DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 7: Relative Home Approvals
7-1  Relative Home Approvals: Points and Policies
Relative Home Approvals
7-1  Relative Home Approvals: Points and Policies
Reference Points
Overview
Background
Legal and Regulatory Guidelines for RHAs
Who Needs Approval
Definition of a Relative
Definition of a Non-Relative Extended Family Member (NREFM)
DFCS Placement Policy
Standards for a Placement under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 5/22/09
 Legal Basis:
PDF California Department of Social Services All County Letter (ACL). 01-85: Conformance of Standards for Licensing or Approval of Family Homes
PDF ACL 05-13: Relative and NREFM Approvals - Frequently Asked Question and Answers
PDF Community Care Licensing (CCL) Evaluator Manual - Background Checks
Popup Window Adoptions and Safe Families Act (PL105-89)
PDF Assembly Bill (AB) 2773, Chapter 1056
PDF California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policy and Procedures (MPP), Division 31-445
PDF California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Division 6, Chapter 9.5, Article 3
PDF CDSS MPP Division 31-401
PDF CDSS MPP Division 31-406
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC)& 319
Popup Window WIC § 361.3 and 361.4
Popup Window WIC § 362.7
Popup Window WIC § 16501(c) (1)


Overview  

It is the goal of the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) to ensure that children in all placement situations are safe and provided consistent standards of appropriate care. Federal law, state law and the California Department of Social Services' (CDSS) policy require that relative and non-relative extended family member (NREFM) homes that are potential placements for children meet the same health and safety standards as required of foster homes. Foster homes that meet the health and safety requirements are licensed, and relative or NREFM homes that meet the requirements are approved, rather than licensed. While the same standards apply, procedures for licensing a foster home differ from procedures for approving a relative or NREFM home.

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Background  

The federal Adoptions and Safe Families Act (PL105-89) of 1997 set new standards for safety and permanence for children in foster care. California Assembly Bill (AB) 2773, Chapter 1056, Statutes of 1998, revised state statutes to bring California into compliance with the Adoptions and Safe Family Act (ASFA). AB 1695 (Chapter 653, Statues of 2001) addressed interpretations of federal regulations and clarified that the same standards for relative home approval or foster care licensing had been and are required. AB 1695 created the approval category of Non-relative Extended Family Member (NREFM). And, it clarified that the granting of a license or approved status does not entitle the caregiver to placement of a specific child or children.  

In October 2003, a settlement Agreement was reached between the CDSS and the Youth Law Center, in the matter of Higgins vs. Saenz, concerning relative and NREFM approvals. Among other requirements, the terms of this Agreement require that the CDSS monitor each county's compliance with the relative home approval process.

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Legal and Regulatory Guidelines for RHAs  

Procedures and standards for approval of relative and NREFM homes are found in the:

  1. California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policy and Procedures, Section 31-445. (p.108)
  2. California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Division 6, Chapter 9.5, Article 3

Additional procedures and standards must be adhered to for actual placement of a child in relative and NREFM homes. Those procedures and standards are included in:

  1. CDSS MPP Division 31-406 regulations
  2. Welfare & Institutions Code (WIC) § 361.3 and 361.4
  3. WIC & 309(d), for temporary placement pending a detention hearing

Whether in-state or out-of-state, a child's placement must be in an appropriately licensed or approved facility, which accords the child the same personal rights afforded children in California, per CDSS MPP Division 31-401.

All requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) are followed.

Relatives and NREFM caregivers who are denied approval based on a failure to meet approval standards have a right to grievance procedures, per CDSS Division 31-020.

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Who Needs Approval   See Who Needs to be Approved Chart.
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Definition of a Relative  

As defined in Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 319, relatives are adults who are related to the child by blood adoption, or affinity within the fifth degree of kinship, including:

  • Stepparents
  • Step siblings
  • All relatives whose status is preceded by the words “great,” “great-great,” or “grand”
  • The spouse of any of these persons, even if the marriage was terminated by death or dissolution

Under WIC § 361.3 (c) (2), preferential consideration for the placement of a child is given to the following adult relatives:

  • Grandparents
  • Aunts
  • Uncles
  • Siblings
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Definition of a Non-relative Extended Family Member (NREFM)  

As defined in WIC § 362.7, a non-relative extended family member (NREFM) is any adult caregiver who has an established familial or mentoring relationship with the child. 

Although not explicitly specified by law, on occasion the court, in its discretion, may elect to treat a person with a familial or mentoring relationship with the parent or sibling of a newborn as a NREFM to the newborn.  However, the social worker should consult with county counsel to determine whether this argument can be made in each specific case.

The social woker verifies the existence of a relationship through interviews with the parent and child, or with one or more third parties. The parties may include relatives of the child, teachers, medical professionals, clergy, neighbors, and family friends.

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DFCS Placement Policy  

It is the policy of the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) that when a child cannot live with either parent or a legal guardian, placement options shall be considered in this order:

  1. Relatives, with preferential consideration given to:
    • Grandparents
    • Aunts
    • Uncles
    • Adult Siblings

    These relatives have a right to be assessed for a home approval:

    • Within 30 calendar days of the Initial Hearing or by the date of the dispositional hearing, whichever is sooner, or
    • Immediately, when it is determined that a child will require a new placement.  

  2. Other relatives when no relative given preferential consideration is available  
     
  3. Non-relative Extended family members (NREFM)  
     
  4. Other licensed or certified facilities that can meet the child's unique needs
    • Preference is given to facilities located within the child’s home zip code or community.

In addition to consideration of the placement priorities above, consideration must be give to placement of siblings and half siblings in the same home, whenever possible and if placement together is in the best interest of each of the children.

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Standards for a Placement under ICWA   See OPP Chapter 13-12: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
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Other References  
MS Word Who Needs to be Approved Chart
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