DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 9:  Court Related Issues
9-4 Due Diligence Searches and Declarations
Court Related Issues
9-4  Due Diligence Searches and Declarations
Reference Points
Overview
Purpose of Due Diligence
The Importance of Due Diligence Efforts at the Beginning of a Case
When is a Due Diligence Finding Made by the Court
Who Must Make Due Diligence Efforts
How Long Must Search Efforts Continue
Preliminary Search
Request for Location Services (SCZ659)
Search Efforts for a Parent Whose Identity is Unknown
Documenting Search Efforts
Completing the Declaration of Due Diligence for a 366.26 Hearing
Noticing to Terminate Parental Rights of a Parent Whose Whereabouts is Unknown


Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 05/07/06
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 290.1 291-297, 294 (f) (7)
Popup Window WIC § 361. 5 (b) (1), 366.21, 366.26
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word Request for Location Services (SCZ 659)
MS Word Publication Request (SCZ 1620)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Service Management Section: Contact Notebook
bullet Client Section:  Search Log
bullet Court Management Section:  Court Report Notebook


Overview  

Due diligence is a measure of prudence or activity that is expected from a reasonable and prudent person under particular circumstances. In the Juvenile Dependency Court process due diligence refers to the quality of efforts made by the social worker to locate and notify absent parents or guardians about their child's dependency case and hearings pertaining to it. Welfare and Institutions Codes (WICs) § 290.1 291-297, 366.21 and 366.26 state, in pertinent part, that the social worker shall serve notice of the hearing to the mother, presumed and alleged father(s), legal guardian(s), children 10-years-old and older, and others cited in WIC § 290.1 whose whereabouts are known or become known.  This applies to all hearings.

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Purpose of Due Diligence Search   .The purpose of conducting a due diligence search is to try to find the parent or legal guardian so that the parent or legal guardian can be properly noticed of the juvenile court hearings regarding his/her child. WIC § 294(f)(7) states, in pertinent part, that if a parent's whereabouts are unknown, and the parent cannot, with reasonable diligence, be served, the petitioner shall file an affidavit with the court at least 75 days before the hearing date, stating the name of the parent and describing the efforts made to locate and serve the parent. Only after a due diligence search is completed can the Court can make a finding that reasonable efforts were made to locate the absent parent or guardian. Though there is not a standard measure for a due diligence search, specific steps have been identified to meet a reasonable standard of effort.
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The Importance of Due Diligence Efforts at the Beginning of a Case  

If a petition is to be filed on behalf of a child, efforts must begin at the start of the dependency investigation to identify and locate the parents or guardians of the child. When a case comes to the point of a 366.26 Hearing, the court will make a finding, from the Initial Petition Hearing onwards, as to whether the social worker made reasonable efforts to:

  • Properly notice the parents/guardians.
  • Have made diligent efforts to locate the parents/guardians, if their whereabouts were unknown.

If the Court is not able to make these findings, the matter is continued until the due diligence requirement is met. This could result in the delay of a permanent plan for a child. For example, if a diligent search has not been done for a parent within six months of a scheduled 366.26 hearing, the diligent search will be ordered before the 366.26 hearing can proceed, even if one has been done previously. The search may take several months.

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When is a Due Diligence Finding Made by the Court  

Due diligence findings are made when a parent's or guardian's whereabouts are unknown, that parent or guardian has not been noticed about a dependency hearing and efforts were made to locate the parent or guardian.  The Court must make a due diligence finding that reasonable efforts were made to locate the parent or guardian.  There are two specific circumstances for which a due diligence finding must be made by the Court.  Those circumstances are when the Court orders:

  • That no reunification services need to be offered to a parent based upon the parent's abandonment of the child.
    • WIC § 361.5(b)(1) lists one of the conditions that reunification services need not be provided to a parent or guardian as being when the court:
      1. Finds by clear and convincing evidence that the whereabouts of a parent or guardian is unknown, and
      2. Makes a subsequent finding, based on an affidavit, that a reasonable diligent search failed to locate the parent or guardian.
        • See Non-reunification (Bypass) Cases.

  • A permanent plan for a child.
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Who Must Make Due Diligence Efforts  

Any social worker in Dependent Intake or Continuing is required to attend to due diligence requirements. It is important that a search for an absent parent begin as soon as it is established that the parent's whereabouts is unknown.

The Dependent Intake Social Worker

  • Conducts a Preliminary Search in all cases where there is an absent parent or guardian.
  • Submits a Request for Location Services (SCZ659):
    • As one step in recommending that no reunification services be offered to a parent, based upon that parent's whereabouts being unknown.
    • Before the case is transferred to a Continuing social worker, if the parent is not located through the DI worker's preliminary search.

The Continuing Social Worker

  • Continues to make search efforts for the absent parent as a routine part of the case.
  • Submits a Request for Location Services (SCZ659):
    • If it has been six months since the last search results from the DA's Bureau of Investigation were received.
    • Several months prior to a Permanency Planning Hearing, if the worker is coming up to a Permanency Planning hearing in which a 366.26 Hearing may be requested with the plan of adoption.
      • The results of a formal search could take several months. Additionally, for a 366.26 Hearing in which there is a plan of adoption, it may be necessary to publish for noticing as part of the due diligence search, which adds at least another month to the search time.

If a parent's whereabouts becomes unknown after the Continuing worker is assigned the case, the worker conducts a preliminary search and, if the parent is not located through these efforts, submits a Request for Location Services (SCZ659).

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How Long Must Search Efforts Continue  

Efforts to locate an absent parent must be ongoing throughout the life of the case, until the parent is found. 

  • Notices are to be sent to the parent, whenever a parent is located, even if such notice will be untimely for that hearing.
  • If the identity of a parent is unknown, social workers are still required to complete a due diligence search on that parent.  
  • Due diligence searches must be done within six months of the court hearing. 
    • Any searches older than six months are not valid.
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Preliminary Search  

A first step in the search process in the child welfare cases is to obtain the name of the child's birth mother, all presumed and/or alleged father(s) or legal guardians. As soon as the social worker learns that the identity of a parent/guardian is unknown or that the whereabouts of either parent or guardian are unknown, the social worker immediately begins a preliminary inquiry and search to identify and/or locate the parent/guardian.

  • As part of the identification process, the social worker may:
    • Inquire of all relatives and available collateral contacts as to whether they know the identity of the child's parent.
      • The social worker must ensure that confidentiality is maintained. In the process of making the inquiry, the social worker may not reveal details about the referral/case or that the inquiry is connected to an abuse or neglect report.
    • Review the child's birth certificate.
    • Ask the family's eligibility worker if there is any information in the eligibility case file regarding name and/or address of the subject of the search.
     
  • Even if the social worker is unable to identify the parent or guardian, the search must continue.
  • If identification is made but the person's whereabouts remains unknown, location efforts begin, which include contacting, looking through or reviewing the following:
    • All involved parties and available collateral contacts for information regarding the whereabouts of the parent or legal guardian and when and where he/she last had contact with the missing parent or legal guardian.
      • The social worker must ensure that confidentiality is maintained.   In the process of making the inquiry, the social worker may not reveal details about the referral/case or that the inquiry is connected to an abuse or neglect report.
    • California Law Electronic Telecommunications System (CLETS).
    • County Jail.
      • Booking: 299-2306
    • State Prisoner Locator.
      • (916) 445-6713
    • County Probation Agency.
      • (650) 237-1300
    • State Parole Agency.
    • Telephone Directory.
    • Internet.
    • CWS/CMS.
     
  • If, after the preliminary search, the whereabouts of the parent or guardian remains unknown, the social worker submits a Request for Location Services (SCZ 659).
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Request for Location Services

(SCZ 659)

 

After the social worker completes preliminary search to locate the parent and the parent's whereabouts remains unknown, the social worker proceeds to request a formal search through the District Attorney's Office, Bureau of Investigation, using a Request for Location Services (SCZ 659). This is a crucial part of the due diligence requirement, and a due diligence finding will not be made by the court without the results of the DA Investigator's search efforts. The request must be made:

  • At the beginning of the case when a DI worker is recommending dependency for a child.
  • At any stage when a social worker knows that a parent has been unreachable or has not responded to letters, notices of hearing or phone calls for a lengthy period of time.
  • Prior to a hearing when the worker knows the whereabouts of a parent are unknown, unless a SCZ659 has been completed within the last 6 months.
  • When a Continuing social worker knows he or she will recommend that a .26 Hearing be set.
  • The Request for Location Services for a .26 hearing is made three months in advance of the hearing at which the .26 will be recommended, due to the length of time for search results to be received.

The social worker must document on the SCZ659 all preliminary search efforts and as much descriptive information about the subject of the search as possible.

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Search Efforts for a Parent Whose Identity is Unknown  

When, after a preliminary search, the social worker is unable to ascertain the name of the mother, presumed and/or alleged fathers or guardians, the social worker must proceed with the due diligence search. Using John Doe or Jane Doe as the subject's name, the social worker completes the Request for Location Services (SCZ 659) with as much information as the worker has been able to learn about the subject of the search.

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Documenting Search Efforts  

Search efforts are documented in:

  • CWS/CMS Contact Notes and
  • court reports

Court Reports

When there is an absent parent or guardian, the social worker gives a detailed description of each search effort made during the previous reporting period, the date the effort was started and the result of each effort made.

  • Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing.
    • Under the heading "SEARCH RESULTS/HISTORY".
  • 366.26 Report.
    • Under the heading "SEARCH RESULTS/HISTORY".
  • Status Review Hearing.
    • There is no heading in the Status Review Hearing template for search results.   In order to establish that reasonable efforts have continued to locate and absent parent, the social worker adds a heading "SEARCH RESULTS/HISTORY" and documents his/her efforts.
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Completing the Declaration of Due Diligence for a 366.26 Hearing  

WIC § 294(f)(7) states, in pertinent part, that if a parent's whereabouts is unknown and the parent cannot, with reasonable diligence, be served notice, the petitioner shall filed an affidavit with the court at least 75 days before the hearing date, stating the name of the parent and describing the efforts made to locate and serve the parent. In Santa Clara County DFCS, that affidavit is a report titled Declaration of Due Diligence.

The template for the Declaration of Due Diligence can be accessed in CWS/CMS. In the pink Court Section, complete steps for creating a new court report.   Under the ID tab, choose Declaration of Due Diligence. If the pre populated data elements are not accurate, edit/enter data directly into these fields.   Ensure that any inaccurate data is also corrected in the on-line case record. The social worker follows the required time frames for the court report being submitted. If the Declaration Regarding Due Diligence is submitted without a court report, it must be at court at least two judicial days prior to the scheduled hearing.

Search Identifiers/Parameters

  • Identify:
    • The subject of the search.
    • The subject's last known address or last known contact and with whom.
    • Provide the name(s) and job title of all individual(s) who conducted any of the searches displayed in the Search Efforts section.
    • Enter "The following individual(s) conducted one or more of the searches listed below.

Search Efforts

If this section is not populated from the CWS/CMS Search Log, enter all information from the CWS/CMS Contact Notes.

  • List search attempts in chronological order from most recent to earliest.   For each search effort describe:
    • Source (Who or What agency was contacted).
    • Date of contact (Date person or agency was contacted).
    • Description of how contact was made (i.e., in-person, telephone) and who made the contact.
    • Action Result Date (Date reply was received).
    • Result (What was learned as a result of the effort).
  • Number each of the searches.


Summary

Enter a brief summary of the search results. For example:

  • "The above-cited search efforts to locate (enter person's name) were not successful" or
  • "The above-cited search efforts located (enter person's name) at (enter complete address). (Enter person's name) was notified by (enter means of notification, e.g., in-person, mail, telephone) of the legal status of his/her child and the date, time and place of today's hearing."

Review the Declaration Regarding Due Diligence for accuracy and completeness. If the data elements are not accurate, edit/enter data, as appropriate.

If more than two staff members conducted one of more of the search efforts, create additional signature clocks as needed.

  • I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.
  • Signature line.
  • Prepared by: line.
  • I conducted the following searches: _____________________________________.
  • On the blank line, list the number of the search as itemized in the Search Efforts section.
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Noticing to Terminate Parental Rights of a Parent Whose Whereabouts is Unknown  

If the whereabouts of the mother, an alleged or presumed father or legal guardian is unknown, the following documents must be submitted to County Counsel Child Dependency Unit (CDU) within one week after the hearing which results in the setting of the 366.26 hearing, at which the recommendation to terminate parental rights will be made:

  • Completed SC1423 notice worksheet.
  • Copy of the child's birth certificate (certified copy is not required).
  • Publication Request (SCZ1620).
  • Copy of the search request results from the DA.
  • Declaration of Due Diligence.

Upon receiving the above documents, County Counsel will initiate publication of a citation requiring the father or mother or alleged father or mother to appear at the time and place stated in the citation, which is published in a legal newspaper. Documents must be submitted to County Counsel in a timely manner, because publication takes a minimum of one month to complete. By publishing notice of the hearing, the requirement that a diligent effort be made to contact the absent parent or guardian is satisfied.  

 
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