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.

WATCH Nurse Case Management

Nurse Case Management:

  • WATCH provides RN case management for all children in judicial out-of-home care (licensed foster care, relatives & non-relatives) sheltered from Sarasota, Manatee & Desoto Counties.
  • Upon notification of removal, the RN verifies that a 72hour well exam has been scheduled and completed; the RN will assist with coordination when applicable.
  • For children >3yrs, RN will check for recent Medicaid dental claims & document in FSFN (upon enrollment only).
  • RN will track and document vaccine compliance in FSFN; a copy of the child’s updated FL Shots record will be printed and sent to Records Room to be scanned into ASK.
  • RN will track and document well exam compliance in FSFN (per AAP guidelines); records will be requested and sent to Records Room to be scanned into ASK.
  • Upon review of medical records, the WATCH RN will follow-up on all medical recommendations
  • Upon confirmation of medical follow-up, the WATCH RN will request and review records; medical history will be documented in FSFN and the medical records will be sent to ASK
  • RN will help facilitate a Children Medical Services (CMS) referral for children that may be clinically eligible.
  • RN will review CBHA reports and follow-up on any medical recommendations.
  • RN will call caregiver at closure (reunification, adoption, permanent guardianship, transfer to independent living) to assist with any applicable transition needs.

Key Relationships/Key Functions

  • WATCH acts as a key medical resource for the caregiver and the case management staff.
  • The WATCH RN helps to meet the 72hour EPSDT requirement by

-                           working with the caregiver to identify and establish funding (Medicaid in                                     most cases),

-                           helping to identify the existing Primary Care Physician (PCP),

-                           helping to liaison with the PCP’s office if there is a lack of current funding or                                 if the child has been seen by the PCP recently,

-                           helping to arrange for transportation as needed,

-                           researching FLMMIS for past medical claims (including medications), and

-                           forwarding medical information to PCP if available.

  • The WATCH RN documents ALL medical follow-up in FSFN (from time of removal to the child’s closure to WATCH).
  • The WATCH RN identifies clinical eligibility for CMS and makes referrals as needed.
  • The WATCH RN will forward any mental health/dental information to the case manager.
  • If the child is an existing CMS patient, the WATCH RN supervisor will act as a liaison between the CMS RN case manager and the Coalition case worker.

Please remember:

·        Notify the WATCH RN of ALL upcoming medical appointments (FSFN will be updated after the appointment is attended; records will be requested).

·        Give all incoming medical records for children in out-of-home care to the WATCH RN; FSFN will be updated and records will be sent to ASK.

Speech, Language, and Hearing Milestones For Young Children

This tip provides a brief overview of some speech, language and hearing milestones for young children.  The children we serve have varying levels of development.  It is important to understand what age the various milestones should be occurring; so we are able to provide services for those who may have delays in one or many areas.  The chart below outlines a few of the milestones.  Go to www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart.htm for a more complete chart of milestones.

Birth–6 months

Startle to loud sounds. Respond to changes in tone of your voice.

Moves eyes in direction of sounds

Cry differently for different needs. Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including p, b and m.


7–12 months

Enjoy games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake. Recognize words for common items like “shoe,” “book,” Begins to respond to requests

Imitates different speech sounds. Use gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms to be picked up).


12–24 months (1-2 years)

Follow simple directions and understand simple questions (“Roll the ball,” “Kiss the baby,” “Where’s your shoe?”). Point to pictures in a book when named.

Say more words every month.  Uses one or two word questions.  Puts two words together (“more cookie,” “no juice,” “mommy book”).


24–36 months (2–3 years)

Understands differences in meaning (“go-stop,” “in-on,” “big-little,” “up-down”). Follow two requests (“Get the book and put it on the table.”).

Uses two or three words to talk about and ask for things. Speech is understood by familiar listeners most of the time.


36–48 months (3–4 years)

Hears you when you call from another room. Answer simple who, what, where, and why questions.

People outside of the family usually understand child’s speech. Use a lot of sentences that have four or more words.


48–60 months (4–5 years)

Pays attention to a short story and answer simple questions about it. Hear and understand most of what is said at home and in school.

Communicates easily with other children and adults. Use sentences that give lots of details (e.g., “The biggest peach is mine.”).

Source: Adapted from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. How Does Your Child Hear and Talk? Available at www.asha.org/public/speech/development/chart.htm .


Adoption Matching

Although a formal adoption placement can not be made until after the child is legally free for adoption; efforts can and should be made to place a child and siblings in their forever home as soon as possible.  Many studies and our own statistics show, if we wait until a parent’s rights are terminated to begin recruiting – we delay permanency for the child by years.  Children need stability and with that stability comes functionality.  Without expedited permanency children will struggle to establish bonds for the rest of their lives.  Every placement decision must take into account the likelihood of adoption becoming a concurrent or primary goal.

Ideally the child is placed with a caregiver who will be willing to care for that child and all of the siblings forever.  A way to ensure there is a positive transition is to include the caregiver (whether relative or foster parent) and the parents in the team planning process from the start.  Many times if the parent has established a bond with the caregiver; and the parent is not able to get through the case plan successfully; that parent may sign surrenders to the child or children.  This expedites the process and leads to quicker permanency for the child.

It is extremely important to place siblings together, and when this is not immediately possible on-going diligence to place siblings together is needed.  The same applies to seeking out relative and non-relative caregivers for the children.  A relative finder request should be initiated immediately and updated at least every 6 months.  Every relative listed is a possible placement, and when they are not suitable or willing to care for the children, often those relatives and friends can provide 10-15 more leads for a possible permanent home for the children.

It is the case manager’s, placement specialist’s, parent’s, and SCC staff’s responsibility to use diligence in a match process early in the case and to work on targeted recruitment for harder to place children.

When looking at ‘matching’ children with a family, it is important to remember that “many biological children do not share the interests and talents of their parents, and biological siblings, although often sharing some common interests and talents, have talents and interests of their own. “…Professionals see the prospective parent’s commitment to parenting” as the critical factor in successful long term placements or adoptions. (adoptuskids.org)

“In most cases, because children enter foster care on an emergency basis, they are placed with foster families on the basis of availability. Although foster parents may specify the characteristics of children whom they would like to foster and they can decline to accept placement of children who do not meet these criteria, many foster parents open their homes to children whom they did not originally envision fostering. And, many of these foster families go on to adopt children who would not have been a “match” based on the foster parents’ initial thoughts about the children who would be a “good fit” with their families.” (adoptuskids.org)

Selecting a family for a child is a thoughtful decision-making process, requiring insight, foresight and team cooperation by professionals and family members right from the start.  Whenever possible including the prospective caregivers and/or adoptive families and the children themselves in placement decision making will aide in ensuring placement stability.

Domestic Violence – Pre-Incident Indicators

This tip lists reliable pre-incident indicators associated with spousal violence developed by Gavin De Becker.  De Becker states if there are several of these indicators occurring there is cause for concern. For this reason, when working with the families we serve, it is important to be aware of them and to document any of the indicators observed.

š When the potential victim has intuitive feelings of being at risk.

š In the beginning of the relationship the potential batterer accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on the agenda things such as commitment, living together or marriage.

š The potential batterer resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying or violence.

š The potential batterer is verbally abusive.

š The potential batterer uses threats and intimidation to control or abuse. This includes threats of harm, defamation, embarrassment, abandonment and restricting freedom.

š The potential batterer breaks or strikes things in anger.  Also using symbolic violence like ripping photographs.

š The potential batterer has a history of battering.

š The potential batterer uses alcohol or drugs with adverse effects such as memory loss, hostility or cruelty.

š The potential batterer uses alcohol or drugs as an excuse or explanation for the hostile conduct.

š The potential batterer has a history of encounters with the police for behavioral offenses.

š The potential batterer uses money to control the activities, purchases and behavior of the potential victim.

š The potential batterer becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes the potential victim’s time away from the relationship and keeps a ‘tight leash’ on the potential victim.

š The potential batterer refuses to accept rejection.

š The potential batterer expects the relationship to go on forever.

š The potential batterer projects extreme emotions onto others (hate, love, jealousy) even when there is no evidence to warrant it.

š The potential batterer minimizes incidents of abuse.

š The potential batterer derives their own identity from the potential victim.

š The potential batterer has stalked the potential victim.

š The potential batterer believes others are out to get them.

š The potential batterer resists change and is described as inflexible, unwilling to compromise.

š The potential batterer identifies with and compares themselves to violent people in films, news stories, fiction or history characterizing the violence as justified.

š The potential batterer suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry or depressed.

š The potential batterer consistently blames others for problems of their own making, refusing to take responsibility for the results of their actions.

š The potential batterer refers to weapons as instruments of power, control, or revenge.

š The potential batterer has or talks about guns and collects weapons.

š The potential batterer makes all the decisions in the house and acts like the master.

š The potential batterer has experienced or witnessed child violence.

š The potential victim fears they will be injured or killed by the potential batterer.



Seizures, Signs and Responses

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. It usually affects how a person appears or acts for a short time. Many different things can occur during a seizure. Some people function normally during a seizure. Typically, a seizure will last no more than five minutes. Often, people will have partial seizures where they remain standing and/or sitting but appear to have “faded out.” This is often mistaken for drug or alcohol use. Children can suffer from partial seizures as well as adults. Sometimes, these children are diagnosed with ADHD (Keen, S., 2015).

What can cause a seizure?

A number of things can elicit a seizure. Stress, being hungry or too hot, sleep deprivation and flashing lights are some of the top origins for seizure onset.

When should you call Emergency Medical Services/911?

You should contact EMS/911 if the person is pregnant, diagnosed with diabetes, this is their first seizure, they have injured themselves or if another seizure occurs soon after the first one ends.

What to do when someone has a seizure?

  1. Help the person to the ground.
  2. Move away objects that could cause injury.
  3. Loosen tight clothing (i.e. a necktie)
  4. Turn them on their side.
  5. DO NOT hold them down.
  6. Place something soft under their head to prevent injury.
  7. DO NOT put anything in their mouth to hold down their tongue. This is dangerous to the person experiencing the seizure as well as to you!

Epilepsy Services Locally:

Epilepsy Services of Southwest Florida (ESSWF) serves eight counties from Bradenton to Naples. ESSWF provides healthcare to adults without insurance who are diagnosed with seizures/epilepsy. Services include neurology, case management and medications.

Case Plan – SMART Outcomes

What are SMART outcomes?  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.  Case Plan Outcomes should relate to identified diminished caregiver protective capacities, and should describe a behavior, way of thinking or methods for managing feelings that must change.  Outcomes must meet the SMART criteria and express positively the desired change.

Outcomes include who and what

·        The person responsible: (WHO)

·        The action or behavior - What he/she must do to: (WHAT)

o   The outcome should clearly describe the way in which the individual will either behave, think, or manage feelings in order for a child to be considered safe in their care.

Meeting outcomes

·        The tasks under each outcome are steps towards meeting the case plan outcome.

·        Tasks include the services for parents and children that help bring about the change required.

·        Tasks are specific and their effectiveness should be evaluated based on the progress made toward the outcome.

Some words to avoid when writing outcomes

Successful completion

o   Changing behavior is more than completing a program.

o   Define behavioral changes that will occur as a result of completing the tasks.


o   State what is meant by “stable” employment

o   Part-time? Full-time? For how long?


o   Is subject to interpretation.

o   Instead, work out with the client the behaviors necessary to reduce risk. 


o   Is subject to interpretation.

o   Instead, state specifics of what is meant: (i.e. adequate housing means two-bedroom apartment with running water).


o   “As soon as possible” is not a timeframe.

o   Instead, state the number of days, weeks,  timeframes specifically


o   Is not a timeframe.

o   Instead, choose a target date when the outcome will be evaluated or completed.


Department of Juvenile Justice Involvement


Florida Administrative Code states, “for a child in custody of the department who is also receiving services through the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), service provision shall be coordinated efficiently and effectively by the two departments”.  It is critical to have frequent communications with DJJ and to actively participate in transition planning for the child to ensure successful intervention services. 

The Case Manager has additional responsibilities when a child under supervision is involved with DJJ.  The Case Manager MUST:

Ø  Maintain at least monthly contact with the DJJ facility contact and/or Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) to obtain current status, service, and sanction information.

Ø  Communicate with the parents and ensure they are involved in the planning process and kept informed of the child’s status, if the parent’s rights have not been terminated.

Ø  Attend and participate in all case staffings, commitment staffings, release staffings, transition planning, or court hearings for/with the child.

Ø  Collaborate with DJJ/JPO, parents/caregivers, Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and the child to develop a plan that will ensure the child’s needs are met.

Ø  Provide the name, address, and phone number of the child’s caregivers and any other needed information to DJJ/JPO.

Ø  Obtain copies of all case planning, pre-disposition reports, assessments and other documents from DJJ/JPO for filing with dependency court and placement in the case file.

Ø  Ensure the child is receiving Independent Living Skills (IL) training and services while involved with the DJJ/JPO, provided by either DJJ or SCC.  This information should be shared between CM and IL worker ongoing.

Ø  Coordinate with DJJ/JPO to schedule the child for the DJJ Comprehensive Behavioral Health Assessment (CBHA), arrange transportation to the assessment and obtain copies of the CBHA once it is completed.

Ø  Coordinate mental health and/or substance abuse treatment and services not provided by DJJ/JPO. Ensure the child receives the needed services and they are incorporated into the child’s case plan.

Ø  Create visitation plans with the child, parents (if applicable) and DJJ/JPO that state who is allowed to visit with the child and who the child is allowed to speak with by telephone when the child is in detention or a commitment program.

Ø  Participate in transition planning with the DJJ/JPO to ensure the child has a place to go when released from a DJJ program or detention.

Ø  Document all contacts made with the DJJ/JPO or other providers in FSFN within 48 hours of the contact.

If efforts to communicate with DJJ/JPO are not responded to timely,  the Case Manager’s Supervisor must be notified. If the Supervisor is not able to get a response or the needed information, a written request for service and sanction must be made to the DJJ Chief Probation Officer or the Chief Officer at the detention or commitment program.

Interpreter Services


As required by contract and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), persons who need assistance due to being deaf, hard of hearing or with limited English proficiency, have the right to accommodations which will facilitate communication.  The Florida Department of Children and Families and contracted providers are required to provide FREE interpreters and other communication assistance for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. (under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) settlement agreement, interpreters for the deaf or hard of hearing are required to be certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf)

Appropriate auxiliary aids and services must be furnished, where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities. Such auxiliary aids and services may include: qualified sign language or oral interpreters, note takers, computer-assisted real time transcription services, written materials, telephone handset amplifiers, assistive listening devices, assistive listening systems, phones compatible with hearing aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, videotext displays, and TTYs.

The best way to determine if any type of interpreter services are needed, is to ask.  Do not try to guess what the needs of the person being served may be.  There are a variety of services available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.  There are also guidelines requiring the use of certified interpreters under certain circumstances.

Accommodations which may be used by those who are deaf or hard of hearing include:

Florida Relay Services - telecommunications

Interpreter Services - in person communication

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) - an interpreter documents what is said for the deaf or hard of hearing person so they have a record of information discussed.  This is not a legal document.

Voice Over Communication - an operator will type the information being relayed by the hearing party and the deaf or hard of hearing party will respond verbally

Video Relay Service - the deaf or hard of hearing party will use a sign language interpreter to convey what the hearing part is saying and will translate verbally to the hearing party when the deaf or hard of hearing person is speaking

Video Remote Interpreter - an interpreter will provide verbal and sign language communication between the parties.

Accommodations for those who have limited English proficiency must include:

  1. A person who is fluent in both written and verbal communication of the language being used.
  2. A person who does not have a conflict of interest.  If a party insists on using a friend or relative to interpret, we must still have an interpreter present who does not present a conflict of interest.

Before setting up these services, always consult with your agency Point of Contact (POC) for Interpreter Services.

Closing Case Management Services

According to the Council on Accreditation (COA) closing a case is a ‘planned, orderly process’.   Throughout the life of the case, documentation of on-going assessment and planning supports the decision to close out services when that time comes.  This tip briefly touches on the very complex and important processes of case closure. 

A formal family-centered closure staffing that includes input from all parties to the case, any tribal affiliates and all provider agencies must be held for all cases.  During the staffing, case progression and obstacles that remain are discussed.  A transition plan for closure is developed that addresses services still needed, available resources and emergency services. 

If closure is contested or there are any concerns all parties must be present at the staffing. If closure is uncontested written recommendations are required.

Court ordered cases can not be closed unless the child has reached age 18, or the court has authorized the closure and the child has been stable with the same caregiver for at least 6 months.  If risk factors remain after those 6 months of supervision the case should be staffed for extending the supervision longer, with details of the concerns needing resolution.  When it is a court ordered case, the case management agency must request the extension of supervision be approved by the Court.  (NOTE:  There are some instances when a child is released to a non-offending parent that this 6 month period is reduced.)

Prior to staffing for closure, a case closure checklist is completed by the case manager and submitted with the staffing packet and supporting documentation to the supervisor for approval.  The case manager must determine if there is an open protective investigation and whether any have occurred within the 6 months prior.  Background screens must be updated on all household members, any needed visitation and safety plans must be developed and a Progress Update must be completed.

Case Management must ensure that all follow ups from the case closure staffing are completed in a timely manner to ensure the family has all the resources and supports necessary to maintain a safe and healthy household.

The case manager must prepare a termination summary or a Judicial Review Social Summary Report that addresses the initial reason for involvement with case management, progress made toward resolving issues that resulted in intervention, current status of safety, explanation case plan outcomes that were met and those that were not, aftercare planning efforts, and the reason closure of services is being requested. (FAC 65C-30.022)

For court order in-home supervision, supervision shall not be terminated until authorized by court order.

All case activities, staffings, plans, events and contacts are documented in the Florida Safe Families Network (FSFN) within 48 hours

Case Plan Tasks

Case Plan –Tasks

What are Tasks and who is responsible?

  • Tasks are the services, activities, and/or steps to achieve the outcome.
  • Tasks directly relate to a diminished caregiver protective capacity or factor contributing to the need for an open case.
  • Tasks must be related to allegations in the Dependency Petition.   
  • Tasks are needed for each offending parent (non-offending parents should only have tasks when it is ordered by the Court).
  • When appropriate, include specific tasks and/or services for the children (i.e. CBHA Recommendations, IL, SIJS)

Tasks must be Specific and Measureable

  • State who will do what, when, how often, where, and how it will be measured.
    • Who is responsible?
    • What behavior/action is to be accomplished?
    • When will it be performed?
    • Where it will be done?
    • How often?
  • Tasks are to be clear, realistic, and achievable.
  • Task must be measureable (frequency, duration, intensity)
    • When the task is to begin
    • Frequency of that behavior (how often the behavior is to occur)
    • Duration of the behavior (how long and when it ends)
    • Intensity (how well, how much)


  • Include the type, frequency, location, and phone number of services and the name of the person responsible.

Sequence Tasks Logically

  • Use small incremental steps (tasks) to achieve the outcome so the family can experience success.
  • Give a timeframe for each task and stagger the timeframes so tasks are achievable and not overwhelming to the family.
  • Put the tasks in order for which ones needed to be completed first or before other tasks can begin.

How do you measure outcome achievement?

  • Frequency and duration of visitations
  • Random urine analysis
  • Observation of interaction between children and parents during visitation
  • Psychological evaluation report
  • Following through on recommendations
  • Reports from providers

Social Media Challenge & Safety

Social Media Challenge & Safety

Many of us participate in social networking sites online such as Facebook and Twitter. These sites are beneficial in establishing, maintaining and developing friendships and networking. While you can make new friends through social networking sites, you may also be exposed to embarrassing situations and people who have bad intentions, such as hackers, criminals and predators.  Another thing to consider is the social work profession and who may be seeking you out on these social network sites.  Some situations are fairly cut and dried: for example, a client who sends the social worker a Facebook friend request. Most social workers agree that they would never accept it. But other situations present more room for debate. It is also important for us to consider personal-professional boundaries and our online presence and to be able to look at the challenges that our online presence poses for us.  We need to ensure that our social media habits do not violate co-workers/clients privacy, confidentiality or pose a conflict of interest for us professionally.

Some ways to protect yourself:

§   Provide very little demographic and financial information. Use a nick name instead of your full name. Keep your address, date of birth, income level and other information that could be used to steal your identity private.

§   Use different passwords for your financial and work accounts than your social networking accounts. Also if you use pet names as passwords, do not state the pet names in your social networking site.

§   Post only information that you would be ok if aired on the 6 O’clock News. Employers, family, friends, co-workers, clients etc all are able to search these social networking sites. Never post confidential information that you do not want others to access. Even when a post is deleted, it could still be accessed or obtained with the appropriate court orders. These social networking sites (just like businesses) maintain back up copies and also have the ability to retain history of posts, even when deleted by the user.

§   Be selective about who is accepted as a ‘friend’ and given access to your postsBeware of the criminals or clients that also use social networking sites.  Use the ‘Settings’ or “Security”’ options to restrict others access to your information.

§   Read the fine print when completing social networking fun quizzes and activities. Many of these ‘apps’ provide your personal information to others and you give them permission to do so by taking the quiz or playing the game.

§   Before opening attachments or downloading things, think twice. Many can contain viruses or can install applications on your computer that will steal your personal information such as passwords and account numbers.

§   Ensure you have a good anti-virus program that scans for not only viruses, but also spyware.

§   Make sure you have a firewall set to prevent access to your computer that is not authorized

§   Never state where you are employed. Limit use of social networking sites to personal use. Do not write about work issues. Always assume everyone in the world will be able to see what you’re writing even if the site limits your post to your friends exclusively.

§   If you do wish to upload your pictures, make sure they are appropriate. Pictures where you are fooling around or drinking with your friends won’t leave a good impression on your potential hiring employer. If your friends upload such pictures and you have been tagged, request them to take those pictures down or crop you out.

§   These days many employers or clients look at social networking sites when hiring a potential employee or making a deal with new business. In times like today when every other person is on the internet, chances are that you will share your name with somebody else. And that simple deed of sharing a name might cost you your contract or job.

§   If you are being harassed or find inappropriate content, reporting the offenses to the social networking site’s security can help alleviate the issue.

Discuss social networking guidelines and safety with the youth and families we serve. 

Quality Management sets the pace for consistency, clarity, and change.




Legal Services and Case Management Collaboration

Legal Services and Case Management Collaboration

Case Management (CM) staff and Legal Services - Children’s Legal Service (CLS) work in collaboration to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of the children served by Community Based Care.  In order to have a productive working relationship, communication is critical.

Some ways to improve communication are:

·   Build trust and respect by being consistent and communicative.

·   Listen to the other’s viewpoint.

·   Develop mutual respect by learning about each other’s roles and job responsibilities and backgrounds.

·   Develop teamwork by reaching mutually satisfactory decisions.

·   Submit legal documents timely with qualitative and in depth content.

·   Clarify legal opinions for proceeding versus case management practice.

·   Discuss why the legal guidance is being sought and what legal perspectives impact the case management decisions.

·   Return phone calls promptly, ask questions, address differences of opinion professionally.

·   Recognize that CLS is sometimes constrained from complying with requests due to the Rules of Professional Conduct governing members of the Florida Bar and ask for an explanation if a request is denied.

·   Ensure that CLS is informed of any changes that may take place in the case prior to a hearing.

When there is active communication in which all parties are genuine, honest and empathetic many conflicts can be avoided.  CLS and CM have different roles. If agreement can not be reached between the CM and the CLS assigned to the case:

·   The CM Supervisor (CMS) should be immediately notified.

·   The CMS, CM Organization (CMO) Managers, SCC Child Welfare Specialist (CWS), and CLS Managing Attorney consult on the issue – after this consult a Multi-Disciplinary Staffing (MDS) may be held with all parties to the case to try to come to an agreement.

·   If there is still no resolution, CMO Managers, SCC Director of Child Welfare Operations and the CLS Managing Attorney consult on the issue. If they are unable to resolve the issues, the YMCA Vice President of CBC Operations, DCF Family Safety Program Office and the CLS Regional Director will be asked to become involved.  As a last resort, the issue may be elevated to the DCF Regional Director for resolution.




Relative/Non-Relative Placement Process


Once a potential Relative/Non-Relative Caregiver (RCG/NRCG) has been identified as a possible placement option for the child, the following is to be completed by the Case Manager:

Step 1 Background Check - The Case Manager will provide the RCG/NRCG with the telephone number to schedule an appointment to be fingerprinted.  Fingerprints are mandatory for all placements.  All household members and frequent visitors of a RCG/NRCG placement age 18 years or older are required to be fingerprinted.  Abuse Hotline and local and state criminal and juvenile records checks for all household members/frequent visitors 12 years or older in the caregiver’s home.  Fingerprints are obtained at the Safe Children Coalition by the Background Screening Unit (BSU). 

Step 2 Review Results of Background Check - If the local, state, or federal criminal history check reveals any of the felony convictions described in 39.0138, F.S. (Child abuse, abandonment, or neglect; domestic violence; child pornography or other felony in which a child was a victim of the offense; or homicide, sexual battery or other felony involving violence, other than felony assault or felony battery when an adult was the victim of the assault or battery.  The department may not place a child with a person other than a parent if the criminal history records check reveals that the person has, within the previous 5 years, been convicted of a felony that falls within any of the following categories: Assault; Battery; or A Drug-Related Offense.), the placement is disqualified and a child cannot be placed into that caregivers’ home. In some cases, the court can overrule a disqualification.   

Step 3 Conduct the Home Study - The Case Manager will schedule a date and time to complete the Home Study with the potential caregiver in their home.  The Home Study assessment requires interviews with caregivers to assess their ongoing commitment/ability to care for the child on a long term basis, record checks on all household members and frequent visitors 12 years of age or older, an assessment of the financial security of the proposed legal custodians, assessment of the caregivers’ ability and willingness to protect the child when the perpetrator access is possible, information that is thorough and supports that the child’s safety and well-being have been adequately addressed.  Also included in the Home Study assessment are the child’s feelings regarding the placement (if age appropriate), physical inspection & description of the home, degree of relation (relative or non-relative), attachment to the child, capacity to parent, family members attitude about placement, willingness to work with the agency, and if they desire to participate in Relative/Non-Relative Caregiver Program.

Step 4 Request that the Caregiver be Created as a Provider in FSFN - The Case Manager will need to request an Out-of-Home FSFN Provider via SCC Portal.  Request is to include all of the demographic information of the RCG/NRCG(s) including martial status, first and last name, gender, race, ethnicity, date of birth, social security number, address and telephone number.  Data services will search for the provider in FSFN and if not found will create the provider in FSFN and assign the provider to the Case Manager.  The Case Manager will be able to view the provider under the “Providers” expando on their FSFN desk top.

Step 5 Enter the Home Study into the FSFN Unified Home Study and Send to be approved by Court - Once the home study is approved by the Case Manager and the Case Manager Supervisor, the Home Study is to be entered into FSFN, signed, then filed with the Court.  A copy of the court approved Home Study with the completed signature page is to be given to the records room for scanning into the ASK file. 

Step 6 Move the Child to the New Placement - When the court approves the placement Home Study, the Case Manager is to complete an edit request for placement change in SCC Portal within 24 hours of the placement change occurring.   

Social Security Benefits for a Child


The Social Security (SS) Office is where you can apply for a SS card, SS benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), medical insurance, hospital insurance protection, and extra help with Medicare Prescription costs for the children we serve.  Adults can access the same benefits, as well as check on earning records and receive assistance in applying for food stamps.  The SS Office provides full information about individual and family rights and obligations under the law.  There is no charge for the services.

Which Children are eligible?

If we have a child in out of home care and that child’s parent or grandparent (that was the primary provider for the child) has earned wages and paid into social security; that child may be eligible for benefits.  Any dependent child of a wage earner who is retired, disabled, or deceased is entitled to benefits if the child is unmarried and under age 18 or 18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12) or 18 or older and have a disability that started before age 22.

Normally, benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled.  However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first.

Within the family, each qualified child may receive a monthly payment up to 75% of the parent’s full disability amount, but there is a limit to the amount that can be paid to the family as a whole.  The total varies, but it is approximately 150 to 180 percent of the parent’s disability benefit.

Benefits Case Management should be looking into for our Children

Death:  If the child’s parent or grandparent who was a primary caregiver becomes deceased, that child is eligible to receive death benefits (given that parent/grandparent paid into the SS system through earned wages).  To apply for death benefits at minimum the death certificate and child’s birth certificate are required.

Disability:  SSI was established to provide cash assistance to individuals who have limited income and resources, are age 65 or older, are blind or are disabled.  Children who have a disability or are blind are also eligible.  The child must meet all of the following requirements to be considered disabled and therefore eligible for SSI.  The child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, that result in “marked and severe functional limitations.”  This means that the conditions must very seriously limit the child’s activities.  The child’s conditions must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 12 months; or must be expected to result in death. 

Disability Evaluations are processed through local SS offices and State agencies (Disability Determination Services or DDSs).  SS representatives in the field offices obtain applications for disability benefits in person, by telephone, by mail or by filing online.  The application and related forms ask for a description of the claimant's impairment(s), treatment sources and other information that relates to the alleged disability.

The field office is responsible for verifying non-medical eligibility requirements.  The field office then sends the case to a DDS for evaluation of disability.  After completing its development of the evidence, DDS makes the initial disability determination.  DDS returns the case to the field office for appropriate action.  Appeals of unfavorable determinations may be decided in a DDS or by an administrative law judge in SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

If the child’s application has been denied, the Internet Appeal is a starting point to request a review of the decision about the child’s eligibility for disability benefits.

Applying for Benefits

SS will help you in person or by phone to apply for SS Benefits.  Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Call 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov/locator/ to find your local office.  Even if all of the information that will be needed is not yet known, SS recommends contacting them and they will walk you through applying for any benefits the child (or family) may be eligible for.  The criteria for eligible adults (spouses or parents) are also detailed on the SS website.

The information for this tip was obtained from www.ssa.gov .  There is a wealth of information online about applying for benefits and the various forms.

Autism Spectrum Disorders – Overview and Resources

Autism Spectrum Disorders – Overview and Resources

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are neurological disorders that affect a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, play and relate to others. ASD are “spectrum disorders.”  That means ASD affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.  People with ASD share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction.  But there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms. There are three different types of ASD:

·         Autistic Disorder (also called “classic” autism) This is what most people think of when hearing the word “autism.”  People with autistic disorder usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual disability.

·         Asperger Syndrome
People with Asperger syndrome usually have milder symptoms of autistic disorder.  They might have social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests.  However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.

·         Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PPD-NOS; also called “atypical autism”) People who meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS.  People with PDD-NOS usually have fewer and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder.  The symptoms might cause only social and communication challenges.

Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys; Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Autism Facts, "a doctor should definitely and immediately evaluate a child for autism if he or she:

·         Does not babble or coo by 12 months of age

·         Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months of age

·         Does not say single words by 16 months of age

·         Does not say two-word phrases on his own (just repeats what someone says) by 24  months of age

·         Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age.“

Along with the above symptoms,  the following may be “red flags” that a doctor should evaluate a child for ASD.

  • The child does not respond to his name.
  • The child doesn’t follow directions.
  • At times, the child seems to be deaf.
  • The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.
  • The child throws intense or violent tantrums.
  • The child has odd movement patterns.
  • The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.
  • The child doesn’t know how to play with toys.
  • The child doesn’t smile when smiled at.
  • The child has poor eye contact.
  • The child gets “stuck” on things over and over and can’t move on to other things.
  • The child seems to prefer to play alone.
  • The child gets things for himself only.
  • The child is very independent for his age.
  • The child does things “early” compared to other children.
  • The child seems to be in his “own world.”
  • The child seems to tune people out.
  • The child is not interested in other children.
  • The child walks on his toes.
  • The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants).
  • Child spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order.

Case Managers advocate with the family to ensure a child with a ASD is receiving appropriate medical care andthe most suitable education.  Contacting the Children’s Medical Services (CMS) Social Worker assigned is the first step.

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. For educational placement or follow up contact the school board and request school health services for the child.   Advocating for the child’s rights under Federal Law 94-142 is invaluable in working with the family to ensure a child with a ASD or PDD is getting all of the services needed.

Grandparents Rights to Visit

Grandparents Rights to Visit

Florida Statute 39.509 details grandparents rights to visitation.  A maternal or paternal grandparent / step-grandparent is entitled to reasonable visitation with their grandchild who is adjudicated dependent and in out of home care; unless the Court finds that such visitation is not in the best interest of the child or would interfere with the goals of the case plan.

Grandparents should voice their interest in establishing visitation with the child to the Court and the child welfare agency, as soon as possible after the child is removed from the parent.  The Court considers whether family ties and the best interest of the minor child will be served by granting visitation/contact.  Reasonable visitation may be unsupervised, where appropriate and feasible, and may be frequent and continuing.  It can also include phone calls, emails and letters.  Oversight from the Court for the circumstance and frequency of visitation should be documented.

(1)  Grandparent visitation may take place in the home of the grandparent unless there is a compelling reason for denying such a visitation. The Case Manager arranges the visitation. The grandparent pay for the child's cost of transportation when the visitation is to take place in the grandparent's home. The Case Manager must document in FSFN any reason for the decision to restrict a grandparent's visitation.

(2)  A grandparent can demonstrate appropriate displays of affection to the child. The child must not be denied gifts, cards, and letters from the grandparent and other family members.

(3)  Any attempt by a grandparent to facilitate a meeting between the child and the child's parent, legal custodian, or any other person in violation of a court order automatically terminates future visitation rights of the grandparent.

(4)  When the child has been returned to the physical custody of his or her parent, the grandparent visitation rights are terminated. It is then at the parent’s discretion.

(5)  Termination of Parental Rights does not affect the rights of grandparents unless the Court finds it is not in the best interest of the child or that visitation would interfere with the goals of permanency planning for the child.  If the grandparent have not already established visitation with the child, it may be more difficult to convince the Court to grant visitation rights following Termination of Parental Rights.

(6)  In determining whether grandparent visitation is not in the child's best interest, consideration is given to whether the grandparents have a criminal history involving sexual crimes or violent crimes.  Also the grandparent’s history in relation to child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

Zahid Jones Act - Give Grandparents and Other Relatives a Voice Act

Zahid Jones was born in 2003.  The family was known to DCF for prior allegations of physical abuse of Zahid and his siblings.  Zahid was removed from his mother and placed with a non-relative instead of his grandmother who had been a primary caregiver in the past.  After Zahid was returned home to his mother, the grandmother attempted to alert child welfare professionals and service providers of the imminent danger to Zahid.  Zahid tragically died in May of 2007, murdered at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend

The Zahid Jones, Jr., Give Grandparents and Other Relatives a Voice Act, was established to provide a more effective protocol for the engagement of relatives and to ensure their voice is heard during the investigative and judicial process. It ensures that relatives will be provided notice of all proceedings and hearings.  Statute requires the case plan to describe the case manager’s duty to forward a relative’s request to receive such notification to the DCF Attorney.  The bill also requires caseworkers to contact relatives if parents refuse voluntary services.

Case Management requirements:

  • After commencement of investigation, a relative may submit a request in writing to the CM to receive notification of all proceedings and hearings
  • Request must include relatives name, address, phone number and relationship to the child.
  • Case Plan must include a task for case manager to forward relative’s request to attorney for the Department and the attorney will notify relative of all hearings either in writing or orally and inform relative of their right to:

§  Attend all subsequent hearings

§  Submit written reports to the court

§  Speak to the court regarding the child

CPI’s requirements:

  • Provide contact information to the reporter within 24 hours
  • After commencement of investigation, a relative may submit a request in writing to the CPI to receive notification of all proceedings and hearings and CPI must forward relative’s request (with same information as above) to attorney for the Department and the attorney will notify the relative of all hearings and proceedings (and their rights above)

The Court:

  • Must, at shelter, notify the parents, legal custodian and relatives providing out-of-home care the importance of active participation of the relative
  • May release attorney from this obligation if relative’s involvement is impeding the dependency process or detrimental to the child’s well being.

Family Finders Overview

Family Finders


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.