DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 6: Out-of-Home Placements and Services
6-2  Voluntary Family Reunification (VFR)
Out-of-Home Placements and Services
6-2  Voluntary Family Reunification (VFR)
Reference Points
Overview
Considerations Prior to Offering VFR Services
DFCS Criteria for Offering VFR Services
Relatives as VFR Placements
Parents' Rights Under VFR
Substitute Caregivers' Rights Under VFR
Procedures for Opening a VFR Case
If a Parent Withdraws from a VFR Agreement
Case Plans for VFR Cases
Voluntary Family Reunification Timelines and Outcomes
Non-Compliance with or Failed VFR
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: 10/1/07
Last Updated: 4/25/12
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window California Department of Social Services (CDSS) All County Information Notice (ACIN) 1-74-09: Voluntary Placement Agreements and Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16507.6
Popup Window WIC § 11400 (n)(o)(1)(2)
Popup Window WIC § 16501.1 (c)
Popup Window WIC § 16507.2 and 16507.6
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
PDF Voluntary Placement Agreement (SOC 155)
MS Word Informal Supervision Agreement (SCZ 1649c)
bullet

SOC-815-817-818 Combined (Relative Home Approval)

MS Word SOC-815-817-818 Combined / English

MS Word SOC-815-817-817 Combined /Spanish - 817-818

MS Word SOC-815-817-818 Combined/ Vietnamese - Caregiver Acknowledgement and Agreement

    PDF Caregiver Declaration and Agreement - Vietnamese (SOC 818)

MS Word Placement/Address Change (SCZ 17 Auto)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word CAT Emergency Response Assessment Tool
MS Word CAT Placement Assessment Tool
MS Word CAT Continuing Services Assessment Tool
bullet Services Management Section: Contact Notebook


Overview  

When a social worker determines that a family's circumstances are such that 1) a child cannot be safely maintained in the family home and 2) the parents are willing to accept voluntary placement for the child and sign a voluntary placement agreement, the child may be placed in out-of-home care for a period not to exceed 180 days under the program of Voluntary Family Reunification (VFR). [WIC § 11400 (n)(o)(1)(2)]


VFR is a time limited service that enables a child and his or her family to utilize out-of-home care services without the involvement of the juvenile court. The VFR program encourages family decision-making by allowing the family to determine the need for out-of-home care and participate in the development of a case plan, including the appropriate time for the child’s return home, if that is the ultimate goal.


Voluntary placement also refers to those placements made by parents with the intention of relinquishing.  Those cases are addressed in another OPP chapter.

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Considerations Prior to Offering VFR Services  

In determining whether VFR services may be offered to a family, the social worker:

  • Completes the CAT Emergency Response Assessment tool.

  • Completes a criminal records check of the parents/guardians to assist in the assessment of the parents/guardians.

  • Ensures that no coercive methods are used to get the family to agree to the placement of the child in out-of-home care.
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DFCS Criteria for Offering VFR Services  

Criteria for offering VFR services, specific to the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) include that :

  1. The child is not presently a dependent of the Juvenile Court.
    • Children who are receiving Informal Supervision or Voluntary Family Maintenance services are eligible for VFR services.
     
  2. The child comes, or is likely to come, under provisions of WIC § 300 (a) through (j).
    • The allegations concerning the parents' ability or willingness to care for and supervise the child must be petitionable.
    • A draft petition is submitted with the VFR referral.
     
  3. Preplacement preventive services have been offered to the family.
    • Prior to entering into a voluntary placement agreement with a parent or guardian, the social worker shall make every attempt to keep the family together by offering appropriate child welfare services except in the case of a voluntary placement pending relinquishment.  (WIC § 16507.2)
    • The social worker is required to provide and document in the CWS/CMS Contact notebook the preplacement preventive services and reasonable efforts that were offered to prevent out-of-home placement and why those services were not successful in maintaining the non-dependent child with his or her family.
  4.  
  5. The parents/guardians agree to the need for out-of-home care and the reason(s) for the placement.
     
  6. The parents/guardians are willing and able to cooperate in the case plan for voluntary placement.
     
  7. The parents/guardians are unable to arrange resources necessary for the care, supervision, and protection of the child without VFR services.
     
  8. There is reason to believe that the case plan goals can be achieved within five months of the date of placement.
     
  9. The problem for which the child is being placed is not one for which the child or the child’s siblings were previously made dependents of the court.
     
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Relatives As VFR Placements   The social worker should consider whether child welfare services under the VFR program are necessary, when there is a relative willing and suitable to care for the child. If there appears no need for DFCS monitoring of the situation, the social worker has the option of returning the child to the parent with the understanding that the parent will place the child with a relative with appropriate authorizations for medical treatment and educational decisions. The referral may be closed with no further services. The relative may be advised to apply for CalWORKs funding for the child at one of the county Department of Employment and Benefits Services (DEBS) offices.

Relatives do remain an option for VFR placements, when child welfare services are requested by the family and determined to be necessary and appropriate. Relative homes must be fully approved prior to placement.  The family receives the same services as it would if the case were under court supervision.  If placed in a relative home, a determination is made as to whether the child is eligible to receive foster care payments and, if eligible, the relative is contacted and asked to select between receiving AFDC-FC or CalWORKs funding.

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Parents' Rights Under VFR Services  

When a child is placed voluntarily, the parents or guardians have the right to know the whereabouts of the child. Therefore, if a parent or guardian is known to be violent or may present a danger to the child or the substitute caregivers, voluntary placement is not appropriate.

The parents of voluntarily placed children retain legal custody of the child, even though the parent voluntarily places the child with the agency.  The parent may limit by written agreement the scope of the out-of-home caregiver ’s authority to give parental consent.

The parents of voluntarily placed children also have the right to unsupervised visitation. 

A parent may withdraw from the Voluntary Family Reunification Agreement.

 

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Substitute Caregivers' Rights Under VFR  

Foster parents, relatives, or non-relative extended family members (NREFMs) are given the parents' phone number(s) or means to contact the parents in case of an emergency.  The social worker must provide the caregiver with the worker's office phone number and 24/7 number of the Child Abuse and Neglect Center (CANC) (299-2071).

The assigned social worker is required to provide substitute caregivers the following services:

  • Required monthly contact.
  • Support and collaboration as necessary, e.g. visitation, case plan activities for the child.
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Procedures for Opening a VFR Case  

For voluntary short-term placements at Bill Wilson:

See OPP Chapter 6-1: Bill Wilson: Voluntary Placements.

 

To open a Voluntary Family Reunification Case in which the child is to be placed in a relative or foster family home, the Emergency Response (ER) or Dependent Intake (DI) social worker:

  • Discusses the VFR program with the parents and child.

  • Determines the services in which the parents and/or child shall participate and services to be provided by the social worker.
    • For best practice, limit the goals for the parents to two or three services to keep the possibility of accomplishment realistic.
  • Follows referral procedures for Informal Supervision cases.

  • Prepares a draft petition.
  • Obtains the parents' signature on:
    • Voluntary Placement Agreement (SOC 155).
    • Informal Supervision Agreement (SCZ 1649c)
    • Statement regarding share of cost.
    • Medical releases.
    • Emergency Assistance Application (EA1)
  • Reviews the draft petition with the parents.
  • Reviews the Child's Rights with the child and parents.

  • Completes the Relative Home Approval, if the child is being placed with a relative or non-relative extended family member.
  • Completes the CAT Placement Assessment Tool.

  • Obtains signed Placement Agreements from the substitute caregiver:
    • The relative signs the Relative-Agency Agreement (SOC 156R), if placing with a relative.
    • Foster parents sign the Foster Care-Agency Agreement (SOC 156), if placing in a foster home.

  • Completes the referral disposition in CWS/CMS and opens a case.

  • Documents all contacts in the CWS/CMS Contact Notebook.


  • Completes the Placement/Address Change (SCZ 17).
    • Select the appropriate scenario under Section D.
    • Submit the SCZ 17 to the PTT.

  • Completes the Dependent Intake Case Assignment Control Sheet (purple sheet) - AIC social workers only.

  • Submits the case file to the supervisor for final approval in CWS/CMS.
  • Transfers the case to the Dependent Intake Control Clerk (DICC).
  • Sends to the PAC eligibility worker:
    • A copy of the Voluntary Placement Agreement (SOC155).
    • The Emergency Assistance application.
      • Payment cannot be made for longer than 180 days of the child’s placement for federal or state AFDC-FC, unless the child is made a dependent or a court orders continued VFR.
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If a Parent Withdraws from a VFR Agreement  

Parents may withdraw their agreement to participate in voluntary services, at any time. If a parent contacts the Department to request that his/her child, who is voluntarily placed in out-of-home care, be returned to the parent's care, the social worker must respond immediately to the request and return the child to the parent. If the social worker is not available, it is important that the supervisor or on-duty (OD) social worker respond immediately to the request.  The Department may not keep a child in out-of-home care without the parents' ongoing consent or a court order.

If a social worker is concerned about the well-being of a voluntarily placed child who is returned to a parent at the parent's request, the worker may request an immediate Joint Case Staffing to discuss the case. Further, if the social worker believes the child is a person described by section 300(b) or 300(g) and is in immediate danger of physical or sexual abuse or the child's home environment poses an immediate threat to the child's health or safety (i.e., exigent circumstances), and there is no time to obtain a protective custody warrant, then the social worker may place the child into protective custody under section 306 and initiate juvenile court action.

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Case Plans for VFR Cases  

A case plan for Voluntary Family Reunification services must be developed within 30 days of the date of the first face-to-face contact made with the child by any DFCS social worker (for referrals) or 30 days from the date of service program change (e.g. child moves from VFM to VFR services).  Parents are to participate in the development of the case plan, whenever possible, and are to review and sign the case plan.  VFR cases are assigned to the Informal Supervision (IS) Unit and Continuing social workers for ongoing services. 

  • A CAT Continuing Services Assessment Tool is completed prior to the development of the Case Plan.
  • If the VFR case is received by the IS/Continuing social worker within 15 days of the initial face-to-face contact made with the child by any DFCS social worker or the date of service program change, the IS/Continuing social worker is responsible for the case plan.
  • If the VFR case is not received by the IS/Continuing social worker within 15 days of the the initial face-to-face contact made with the child by any DFCS social worker or the date of service program change, the referring social worker is responsible for completing the case plan and for making the face-to-face contacts with the child within the first 30 days as required by Division 31 Regulations.
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VFR

Timelines and Outcomes

 

Ongoing case management services for Voluntary Family Reunification (VFR) cases are provided by Informal Supervision (IS) and Continuing social workers.  The IS/Continuing social worker completes the CWS/CMS case plan with the family.   The family receives the same services as provided under the court-ordered Family Reunification program.

 

By the fifth (5th) month into VFR services, the IS social worker assesses the family to determine whether:

  • The child will be returned to the parents at the end of the 180 day VFR period and the case closed.
  • The child will be returned to the care of the parents at the end of the 180 day period and the family receive Voluntary Family Maintenance services.
    • Approval by the SSPM is required.
  • The parents not able or willing to have the child returned to their care and are willing to sign a voluntary relinquishment and begin adoption planning services for the child.

  • To schedule a Joint Case Staffing decide if:
    • A 300 Out-of-Custody Petition should be filed on behalf of the child and the child be returned to the parents.
      • The case then transferred to Dependent Intake.
      • The petition must be filed in time to allow the court hearing to occur prior to the expiration of the 180 VFR period.

    • The child should be placed in temporary custody and a 300 Petition be filed.
      • This option may require a Protective Custody Warrant.
      • The case is then transferred to Dependent Intake, once the child is placed in temporary custody.
      • The petition must be filed in time to allow the court hearing to occur prior to the expiration of the 180 VFR period.

Voluntary Family Reunification services can only be provided for 180 days, and the substitute caregiver will not receive financial aid after 180 days, unless the program is converted to court-ordered family reunification or to permanency planning, in the event that the parents sign voluntary relinquishments.

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Non-Compliance with or Failed VFR  

Social workers carrying VFR cases are required to schedule a Joint Case Staffing when the parent(s):

  • Does not begin complying with the service plan within the first 30 days.
  • Ceases to comply with services at any time during the service period.
  • Does not complete the agreed upon services within the six months of VFR services.

If, at any point in the service period, the parents' failure to comply with services results in a heightened risk to the child, the social worker has the option of:

  • Requesting a Joint Case Staffing.
  • Placing the child in temporary custody, if there is immediate danger to the child.
    • May require law enforcement assistance.
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Other References  
bullet2 OPP Chapter 13-1: Joint Case Staffing
bullet2 OPP Chapter 7-2: Relative Home Approval
bullet2 OPP Chapter 6-1: Bill Wilson Voluntary Placements
bullet2 OPP Chapter 13-5: Protective Custody Warrant
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