From the moment of the initial contact with the family, the SSW and the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) are obligated under federal and state law to make reasonable efforts to keep families intact whenever possible, and in removal situations, to make reasonable efforts to reunify children with their families. Out-of-home care (OOHC) case plans are also expected to make appropriate plans to ensure the child’s mental health, educational stability, physical health, and the establishment and support of a stable placement for the duration of their time in OOHC. Additionally, for a child in OOHC, the SSW and DCBS are responsible for creating a plan that demonstrates reasonable efforts to obtain a safe, permanent placement that permits the child to exit foster care in a reasonable timeframe. The components of a well-designed case plan include documentation around all these efforts.
Key strategies for the achievement of an appropriate case plan include the engagement of family members and use of a family team meeting (FTM) model, when appropriate, timely assessment of concurrent planning, when appropriate, to the case-specific circumstances, and the development of the key family level and individual level objectives that identify key benchmarks for the evaluation of the family’s progress.