DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 6: Out-of-Home Placement and Services
6-5 Ice Breaker Meetings
Out-of-Home Placement and Services
6-5  Ice Breaker Meetings
Reference Points
Overview
Purpose of Ice Breaker Meetings
Goals of Ice Breaker Meetings
When Should an Ice Breaker Not Be Schedules
Timeframe for Scheduling an Ice Breaker Meeting
Who Attends Ice Breaker Meetings
Preparing the Participants for the Ice Breaker Meeting
Social Worker Responsibility
Scheduling Procedures for an Ice Breaker Meeting
The Ice Breaker Meeting
What Information the Participants Might Share at the Ice Breaker
Evaluations after the Ice Breaker
Documenting the Ice Breaker in CWS/CMS


Reference Points
Effective Date: 11/1/10
Last Updated: 12/14/10
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word Ice Breaker Meeting Referral (SCZ47)
MS Word Ice Breaker - My Child (SCZ47A)
MS Word Ice Breaker - Who Are We (SCZ47B)
MS Word Ice Breaker - All About Me 1 (SCZ47C)
MS Word Ice Breaker - All About Me 2 (SCZ47D)
MS Word Ice Breaker Evaluation (SCZ47E)
MS Word Ice Breaker Data Form (SCZ47F)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Case Management Section: Case Plan
bullet Services Management Section: Contacts


Overview  

The term “Ice Breaker Meeting" is used to describe an initial meeting between birth parents and out-of-home caregivers. An Ice Breaker is a facilitated, child-focused meeting held shortly after a child is placed (or replaced) in out-of-home care. The meeting provides an opportunity for caregivers and birth families to meet each other and to share information about the needs of the child. Though the meeting is somewhat structured, the goal is to create an amiable environment to facilitate open communication.

Discussions during the Ice Breaker are focused on the child. Birth parents share information that will assist the caregiver in caring for the child, for example, the child's likes and dislikes, bedtime routines, and favorite pastimes. The caregivers, in turn, offer information about the child's new environment and daily activities in the caregivers' home.

In addition to making it easier for the child to adjust, the meetings help the birth parents and caregivers recognize their common concern for the child. The Ice Breaker is the starting point for establishing communication and building a respectful and supportive relationship between families, furthering the efforts of the Department of Family and Children's Services in promoting family engagement.

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DFCS Policy on Ice Breaker Meetings   Social workers are highly encouraged to incorporate Ice Breaker meetings in their case management practice.  Holding Ice Breaker meetings is a best practice that is reported to improve outcomes for children in terms of placement stability, for parents in terms of motivating them to engage in services more quickly, and for families in terms of successful reunification.  Ongoing communication between birth parents and caregivers helps to preserve and strengthen the bond between parents and their children and helps children in making smoother transitions to new schools and placements.
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Purpose of Ice Breaker Meetings  

The purpose of the Ice Breaker meeting is to:

  • Provide an opportunity for the birth parents and foster parents to meet.

  • To create a positive, relationship-building session between the birth and foster parents so that the child will be able to observe and feel the support of both sets of parents while in foster care.


  • Create a setting where birth parents can share information about the child’s needs, likes, dislikes, daily habits and patterns, thus helping to create a continuity of care and reducing the probability of additional trauma to the child while in placement.

  • Ease the birth parents'  concerns about their child’s safety, well-being and placement.

  • Reinforce the birth parents' role(s) as parents.


  • Establish the foster parents as part of the team working to support the child and reunify the family.
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Goals of Ice Breaker Meetings  

Outcome goals for Ice Breaker meetings are based on studies and reports from social work practitioners, which indicate that Ice Breaker meetings:

  • Foster open communication between Birth Parents and caregivers

  • Result in more stable placements by minimizing placement disruptions

  • Improve reunification or permanency outcomes

  • Help birth parents preserve and strengthen their bonds with their children

  • Encourage birth parents in engaging in needed services more quickly

  • Foster smoother transitions for children to new schools and placements
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When Should an Ice Breaker Meeting Not Be Scheduled  

Ice Breaker meetings may not be scheduled in the following situations:

  • Parents are incarcerated or otherwise unavailable.

  • Parents are not willing to participate.

  • When there is a history of intimate partner violence, both parties may not be invited to the same Ice Breaker meeting.

  • When there is a concern regarding safety of any of the participants.
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Timeframe for Scheduling an Ice Breaker Meeting

 

An Ice Breaker is held within 14 days of a child's initial placement in out-of-home care or move to a new placement.

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Who Attends an Ice Breaker Meeting  

Those invited to the Ice Breaker include:

  • Birth parents
    • it is best practice for both birth parents to attend the meeting, if there are no safety issues.  However, the Ice Breaker can proceed with one birth parent present.

  • Out-of-home caregivers

  • Social worker

  • Child, if appropriate
    • The appropriateness of the child's attendance at the Ice Breaker is dependent upon the social worker's assessment, after consulting with the child and other participants. 
    • Issues to consider when deciding whether the child should attend include:
      • The child's physical and developmental age
      • The child's desire to attend
      • The parents' ability to stay positive and child-focused during the meeting
      • As assessment of whether the child will be able disengage from the parents at the end of the meeting without undo stress.
    • If the child does not attend the meeting, the social worker informs the child of the meeting and helps the child understand that the purpose of the meeting is to share information about the child, not to decide if the child will be returned home.
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Preparing the Participants  

Prior to the Ice Breaker meeting, the social worker prepares the participants for what to expect at the meeting.  It is important that the Social Worker allows sufficient time to prepare everyone, so that all feel as comfortable as possible at the meeting.

  • Birth Parents

To help birth parents prepare for the Ice Breaker, the social worker:

  • Explains:
    • The purpose of the meeting.
    • What the participants can expect and what will be expected of them
    • That the meeting is centered on the child.
    • That the meeting is not meant as an opportunity to talk about the allegations of the petition or whether the child will return home.
    • That this is their opportunity to help the out-of-home caregiver in caring for their child. 

  • Emphasizes that both birth and caregiver families are important, and the child will benefit from all the parties working together. 

  • Asks how they would like to be introduced i.e., by their first name or last name. 

    • Asks what information they would like to share and what they think is important for the caregivers to know about their child. 
      • Ask the parents to note any scheduled appointments for the child of which the caregiver needs to be aware.

  • Encourages them to bring to the meeting:
    • Vital medical/health information
    • School information
    • Other documents related to the child's care and comfort
    • The child's favorite toy or book
     
  • Assists the birth parent in completing the My Child form, if requested by the birth parent.

      If the Birth Parents express a desire to have someone accompany them to the meeting, it should be discussed with the Social Worker during this preparation time.





  • Caregivers

To help caregivers prepare for the Ice Breaker, the social worker:

  • Explains:
    • The purpose of the meeting.
    • What the participants can expect and what will be expected of them
    • That this is an opportunity to learn about the child to help them in caring for the child.

  • Asks how they would like to be introduced at the Ice Breaker meeting. 
    • first or last name, years of service, numbers of children they have fostered, any information about their family they might wish to share. 

  • Reiterates that the meeting is child-centered.

  • Explains that the caretakers' role is to listen to the parent to learn first-hand what the child was like at home.

  • Encourages the foster parents to write down questions they have about the child.

  • Asks the caregivers to be prepared to share with the parents about the child's first few days/weeks in the the caregivers' home.
    • Ask the caregivers to be able to describe a typical day in the home.
    • Remind the caregivers to share only non-identifying information about themselves.

  • Shares suggestions about how they can engage in conversation that can be reassuring to the child or the parents.

  • Addresses the issue of the foster parents' concerns about safety, if the foster parents express this concern.

  • Answers questions the caregiver may have about the Our Home form.

 



  • Child
    To help the child to prepare for the Ice Breaker meeting, the social worker:
    • Informs the child that his or her birth parents and caregivers are meeting with each other and explains the purpose of the meeting. 
      • The social worker sould clarify that the meeting is not about whether the child will return home.

    • Asks the child if he or she would like to attend the meeting, if appropriate.
      • If the child chooses not to attend, the social worker asks the child if there are any questions that the child would like the social worker to ask on behalf of the child or if there any concerns about the placement that the child wishes to express.  Concerns could be, for example, church attendance, visits with extended family members, phone calls, etc.
       
    • Assists the child in completing the All About Me or Celebrating Me form.
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Social Worker Responsibility  

The social worker:

  • Submits the referral for the Ice Breaker.

  • Prepares the participants for the Ice Breaker .

  • Facilitates the Ice Breaker meeting.
    • Introduces the participants
    • Reiterates the purpose of the Ice Breaker
    • Manages the flow of the meeting
    • Keeps the conversation focused on the child
    • Provides closure to the meeting
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Scheduling Procedures for an Ice Breaker Meeting  
Step
Action
Who
1.
  • Talks to the birth parents and the caregivers about the purpose and benefits of the Ice Breaker meeting.

  • Encourages them to agree to participate in an Ice Breaker.
Social Worker
2.
  • Completes the Ice Breaker Meeting Referral (SCZ47).
    • The preferred dates should be within two weeks of the child's placement with the out-of-home caregiver.

  • Submits the SCZ47 to the Resource Homes Bureau clerical.
    • Email: icebreaker@ssa.sccgov.org
    • Fax: 975-5868
    • Basket:  Ice Breaker - 373 W. Julian St., 5th floor

  • Picks up an Ice Breaker meeting packet that includes:
    • A post-meeting evaluation form.
    • A meeting guide with topic suggestions and guidelines for conducting the Ice Breaker meeting.
      • Packets are located in the Resource Homes Bureau at 373 W. Julian St., 5th floor and at all South County offices.
Social Worker
 
  • Receives and reviews the Ice Breaker Meeting Referral (SCZ47) from the social worker requesting the scheduling of an Ice Breaker meeting.

  • Checks availability of preferred location

  • Contacts the birth parents and out-of-home caregivers to arrange the meeting
Placement Bureau Clerical
If. . then the clerk. .
The birth parents and foster parents agree to participate in the Ice Breaker
  • Completes the bottom of the front page of the Ice Breaker Referral (SCZ47) with the date, time and location of the meeting.

  • Sends a copy of the (SCZ47) to the social worker.

  • Sends a follow-up email to the social worker with the date, time and location of the Ice Breaker.

  • Files the SCZ47 for data collection.
The birth parent or foster parent cannot be reached or refuse to participate in the Ice Breaker
  • Completes the back of the (SCZ47), indicating why the Ice Breaker cannot be scheduled.

  • Sends a copy of the (SCZ47) to the social worker.

 
  • Files the SCZ47 for data collection.
3.
  • Sends the Ice Breaker - Who Are We (SCZ47B) form to the out-of-home caregivers for the caregivers to complete.
    • The clerk lets the caregivers know that the form will be sent to them and that they should complete it before the meeting.

  • Sends the Ice Breaker - My Child (SCZ47A) form to the birth parents for the birth parents to complete.
    • The clerk lets the caregivers know that the form will be sent to them and that they should complete it before the meeting.
Placement Bureau Clerical
4.
  • Contacts the caregivers to make sure they have received the Ice Breaker - Who Are We (SCZ47B) and ask if they have any questions about the form or need assistance in completing the form.

  • Contacts the birth parents to ask if they have received the Ice Breaker - My Child (SCZ47A) form and ask if they have any questions about the form or need assistance in completing the form.

  • Meets with the child to help the child to explain the Ice Breaker and, if appropriate, asks the child if he or she would like to attend the Ice Breaker.
Social Worker
5. If. . then. .
Social Worker
The child does not wish to attend the Ice Breaker, or if the social worker determines that it is not appropriate for the child to attend
  • The social worker asks the child if there are any questions the child would like the social worker to ask on behalf of the child at the Ice Breaker.

  • Assists the child in completing the Ice Breaker - All About Me 1 (SCZ47C) or Ice Breaker - All About Me 2 (SCZ47D) form.
The child plans to attend the Ice Breaker
  • The social worker prepares the child for what to expect at the Ice Breaker.
  • Assists the child in completing the Ice Breaker - All About Me 1 (SCZ47C) or Ice Breaker - All About Me 2 (SCZ47D)form.
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The Ice Breaker Meeting  

The social worker facilitates the Ice Breaker meeting.  During the Ice Breaker meeting, the social worker’s responsibility is to establish a friendly, informal climate by introducing the participants and reiterating the purpose of the meeting.  The Social Worker manages the flow of the meeting by helping the participants get started, monitoring the conversation, and keeping it focused on the child in care.  To begin the discussion, the worker may ask the birth parents to share information about the child that the caregivers will need to know and, then, engage in a dialogue, which will help “break the ice”.  Remaining child-focused throughout this exchange and helping families to maintain appropriate boundaries is important.  The meeting should be kept relatively short, usually about 30 to 40 minutes.

It is the social worker's responsibility, as facilitator, to:

  • Establish a friendly, informal climate that makes everyone feel comfortable and prevents barriers.

  • Introduce the participants.

  • Reiterate the purpose of the meeting.

  • Manage the flow of the meeting by monitoring the conversation and keeping it focused on the child in care.
    • To begin the discussion, the worker may ask the birth parents to share information about the child that the foster parents will need to know.

  • Encourage the participants to ask questions.

  • Share work-related information about himself or herself, such as days off or best times to be contacted.

  • Encourage a discussion about what each party expects in the future.
    • If it seems appropriate, the social worker may open a discussion about a short-term plan for future contacts or visits.

  • Provide closure.
    • Review:
      • The goals of the meeting that were positively met.
      • Commitments that each party made
      • Schedule future visits and address the need for supervision.

  • Ask each participate to complete an Ice Breaker meeting evaluation.

  • Ensure that everyone leaves the meeting with an idea of what to do next.
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What Information the Participants Might Share at the Ice Breaker  

Prior to the meeting, all participants are given a form to complete about themselves or their child and instructed to bring the completed form to the meeting to help guide the information sharing at the Ice Breaker meeting.   Information to be shared may include:

  • Caregivers
    • Reasons for becoming a foster parent

    • How long the family has been providing foster care

    • Who else lives in the home

    • Basic structure/rules of the home

    • Daily routines

    • Religious participation, if any
    • The child’s adjustment in their home

    • The child's sleeping arrangements in the home


  • Birth Parents

    • Medical concerns
    • Child's allergies
    • The child’s normal schedule or routine
    • Important cultural or family traditions
    • Items that may be important to the child
    • Educational or behavioral concerns


  • The Child
    • Favorites/least favorite
      • Activities
      • Foods
      • TV shows
      • Music
      • School subjects
    • Hopes
    • Fears
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Evaluations and Data Collection after the Ice Breaker   The Ice Breaker meeting may be viewed as an intervention strategy.  Participants are asked to complete an evaluation after the meeting. An evaluation form is included in the Ice Breaker packet the social worker picks up upon submitting a request for the Ice Breaker. 

After the Ice Breaker meeting:

  • Social worker :
    • Collects the Ice Breaker Evaluation (SCZ47E) from participants who chose to complete the form directly after the Ice Breaker meeting.
    • Completes the Ice Breaker Data Form (SCZ47F).
    • Submits the SCZ47Es and SCZ47F to the Resource Homes Bureau clerical.
      • Email: icebreaker@ssa.sccgov.org
      • Fax: 975-5868
      • Basket:  Ice Breaker - 373 W. Julian St., 5th floor


  • Clerical support:
    • Contacts the birth parents and caregivers to conduct a brief process evaluation with each of them (individually) over the phone. 
    • Collects the SCZ47Es from the social worker, if the participants completed the form directly after the Ice Breaker meeting.
      • The participants also have the option of mailing the completed form in a self-addressed stamped envelope provided by DFCS.
    • Tracks the results of the evaluations.
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Documenting the Ice Breaker in CWS/CMS  
  • Case Plan

When creating the Case Plan, under Case Management Services, the social worker:

  • Selects “Family Engagement Efforts” in the Services field.
  • Chooses “FEE-Meeting w/Foster Parents and Family” as the Service Type.
 
  • Contacts

After the Ice Breaker meeting, the social worker documents in the CWS Contact Notebook.

  • Under Contacts tab:
    • Complete all fields.
    • Under Case Management Services/ Referrals, choose “FEE-Meeting w/Foster Parents and Family.”
  • Under Associated Services tab
    • Information will auto-populate to the Associated Services fields.
    • Add the narrative to discuss what took place at the meeting.
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