. 

Inadequate supervision is a parent/caregiver leaving a child without adult supervision or arrangement appropriate for the child’s age or mental or physical condition, so that the child is unable to care for the child’s own needs or another’s basic needs or is unable to exercise good judgment in responding to any kind of physical or emotional crisis.  There is no age stated in Florida Statute at which a child can be left unattended or alone.  There are also no established timeframes for how long a child can be left alone.  These are primarily parental decisions and, as such, each situation must be assessed individually, focusing on:

  • Specific child, caregiver, and incident given child’s age, maturity, developmental level, or mental or physical condition;

  • Child’s ability to care for own needs or another’s basic needs; and

  • Child’s ability to exercise sufficient judgement in responding to any physical or emotional crisis.

Florida does not have a law about the age children can be left home alone, but instead expects parents to take all of the circumstances into account when deciding what level of supervision is needed.  Parents and caregivers should begin leaving children home alone progressively—for a short time initially and stay relatively close to home in case needed.

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign recommends that children not be left alone before the age of 12.  Many other children will not be ready until later than that.  Also, experts caution that older siblings are generally not ready for the responsibility of supervising younger children until the age of 15 or older.

Following are some questions to consider before making this important decision:

  • Is my child comfortable, confident and willing to stay home alone?  

  • Does my child consistently follow my rules and guidelines?

  • Has my child demonstrated good independent judgment and problem-solving skills in the past?

  • Is my child able to stay calm and not panic when confronted with unexpected events?

  • Does my child understand the importance of safety and know basic safety procedures?

  • Can my child lock and unlock the doors and windows of our home?

  • Is there an established routine for when he or she is home alone, with defined responsibilities and privileges?

  • Is our neighborhood safe?

  • Do we have neighbors that my child and I know and trust?  

To help ensure a child’s safety when staying at home alone, follow these safety tips:

Does this child know how to call 911?  Also, place all emergency numbers (doctor, hospital, police department, fire department, poison control center, emergency medical services) and the phone number of a friend or neighbor in a visible place and/or programmed into a cell phone.  Make sure your child knows your fire escape plans.  Remind your child to get out of the house immediately if the smoke alarm sounds and to call the fire department from a neighbor’s house. Show your child where the first-aid kit is and how to use the items in it.  Prepare a snack or meal for your child in advance, preferably one that does not need to be heated.  Tell the child where you will be, how you can be reached, and when you will return home.  Also set ground rules for:

  • leaving the house                                                                       

  • having friends over

  • cooking

  • answering the phone/door

  • using the Internet

  • checking in with you

Runaway Debriefing 

When a child under our care runs, there are many high risk factors impacting the child’s safety and well-being. Our job is to try and protect the children we serve as best we can. It is critical to comply with Florida Administrative Code (FAC) 65C-30.019 which requires the Case Manager to complete an interview (debrief) with the child within 24 hours of the child’s return. When a child is recovered, time is of the essence in gathering information to help us better assess the child’s needs and possible placement options. 

Case Managers use the “Runaway Debriefing Form” to document interview with child.  FAC also requires a photo be taken every time a child is recovered from a run episode.  

The information gathered from the debriefing interview is used to determine the child’s need for further services, to assess safety and well-being concerns, to determine high risk behaviors, and to identify potential placements and/or assess the need for a change in placement. Case Managers must complete this form while interviewing the child – the child is not supposed to fill the form in. The Debriefing is meant to be a process of in-depth communication with the child to let the child know we do care about that child’s wants and needs, to help the child feel safe and feel like we are listening to him/her. If the child has medical or other immediate needs, the Case Manager is to schedule appointments prior to leaving the child. The Case Manager and the child develop an action plan for the child to be available to attend the appointments. This may help prevent this child from running again in the future.

Debriefing forms are reviewed by the Quality Management Specialist (missing person POC) for timeliness and trends. Information is tracked and used to determine areas we can improve systemically, as well as possible ways to better serve the individual child (especially frequent runners). It is critical that all items within the form are completed thoroughly to ensure that we get a better picture of how to assist each child.

There is a section at the end of the Runaway Debriefing form for Case Managers and the child to use to detail the needed follow up tasks. These follow up tasks should have deadlines associated with them, and should incorporate the child’s wants and needs.  Most of the time children run to feel like they have some control in their lives and to be with friends. If we are able to get the child to work in cooperation with the team the child’s friends can be assessed and, when possible, cleared for overnight contacts. Working in cooperation with the child helps us in providing Normalcy for the child.

Taking the extra time to show the child we care and to have discussions with the child about the run factors noted in the Debriefing interview will assist us in better serving the child. When possible, the Case Manager can fill the form in after the conversation has taken place so the child feels they have the Case Manager’s undivided attention during the interview.  Afterwards, the Case Manager can review what was written in the form with the child to verify accuracy and obtain the child’s signature.

Newborns or Other New Children in the Household

Child welfare professionals are required to assess any child joining a household that is involved in an active investigation or ongoing services case. This includes the birth of a new child in any focus household. The child welfare professional must complete an assessment in any of the following circumstances:

Ø  A child joins a focus household that is under investigation for allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment or receiving ongoing services.

Ø  A child will be residing in the home of the parent/significant caregiver receiving ongoing case management services. “Resides” means that the child will live in a home on a permanent basis including any timesharing custody agreements

 Checklist Before Baby is Born:

· Pre-birth assessment, completed within six months of the due date via FFA-O or Progress Update.

· Supervisor Consult, to review pre-birth assessment.

· Other Parent Home Assessment, if there is a non-maltreating parent to whom the baby will be released.

· Multidisciplinary Staffing, with the parents, grandparents (if the parent is a minor), GAL, current caregivers, appropriate others. If one parent is non-offending, their OPHA must be done prior to the staffing.

· CLS Staffing, with Case Management (supervisor must be present if CM is not fully certified), GAL, and Lead Agency. Prior to Staffing CM must complete a pre-birth assessment and an OPHA.

 Checklist After Baby is Born / a New Child Enters the Home

· Re-evaluate the current safety plan to determine any need for changes and implement as necessary. This must be done before a newborn is discharged from the hospital.

· CM must inform GAL of any changes made to the safety plan.

· CM must complete an edit request so that the baby can be added to the FSFN case.

· FFA-O or Progress Update must be completed within 14 business days of the child’s birth or a new child arriving.

· Determine need for Child Placement Agreement if there is an out-of-home safety plan in place.

· Re-assess In-Home Safety Analysis Questions and update Conditions for Return as appropriate.

· CLS Staffing, with Case Management (supervisor must be present if CM is not fully certified), GAL, and Lead Agency. Prior to Staffing CM must complete an FFA-O or Progress Update and an OPHA.

 Pre-Birth Assessment

Document pre-birth assessment information in the FFA-Ongoing or Progress Update, whichever is due.

  • Child Functioning. As age appropriate, what are the feelings expressed by the child about having a new baby in home?

  • Adult Functioning.

  • Parenting/Behavior Management.

  • A supervisor consultation will be provided prior to the approval of the FFA-Ongoing or Progress Update to determine if a pre-birth assessment, newborn child assessment, or new child assessment is incorporated.

Post-Birth / Arrival of New Child Assessment

The FFA-Ongoing or Progress Update will provide the following information.

  • Child Functioning / newborn:

Ø  Was the child born full-term?

Ø  Was the newborn within a healthy weight range?

Ø  Was the child substance-exposed at birth? If so, what were the effects?

Ø  What are the ongoing possible effects that the newborn’s parent(s) or caregivers should monitor?

  • Child Functioning / new child:

Ø  Who are the new child’s parents? Why is the new child in the home? How much time is the new child spending in the focus household?

Ø  Has the new child been diagnosed with any special needs or conditions that require special care and/or ongoing medical monitoring?

Ø  Does the child have any behaviors that require a Child Placement Agreement

  • Adult Functioning / newborn  (unless it was already done in FFA-Ongoing or a Progress Update as the result of a pre-birth assessment)

Ø  What are the parent(s)’ current concerns, if any?

Ø   What is the plan for the mother’s post-natal care? Are there any barriers to accessing post-natal care?

Ø  Does mother have any symptoms of “baby blues” or post-partum depression

  • Adult Functioning / new child:

Ø  How has the care of the new child affected daily household routines and responsibilities of significant caregivers in the home?

Ø  Are adults able to provide or access necessary housing and resources to care for the new child?

Ø  Do the parent/significant caregiver have any history that is of concern regarding the safety of the mother or the new child? Is there any history of family violence? If yes, are there any current indicators of family violence or a perpetrator’s pattern of coercive control?

Ø  Does the parent/caregiver have a current or past history of mental illness or substance use disorder?

Ø  Is either parent/caregiver taking prescribed medications for a substance use disorder or other mental health disorder? If yes, who prescribes the medication?

Ø  Is a parent with a prior substance abuse history currently prescribed with pain medication (e.g., mother prescribed Oxycodone because of a C-Section)?

Ø  Is a parent currently receiving mental health or substance abuse treatment?

Ø  Is a parent being drug-tested by a substance abuse treatment provider?

  • Parenting/Behavior Management / newborn

Ø  Were there any concerns raised by hospital staff about the infant and mother-child interactions? Were any concerns raised about siblings or other persons visiting?

Ø  Is there shared agreement among all household members as to how to care for the new child?

Ø  If there is a parent in a separate household, what are the visitation or shared custody arrangements? If the parent is a non-maltreating parent, has a home study been completed and approved?

Ø  How has the care of the new child affected the care and supervision of other children in the home?

Ø  If the new child has special needs, is the parent/caregiver able to address those needs?

Ø  How has care of the new child affected family dynamics or conditions?

Ø  Do the caregivers need additional services or supports?

  • Update the Safety Analysis to determine whether the criteria for an in-home safety plan are met. As appropriate, the case manager will review and update, or create, Conditions for Return.

  • For Progress Updates:

ü  Is the parent/significant caregiver is making progress towards achieving the outcomes in the case plan?

ü  What is the impact of the new child on parent’s ability to continue participation in services.

ü  Describe any changes in the family’s change strategies.

ü  Determine whether any modifications to case plan outcomes, tasks, and services are necessary.

Background Screens

There are different types of background checks.  It is important to ensure the appropriate background screen is requested for the specific case need, based on Florida Statute, and therefore can not be used interchangeably.

Important Note:  Anytime you do a background check for placement, you are to complete the FSFN Unified Home Study, and enter the results of the background check into the FSFN Provider Record. 

1. Local law & abuse checks **NO FINGER PRINTS REQUIRED**

This type of screening is suitable for the following needs:

  • Unsupervised Contact – includes non judicial home

  • Babysitting

  • Case Closure

  • Re-license yearly check for licensed foster home

2. State (FCIC), local law & abuse checks **NO FINGERPRINTS REQUIRED**

This type of screening is suitable for the following needs:

  • Reunification

  • Planned/Emergency Placement youth ages 12-17

  • Adoption (initial & 90 day) /Licensed foster home (initial & 5 year) FDLE youth ages 12-17

3. National (NCIC), State (FCIC), local law & abuse checks

**FINGER PRINTS ARE REQUIRED**

This type of screening is suitable for the following needs:

  • Planned/Emergency Placement or household members of a placement – includes *New* household member to non-judicial home.

    • Non-Custodial Parent

    • Relative

    • Non-Relative

  • **Family-Made Arrangement (No removal / shelter) *Safety Plan*

  • **Safety Provider*Safety Plan*

  • **Initial Adoption – second sets are taken for 90 day re-screen (if warranted).

  • Frequent visitor to placement home (visitor who is in home consistently on a regular basis)

  • **New Licensed Foster home/ 5 year re-screen

  • **Licensed Foster home babysitter-Licensing determines and advises subject to be finger printed.

  • Household member of reunifying household (relative/non-relative **not parent**)

  • Other child safety concern

** Even though placements, adoption, foster care licensing, Family-Made arrangement and Safety Provider background screens all require finger prints- they cannot be used interchangeably due to Florida statue specification guidelines

PLEASE NOTE: All 3 types include out of state criminal checks if the resources are available to BSU for identified state that subject has resided in.

PLEASE PLAN AHEAD!   All requests are given a 2 week turnaround time. Any screens that are needed before the 2 week date must be approved as urgent or emergency by a supervisor, and communicated to BSUHELP through one of the following: phone, email, or face to face.

 

Incarcerated Parents Case Planning

Statutory changes and new provisions enacted by the 2018 Florida Legislature affect our case management responsibilities for incarcerated parents.  Chapter 39 updates include how to engage incarcerated parents, case plan development including incarcerated parents, and offering available services while incarcerated and are outlined below.  

Changes to F.S. 39.621 include:

• When parents are incarcerated or become incarcerated, the Department shall obtain information from the facility where they reside to determine how they can participate in the preparation and completion of the Case Plan and receive services.

• An incarcerated parent must be given the regulations of the facility where he/she resides and the services available at the facility.

• The Department must attach a list of all services available at the facility to the Case Plan. If the facility does not have a list of available services, the Department must note the unavailability of the list in the Case Plan.

• The incarcerated parent must comply with the facility procedures and policies to access services or maintain contact with his/her children as provided in the Case Plan.

• If a parent becomes incarcerated after a Case Plan has been developed, the parties must move to amend the Case Plan if the incarceration has an impact on permanency for the child including, but not limited to:

           − Modification of provision regarding visitation and contact with the child

           − Identification of services within the facility

           − Changing the permanency goal or establishing a concurrent goal

• A parent’s services must be assessed upon release, if the Case Plan has not expired.

• If the parent was unable to participate in services, the Department must include a full explanation of the circumstances surrounding non-participation and state the nature of the Department’s efforts to secure participation.

Case Management responsibilities:

• Case Managers need to coordinate with Children’s Legal Services and other parties to ensure participation of the incarcerated parent in the development of the Case Plan.

• Upon completing the Family Functioning Assessment-Ongoing and developing the Case Plan Worksheet, Case Managers must send a notification/introduction letter to the parent(s) notifying them of their assignment and contact information.

• Case Managers also must send a letter to the assigned correctional institution introducing themselves and their role and asking the Classification Officer to respond via e-mail with their contact information. The email will be marked “Attention Classification Department”.

• When a parent is incarcerated, Case Managers need to identify the appropriate services and classes for the parent in order to make recommendations to the court regarding tasks that should be included in the parent’s Case Plan. The Florida Department of Correction’s website has information about programs and services that are available, such as mental health treatment, substance abuse counseling, parenting classes, and anger management, and can be accessed at the various correctional institutions by the parent(s).

• Upon obtaining a verified list of available services, Case Managers need to ensure the list is attached to the copy of the Case Plan filed with the courts.

• A copy of the Case Plan must be provided to the incarcerated parent. A copy can be provided via mail, e-mail, or provided through the assigned attorney.

• Case Managers need to familiarize themselves with s. 39.6011 (1)(a), F.S. and HB 281.

Important

The incarcerated parent’s information can be located on the Florida Department of Correction’s website: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/ Click on “Offender Search” to locate their Department of Corrections’ number and the address of the assigned correctional institution.

Information on parents incarcerated outside of the state of Florida can be found using Vinelink at https://www.vinelink.com/#/home