DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 13: Cross Program Protocols
13-11 Sensitive Cases
Cross Program Protocols
13-11 Sensitive Cases
Reference Points
Overview
When is a Referral Sensitive?
CANC Screening Social Worker Action
Cross Reporting Sensitive Referrals
Coding a Referral/Case as a Sensitive in CWS/CMS
Authority to Make a Referral/Case Sensitive in CWS/CMS
Screening Supervisor Action
Interoffice Transfer of Sensitive Referrals/ Cases
Sensitive Referrals that Are Evaluated Out or Settled at Intake
ER Clerical Lead Action
ER Supervisor Action
ER Social Worker Action
Assessment Center Social Worker Action)
Dependent Intake Control Clerk Lead Action)
Petition Clerk Lead Action
Court Liaison Supervisor Action
DI Supervisor Action
DI Social Worker Action
Continuing Social Worker Supervisor Action
Continuing Social Worker Action
Highest Level of Security for Sensitive Cases
Referring Sensitive Referrals or Cases to Another County for Services
Media Contact and Outside Inquiries
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 10/31/06
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Referral Management Section: Screener Narrative
bullet Referral Management Section: Child Abuse Investigation Report (SS8583)


Overview   When a referral is received regarding a person or situation to which there may be strong public, departmental or personal reactions, the case documentation should be marked “sensitive” in CWS/CMS and Agency procedures should be followed. Because referral and case information is accessible online through CWS/CMS, the Department of Family and Children’s Services has a responsibility to limit access to sensitive referrals and cases to only those employees who have a need to retrieve, review or input information regarding a sensitive referral or case.

Sensitive referrals require strict discretion on the part of social workers. Inquiries by the media regarding any case must be referred to the SSA Office of Community Development and Relations. It is Department policy that social workers not talk to the media about cases.
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When is a Referral Sensitive?  

Referrals are considered sensitive when the suspected perpetrator, victim, non-protecting parent or a witness is a person well known by the general public, DFCS employees, or law enforcement OR is a DFCS employee or law enforcement employee. Any time there is a question about whether a referral is sensitive, a supervisor may be consulted.

The Department has delineated four levels of criteria under which a case may be made sensitive and has identified best practice guidelines.


  • Level I - Definition
    • DFCS employees, household members and caregivers
    • Juvenile Court employees, household members and caregivers
    • Employees with an open case or household members of an employee

Level I - Best Practice

  • Consider having the case transferred to another county or to another DFCS office.
  • Determine which court would be the best venue in order to avoid client's contact with people they may know.
  • Define the places or services that should not be used in order in order to avoid contact between a client and service provider with whom the client may have some relationship.
  • Hand delivery of all files and documents for transfer.
    • Do not place files or documents in baskets.
  • Protect confidentiality.



  • Level II - Definition
    • Social Services Agency (SSA) employees or contractors
    • Relatives of employees in the Placement Unit
    • Politicians
    • Law enforcement

Level II - Best Practice

  • Most probably keep the case in this county, though consideration may be given to transferring assignment to an alternate DFCS office.
  • Define the places or services that should not be used to avoid contact between client and service provider with whom the client may have some relationship.
  • Carefully consider case assignment.
  • Protect confidentiality.


  • Level III - Definition
    • Non Social Services Agency county employees
    • High profile persons such as:
      • Elected officials
      • Media celebrities
      • Other well-known community members

Level III - Best Practice

  • Most likely keep in original office.
  • Carefully consider case assignment.
  • Not necessary to define places or services to avoid.


  • Level IV
    • Closed Adoption case with no Level I, II or III situation and new biological sibling is referred to Child Abuse and Neglect Center.

Level IV - Best Practice

  • Not necessary to define places or services to avoid.
  • Social workers:
    • Are not to contact the adoption family.
      • Workers may call the Finalization Unit supervisor to request that the supervisor contact the adoption family.
    • Request adoption cases from an adoption clerk.
    • Review the Adoption case in the 1st floor adoption lobby.
      • Cases are not to be removed from the adoption lobby area.
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CANC Screening Social Worker Action  

The CANC Screening social worker determines from the reporter’s information if the case meets “sensitive” criteria. In making the determination about whether a case is sensitive, the Screening social worker consults with the Screening Unit supervisor.   

    • If previous referrals have been labeled “sensitive” and the reason for the sensitive label is unclear, the worker and supervisor may make a determination as to whether or not the current referral requires a sensitive coding.

If it is determined that a referral should be coded as sensitive, the Screening social worker

  • Inputs the referrals in CWS/CMS.
  • Indicates in the top line of the Screener Narrative, as well as in the Screener Alerts Box, that the referral is sensitive and the specifics as to why it is sensitive.

  • Follows steps for coding the referral as sensitive in CWS/CMS.
  • Makes a cross report to law enforcement following department procedures for cross reporting sensitive referrals, if appropriate.
  • Hand carries the referral to the ER lead clerk for further processing.
  • Hand carries a copy of the referral, if it is an Immediate Response (IR) priority, to the supervisor of the assigned IR social worker.
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Cross Reporting Sensitive Referrals  

Department procedures for cross reporting to local law enforcement agencies on a sensitive case are as follows:

  • If the cross report is to be made to the San Jose Police Department (SJPD), hand carry the referral to the Law Enforcement Liaison, Colleen Kohtz, and the liaison will complete the cross report to SJPD.
  • If a cross report is to be made to a law enforcement jurisdiction, other than the SJPD, for which it is regular practice to fax the cross report, the social worker telephones the law enforcement agency to alert that agency that a cross report on a sensitive referral is being faxed.
    • If the suspected perpetrator is an employee of that law enforcement department, the cross report should be sent to the Internal Affairs division of that department.
     
  • If the cross report is to be made to a law enforcement jurisdiction, other than SJPD, for which it is regular practice to phone in the cross report, proceed with usual procedures, alerting the taker of information that the referral is marked sensitive.  
    • If the suspected perpetrator is an employee of that law enforcement department, the cross report should be sent to the Internal Affairs division of that department.

     

If a cross report to the Department of Justice (DOJ) is necessary on the referral, the ER OMC distributes the SS8583 report to DOJ.

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Coding a Referral/Case as Sensitive in CWS/CMS  

In order to code a referral or case sensitive in CWS/CMS, the staff person must have Limit Access authority.

  • From the Action drop down menu, select “Limit Access.”
  • Choose “Sensitive” in the Limit Access dialog box.
  • Make a note in the Screener Alerts or Case Alerts box on the ID page that the referral or case is sensitive and why it is coded as sensitive.
    • To maintain confidentiality, note why the referral or case is sensitive without giving details, for example:
      • Government employee.
      • Law enforcement.
      • High profile.
      • Violence
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Authority to Make a Referral/Case sensitive in CWS/CMS  

Not everyone has authority to limit access to a case in CWS/CMS, i.e. make a case a sensitive case. Generally, the authority is held by Information Systems staff, Lead clerks, Office Management Coordinators, ER Screening social workers, Assessment Center social workers and a few managers and supervisors, if the manager or supervisor has made a case for needing limit access authority and the authority has been approved.

Limit access authority may be obtained under the direction of the Bureau Program manager (SSPM) and/or with the approval of the DFCS Director or Deputy Director.  The SSPM, Office Management Coordinator (OMC) or supervisor may contact the HELP desk to place a request, once approved. When the limit access authority is no longer needed, such as when the case is closed, contact the HELP Desk (491-6565)to notify them of the fact.

If it is determined that a referral or case needs to be made sensitive, staff may contact the ER clerical leads in the Julian or South County offices, and the clerk will make the referral or case sensitive in CWS/CMS. After the case is marked sensitive, staff with primary or secondary assignment to the referral/case, the supervisor and any other staff having limit access authority will have access to the CWS/CMS referral/case.

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CANC Supervisor Action  

The Screening Unit supervisor:

  • Confirms that the referral is sensitive.
  • Hand delivers the referral to the ER lead clerk, Lupe Aceves, for processing.
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Interoffice Transfer of Sensitive Referral/Cases   When a referral or case is made sensitive, consideration may be given to transferring the case to another of the DFCS offices. A referral or case may be transferred to another office, if it is determined that confidentiality could be better ensured by transferring the referral/case.  Prior to the actual transfer, the supervisor or manager making the decision to transfer the referral or case to another office calls a staffing that includes the sending supervisor and manager, the receiving supervisor and manager and the DFCS Deputy Director.
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Sensitive Referrals that are Evaluated Out or Settled at Intake  

When a sensitive referral is:

  • Evaluated-out by Screening or ER social worker or supervisor:
    • If a referral coded as sensitive and, subsequently, “evaluated out”, the following steps are followed:
      • The supervisor who approves the “evaluate out” determination hand delivers the referral to the ER lead clerk.
      • Secondary assignment to ER clerical is not made in CWS/CMS.
      • The ER lead clerk processes the referral and hand delivers back to the supervisor.
      • The supervisor approves the referral closing in CWS/CMS and hand delivers the referral back to the ER lead clerk.
      • The ER lead clerk files the referral in a locked cabinet in the OMC’s office or ER closed files.

  • Settled-at-Intake by the Dependent Intake (DI) social worker:
    • If a referral coded as sensitive and, subsequently, Settled-at-Intake, the following steps are followed:
      • The DI social worker hand delivers the Intake Packet to the supervisor for closing approval in CWS/CMS.
      • The supervisor:
        • Approves the referral closing in CWS/CMS.
        • Hand deliver the Intake Packet to the Dependent Intake Control Clerk (DICC).
      • The DICC:
        • Places the Intake Packet in a manila envelope marked "Confidential" and ponies it to to ER lead clerk.
        • Phones the ER lead clerk to notify her that the Confidential envelope has been sent.
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ER Clerical Lead Action  

Upon receiving a sensitive referral from a Screening social worker, the ER clerical lead:

  • Processes the referral as usual.
  • Pulls previous case file(s) from the locked file in ER Closed File Room, if there have been previous referrals.
  • Files the SC22 for the new referral in a locked file cabinet.
  • Places all of the referral documents in a manila envelope and marks it, “Confidential.”
  • Hand delivers the envelope to the social work supervisor of the assigned unit.

When previous referrals on a sensitive case are requested by the Dependent Intake Control Clerk, the ER clerical lead:

  • Places the previous referral folders in a manila envelope, seals it and marks it, “Confidential.”
  • Calls the lead DI control clerk lead to advise the clerk that the referrals are being forwarded.
  • Forwards the envelope to the DI control clerk lead via the DI messenger.

If an Intake Sheet is received at ER from the Assessment Center on a child who has been admitted to the Children’s Shelter and the referral is sensitive, the ER clerical lead:

  • Makes a secondary assignment to E94P (PAC Eligibility).
  • Processes the referral as usual.
  • Makes a folder and stamps it, “Confidential”.
  • Hand delivers the case file to the social work supervisor of the unit to which the case is assigned.

When a sensitive referral is closed by the ER or DI social worker, the ER clerical lead:

  • Files the referral in the locked cabinet in the OMC’s office or ER closed files.
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ER Supervisor Action  

The ER supervisor:

  • Assigns the sensitive referral to an appropriate social worker.
  • Instructs the social worker to keep the referral in a locked drawer.
  • Alerts the SSPM of the sensitive case.
  • Hand delivers the referral to the ER clerical lead, if the referral is closed.

If an ER supervisor discovers that a referral that has not been marked sensitive and should be marked sensitive, the supervisor has the authority to have the case made sensitive in CWS/CMS.

Not all supervisors and managers have access authority to code referrals or cases sensitive in CWS/CMS. The lead clerks in ER at the Julian Office and South County can be contacted to make a sensitive coding on a referral or case.

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ER Social Worker Action  

When receiving a sensitive referral, the ER social worker:

  • Keeps the referral folder locked in a secure area when not in use.
  • Does not leave the case opened in CWS/CMS when away from his/her desk.
  • Will have access to the referral, until the referral is closed.
  • Delivers the referral file in-person for closure or transfer to the supervisor.
If an ER social worker discovers that a referral that has not been marked sensitive and should be marked sensitive, the worker consults with the supervisor regarding the sensitive determination.
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Assessment Center Social Worker Action  

When processing a new referral that is determined to be sensitive, the Assessment Center social worker:

  • Completes the Intake Sheet.
  • Creates a new referral or opens the referral created at the CANC.
  • If the case is not coded sensitive in CWS/CMS, and the Assessment Center social worker determines that it should be coded sensitive, the Assessment Center social worker:  
  • Notifies the appropriate SSPM's, if the reason for making the referral sensitive involves a high profile person, safety risks to department staff or any other unusual circumstance.
  • Assigns the case to a DI supervisor or DI Control Clerk Lead in-box.
  • Phones a DI social work supervisor or DI Control Clerk Lead to alert them of the sensitive case.
  • Places the Intake Packet in a manila envelope, seals the envelope and marks it, “Confidential.”
  • Ponies the sealed Intake to DI.
  • Does not make a secondary assignment in CWS/CMS to the ER clerical lead.
  • Phones the ER DIC or OMC before faxing the Intake to alert either of them that the fax is coming, so it can be picked up immediately.
  • Faxes the intake to the ER lead clerk.
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Dependent Intake Control Clerk Lead Action  

A sensitive case may be assigned by the Assessment Center to a Dependent Intake (DI) supervisor or the Dependent Intake Control Clerk (DICC) Lead In-box. If the sensitive referral has been assigned directly to the DI supervisor by the Assessment Center, the DICC will be informed of the referral by the DI supervisor. When learning of a sensitive referral, the DICC lead:

  • Logs the case on a separate Sensitive Case Intake Log.
  • Follows steps for coding the referral as sensitive in CWS/CMS.
  • ID’s and requests prior folders from either the ER OMC or Retention Center.
  • If referral is in the DICC in-box, reassigns the referral from the DICC in-box in CWS/CMS to the assigned DI social worker.

If the referral/case is discovered to be sensitive after it is assigned to a DI social worker, the DICC Lead is notified by one of the DI supervisors. The DICC Lead then:

  • Follows steps for coding the referral as sensitive in CWS/CMS.

After a DI social worker is assigned to the case, the DICC Lead:

  • Assigns the referral to the DI social worker in CWS/CMS, if not already done.
  • Hand delivers the Intake Packet to the DI social worker.
  • Telephones the following staff to notify them that a fax on a sensitive case is being sent to them:
    • Assessment Center social worker.
    • Assessment Center social work supervisor.
    • Children’s Shelter.
    • Children’s Shelter OMC.
    • Placement Resource SWS.
    • DFCS Law Enforcement Liaison.
     
  • Faxes the Intake Log for the sensitive case to the above staff.

If a petition is filed, the DICC makes pre-dispositional secondary assignment to a Service Bureau social worker by:

  • Establishing who the next available Service Bureau social worker is from the Case Weight Clerk.
  • Telephoning the social work supervisor (SWS) and briefly discussing the case with the supervisor.
    • The supervisor will inform the DICC Lead if it is okay to give pre-dispo assignment of the sensitive case to the social worker in that unit. If not, the DICC calls the SWS of next available Service Bureau social worker and discusses the sensitive case.
     
  • Follows all other procedures for pre-dispositional assignment.


When the case is disposed, the DICC:

  • Ensures the Case Alert box is filled out on the ID Page in CWS/CMS.
  • Files case documents in compliance with DFCS filing guide into the physical case file and makes a label for the case.
  • Matches court information from the physical case file to the data in CWS/CMS.
  • Enters all court information from the scratch calendar into CWS/CMS.
  • Ensures all necessary documents are in the physical case file prior to sending it to the Continuing social work supervisor.
  • Assigns primary assignment in CWS/CMS to the Continuing social worker.
  • Sends the physical case in a sealed burn bag marked “confidential” to the Continuing social work supervisor.
  • Emails the Continuing supervisor to alert them that the sensitive case has been routed.
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Petition Clerk Lead Action  

The Petition Clerk lead:

  • Follows regular procedures for typing the 300 Petition.
  • Places the petition in a manila envelope marked, “Confidential.”
  • Returns the typed petition to the DI supervisor for signature.
  • Forwards the petition to the Juvenile Court after it is signed by the DI supervisor, no special envelope necessary.

If the Petition clerk lead is not available, the DICC lead types the petition. If neither the Petition clerk lead nor the DICC lead are available, the DI supervisor has the discretion to have DI social worker Richard Wong type the petition.

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Court Liaison Supervisor Action   Upon learning that a case has been made sensitive, the Court Liaison supervisor informs County Counsel that the case is sensitive.
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DI Supervisor Action  

The DI supervisor:

  • Informs the PAC Office that the case is sensitive.
  • Receives files from ER referrals sent in a sealed envelope.
  • Makes arrangements with the assigned social worker to keep the case in a locked drawer to which the supervisor has access.
  • Advises the social worker not to share any information on the case with anyone, except another professional who has a need to know specific information.
  • Advises the Bureau SSPM of the sensitive case.
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DI Social Worker Action  

When receiving a sensitive referral for investigation, the DI social worker:

  • Makes arrangement with the supervisor to keep the case in a locked drawer to which the supervisor has access.
  • Keeps the case file in the locked drawer at all times, when not working on the case.
  • Places a note on the front of the case file indicating that it is a sensitive case.
  • Places a marker in his/her case file drawer noting that, “If you are looking for this case, see the supervisor.”
  • Does not share any information on the case with anyone, except another professional who has a need to know specific information.

If a relative or NREFM who works for the Agency comes forth as a placement option for the child, the relative or NREFM may participate in TDM meetings or Family Conferences regarding the case.

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Continuing Social Work Supervisor Action  

The Continuing social work supervisor:

  • Has the authority to make a case sensitive, if learning information that leads the supervisor to believe that the case should be marked sensitive.
    • Not all supervisors have access authority to mark a case sensitive in CWS/CMS. Emergency Response lead clerk, Lupe Aceves, 975-5243, or South County lead clerk may be contacted with a request to make a case sensitive in CWS/CMS.
     
  • Makes arrangements with the assigned social worker to keep the case in a locked drawer to which the supervisor has access.
  • Advises the Bureau SSPM of the sensitive case.
  • Advises the social worker not to share any information on the case with anyone, except another professional who has a need to know specific information.
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Continuing Social Worker Action  

The Continuing social worker:

  • Makes arrangement with the supervisor to keep the case in a locked drawer to which the supervisor has access.
  • Keeps the case file in the locked drawer at all times, when not working on the case.
  • Places a note on the front of the case file indicating that it is a sensitive case.
  • Places a marker in his/her case file drawer noting that “If you are looking for this case, see the supervisor.”
  • Does not share any information on the case with anyone, except another professional who has a need to know specific information.

If a relative or NREFM who works for the Agency comes forth as a placement option for the child, the relative or NREFM may participate in TDM meetings or Family Conferences regarding the case.

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Highest Level of Security Referral for Sensitive Cases   Some referrals or cases need to be made sensitive for reasons involving safety of DFCS staff. These referrals or cases should be discussed with a supervisor and SSPM. The SSPM contacts the Deputy Director to alert him of any security concerns. For these cases, a Security Alert caseload (E911) has been created in CWS/CMS.
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Referring Sensitive Referrals or Cases to Another County for Services   When determining that it is necessary to request that a case be sent out of county for an investigation or ongoing services, the Bay Area Inter county Sensitive Case Protocol is followed.
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Media Contact and Outside Inquiries   The Social Services Agency’s Media Contact Policy is followed by all SSA employees when they receive inquires from media organizations. Department staff who are contacted by the media should forward the media representative to the DFCS Director, Deputy Director or to the SSA Office of Government Relations.
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Other References  
bullet2 Reporting to the Department of Justice (DOJ)
PDF SSA Media Contact Policy
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