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. As part of this obligation, the SSW is required to maintain personal contact with families and children. Ongoing contact with the family provides information that contributes to a thorough assessment of whether the family has reduced the safety threats and risk factors that initially lead to the involvement of DCBS.
Caseworkers are required to conduct face-to-face visits with children placed in out-of-home care (OOHC) in all placement settings at least one (1) time every calendar month.
Features of an acceptable pattern of visits to parents or other significant family members include:
- Face-to-face contact frequently enough to evaluate the family’s progress;
- Sufficient meaningful discussion of case planning tasks and objectives;
- Sufficient opportunity to observe the residence(s) of the parent(s) and child(ren), or other family members significant to the case; Assessment of the current condition within a home or family and considerations of whether there is an immediate safety threat to a child; and
- Assessment of risk, which includes the identification of risk factors, which are family behaviors that create an environment or circumstances that increase the chance that parents or caregivers will maltreat their children.
Through the life of the case, the burden is on the SSW to locate and maintain contact with family members.