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What else should I know that is critical in the CINC process?
Within 45 days of a child entering foster care, DCFS will develop a case plan with the family detailing the efforts that must be taken to achieve a permanent placement for the child. DCFS proposes the case plan, but the judge reviews the plan and either approves or disapproves it (in whole or part). The parties have a right to file a response to the case plan. The case plan should identify the safety and risk issues and conditions for return of the child to his/her parents, including the measures designed to enhance the parents’ protective capacities to manage the identified threats of danger. The case plan addresses the child’s placement which should be in the least restrictive, most family-like setting available in close proximity to the parents’ home, consistent with the best interest and special needs of the child; if it is a substantial distance from the parents, the case plan should explain the reasons why it is in best interest of the child. The case plan should also identify any needs of the child and the services to be provided to meet those needs. In addition, the case plan should set forth the terms and conditions of visitation/family time with parents and siblings as well as other relatives or individuals/fictive kin in the best interest of the child. The case plan should identify the case plan goal (i.e., reunification or a concurrent goal of reunification and adoption) and provide clear direction for the family, DCFS, and the foster caregiver as they work together to achieve that goal. The case plan is updated every 6 months and may be revised if the court so orders.
Youth Transition Plan (YTP)
If the child is age 14 years or older, the case plan should include a thorough and individualized plan to provide for the child’s safe and successful transition from foster care to independent living. DCFS, the child, the CASA volunteer, the foster caregiver(s), and any person or agency assuming custody, care, or responsibility for the child as an adult should actively collaborate to develop the YTP. The YTP should address the child’s health, ongoing education, permanent connections, living arrangements, independent living skills, and employment. The plan should identify the programs and services necessary to achieve the YTP. The YTP must be updated every 6 months and must be approved by the judge. All children 14 years of age and older are referred to independent living skills classes, and the foster caregiver will be part of teaching the youth to learn about things like laundry, cooking, budgeting, etc.
Family Team Meetings (FTMs)
FTMs are facilitated by DCFS and are important because FTMs are where the case plan is developed with the family. It is also where parents and children and other stakeholders and supports give valuable input on the case plan, including the services and assistance to be provided or needed. FTMs should include all parents, the child, foster caregivers, CASA, and attorneys for the children and attorneys for the parents. Parents and children are encouraged to invite other support persons to participate in FTMs. FTMs are held every 6 months. Foster caregivers can provide helpful information at FTMs and should attend if available.
Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI)
QPI is an approach to strengthening foster care, including kinship care, by refocusing on quality parenting for all children in the child welfare system. When parents cannot care for their children, as foster caregivers you provide the loving, committed, and skilled care that the child needs, working effectively with DCFS, the child’s parents and/or other supports, and others involved in the child’s case to achieve the best possible permanency option for that child. Both the foster caregiver’s parenting skills and DCFS’s policies and practices should be based on child development research, information, and tools that help meet the child’s needs. It is critical for foster caregivers, DCFS, and the child’s parents and other supports to work as a team to support the child. As a foster caregiver, you should receive the support and training needed to work with the child in your care and his/her family and supports and know what is expected as well as what to expect. For more information, please refer to the QPI Louisiana website.
Care Setting Preservation
DCFS is responsible for making reasonable efforts to stabilize a care setting for every child in foster care, including ensuring that they have the most appropriate caregiver capable of providing daily care and long-term permanency. As foster caregivers, you are providing the “care setting” for the child in your care. It is important to reach out to your DCFS case worker when there are concerns regarding the child’s behavior and/or placement with you. The DCFS case worker will then request a preservation staffing meeting to make every reasonable effort to provide support and/or arrange services to preserve the care setting with you. If after receiving supports and services, you feel the child cannot remain in your home, DCFS requests a 14-day notice, or longer if possible, to transition the child to another care setting.
Transition Planning in Care Settings
Removal of any child from his/her family can be very traumatic for a child despite the reason for the removal. It may also be traumatic for a child to be moved from one caregiver setting to another while in foster care, even when the change is made in the best interests of the child and/or to achieve a permanent placement for the child. Therefore, it is critical to the well-being of the child, especially children under the age of 6, regardless of the reason for a transition from one caregiver setting to another, for DCFS to collaboratively strategize with all the caregivers involved to reduce the trauma experienced by the child. DCFS often utilizes a transition plan to minimize the trauma experienced by a child during a transition from one home to another.
Prior to any move of a child under the age of 6, the case and the transition plan will be reviewed and approved by a DCFS Supervisor. If the child has been in the current placement for 3 months or more, or if the proposed move would be the third move or more for the child regardless of the time spent in any previous placement, there will also be a formal meeting to allow for input from the child’s team (current caregiver, prospective caregiver, the child’s attorney, CASA volunteer, any treatment provider involved with the child, etc.) and the DCFS Supervisor, Manager, and Regional Program Specialist. The transition plan will consider the child’s best interest, and to the extent feasible, multiple, extended visits, such as overnight visits as well as other contacts such as SKYPE, FaceTime, etc., to ensure the most positive experience possible for the child. These activities should occur both prior to the move and after the move to allow the child to have a safe separation from previous caregivers and attachment to the new caregivers.