DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 9: Court Related Issues
9-1  Reasonable Efforts
Court Related Issues
9-1   Reasonable Efforts
Reference Points
Overview
Purpose of Reasonable Efforts
When Are Reasonable Efforts Provided
Services to Establish Reasonable Efforts
Documentation of Reasonable Efforts
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
What Happens When There Is a No-Reasonable-Efforts Finding
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 10/14/04
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 309
Popup Window WIC§ 319 (d)(1)
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word Declaration of Reasonable Efforts Temporary Custody Report (SC1554)
MS Word Dependency Initial Hearing Report (SC12)
bullet Services Documentation Log (SC 909) - not online
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Contact Section: Contact Notebook


Overview  

Public Law 96-272, passed in 1980, and California's Senate Bill (SB) 14, enacted in 1982, requires judges to determine whether reasonable efforts have been made to allow children to remain safely in the family home before they are taken into custody.  The requirements extended to the court making a determination whether reasonable efforts were provided to families during reunification. Public Law 105-89, passed in 1997 and California Assembly Bill (AB) 1695, enacted in 2001, requires judges to make a reasonable efforts finding at each review hearing, including permanency planning reviews.  A Reasonable Efforts finding is a judicial decision that determines whether or not the social worker has provided reasonable services to the child and the parents.

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Purpose of Reasonable Efforts Law  

The reasonable efforts provision in the laws is intended to insure that:

  • No child is placed into foster care who can effectively be protected in his/her own home.
    • The social worker must show a good faith effort in preventing removal. Under Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 309, before a child is taken into temporary custody, the social worker must decide whether there are any reasonable services available in the family's community, including public assistance, which, if provided, could eliminate the need to remove the child from the parent's or guardian's custody.

  • When removal is necessary, reunification is attempted before any other permanent arrangement is sought, unless it is not possible to reunify while protecting the child's safety.
  • That the goal is to return the child to a safe home or develop and finalize a permanent plan for the child.
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When Are Reasonable Efforts Provided  

Reasonable efforts can take place:

  • Before the family becomes involved with the Department of Family and Children's Services.
    • A family may have used services in the community to try to resolve family issues, prior to coming to the attention of DFCS. The DI social worker includes these services when identifying reasonable efforts in reports to the court.

  • After a referral on the family has been made to the Department of Family and Children's Services.
  • If the child has been adjudged a Dependent Child of the Court, during the 6 to 18 month period when Family Reunification Services are offered.
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Services to Establish Reasonable Efforts  

Services that should be provided to fulfill the Reasonable Efforts requirement are those that are:

  • Needed   

The client family and the Department must recognize that there is a need for services. It is important to note that how people define need or a problem and what to do about it involves the interplay of social, cultural, and psychological factors. How people respond to a crisis situation such as illness, death or family discord is learned behavior based on cultural values and norms.

  • Available and within Geographic Access

The services should be within reach. Often this is defined in terms of distance, with travel time less than 30 minutes.   It also includes the waiting time to get an appointment or service and the wait, once a client reaches the service agency, if services are provided out of the home.

  • Obtainable and within the Client's Financial Access

The services should be affordable. The assessment should consider direct and indirect costs, e.g., bus fare, gas costs, childcare costs and competing survival needs such as food and housing.

  • Acceptable

The services should be acceptable to the client. Usually this means that some standard is maintained, e.g., confidence in expertise of service providers, rapport and satisfaction with services.

  • Socially and Culturally Appropriate

The services should be compatible with the client family's ethnic and sociocultural background. This includes the way services are organized; the composition and training of the staff and staffing patterns. It refers to the service or treatment models employed by service providers. Assessing appropriateness of services includes considering how conflicting values and attitudes of the staff and client (e.g., stigma, class biases, ethnocentrism) can impede a family's access and utilization of services and hinder compliance with regimens set forth in the case plan.

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Documentation of Reasonable Efforts  

It is extremely important that the social worker document any services that are provided to the child and the parents or guardians.


  • When a child is placed into temporary custody, the Emergency Response, Assessment Center or Early Intervention social worker must complete a Declaration of Reasonable Efforts Detention Report (SC1554). This form is submitted to the court if a petition is filed.
    • The report should include any activities that the ER, Assessment Center or EI social worker has done to prevent removal.  These efforts could include:
      • Conferences with law enforcement
      • Case and/or computer review of prior services
      • Immediate on-site assessment or evaluation
      • Interviews with children and/or other family members
      • Referrals to service

  • If a petition is filed by a Dependent Intake social worker, the social worker must complete a reasonable efforts question (#3 on page 2) as part of the Dependency Initial Hearing Report (SC12).
    • It is not acceptable to simply state "No reasonable efforts due to the emergency nature of the situation."
    • The statement should include any activities that the ER, Assessment Center or EI social worker has done to prevent removal.

  • Court reports must document clearly what services have been offered to the parents and child so that the court can make a reasonable efforts finding.  The social worker should track all services offered to the clients in the Contact Notebook or on an SC 909. Reasonable efforts findings must be made at the following hearings:
    1. Initial Petition Hearing.
    2. Dispositional Hearing.
    3. Six Month Review Hearing.
    4. Twelve Month Review Hearing.
    5. Eighteen Month Review Hearing.
    6. Selection and Implementation Hearing (W&I Code 366.26).
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Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)  

Specific reasonable efforts expectations apply for children who are subjects of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

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What Happens When There Is a No-Reasonable-Efforts Finding  

The court makes the final decision as to whether or not adequate reasonable efforts services have been provided in order to preserve the family unit. If the court makes a finding that reasonable efforts have not been provided:

  • The court may extend court-ordered service for another 6 months.
  • The court may, at a hearing regarding termination of parental rights, decline to order the termination of a parent's rights, if there has been a no-reasonable efforts finding at each previous Status Review Hearing.
  • DFCS looses Federal funding for that case.
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Other References  
bullet2  Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
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