Having a CWS/DCFs case can be quite nerve wracking. There are case workers, judges, attorneys, CFTs, and classes that may feel intimidating and foreign to the parents. As a part of the case plan, visitations are by far the most important. They show the court that the parent can adequately parent their child. In addition, they also demonstrate to the child that the parent cares about them and makes time for them each week. In the beginning going to supervised visitation can feel like a chore and out of the way but this is the most crucial time.
In the beginning of the case the parents will usually start with supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is when a third party agency or the Agency itself will host visitation in their visitation rooms. The agency will have either the case worker or a worker supervise the visitation. During the visitation, the staff member will watch the visit and write case notes about the parent's interactions with the child. They will note whether the parent was watching the child, caring for their needs appropriately, and behaving with the child in a meaningful way. Such examples would be playing with a child in an age appropriate manner, changing a diaper if necessary, feeding the child the correct foods, and keeping them from hurting themselves when playing.
These supervised visits can feel very unnatural for the parent as they may feel that their parenting skills are on "trial". They may act in a very reserved manner or distance themselves from the child as they do not feel that they have a parental role due to the child's placement out of their custody. Also, the visitation monitor may be off-putting making the parent watch their every move and making the entire visit unnatural. Despite the odd feelings or unease parents should always strive to make their visits on time and really bond with their child. In addition, most visitations are short staffed so the parents will usually be granted only two visits or so each around 2 hours. During this time the parent should strive to demonstrate that they do know how to parent safely and bond with their child so that the Agency can note this and expand the visitations. Each visit will be noted in what is known as a visitation narrative/ contact narrative. These will be submitted to the court and are a kind of report card to the judge about how the parent is handling parenting their child. If a parent wants to know about how they are performing at their visitations, they can ask the worker at the end how they did and if they have room for improvement. They can also ask their counsel to subpoena visitation narratives to see the formal comments that are submitted to the court.
The court touts that unsupervised visits and beyond are the best form of visitation as the parent can parent and watch over their child as they would without a CWS case. The parent for a visit can take their child out to a park or the library and enjoy some alone time to bond and connect. Even though it may take some time to gain the trust of the Agency, it is worth it to visit the child and perform well at the supervised visits. Once the supervised visits are lifted, the parent will be far more at ease and enjoy their visits with their children more.
Parents and children shall visit as often as possible and/or as ordered by the Court throughout the Juvenile Dependency process. The only exceptions are situations when; the Court has ordered visits to not take place for any reason, the Department of Social Services (DSS) has assessed the current visitation arrangement is no longer safe or in the children’s best interest, or when the visits are unforced by order of the Court and the child has requested the visits not take place.
Visits between a parent and a child shall progress and transition to the least restrictive as quickly as possible, while maintaining the safety, well being, and overall best interest of the children. Safety Organized Practice (SOP) and/or California Partners for Permanency (CAPP) tools shall be utilized to assist in making decisions to increase or decrease the level of visitation.
In the interest of child safety and well being, visitation may be temporarily suspended. If the assessment is that the visits cannot resume as previously ordered by the Court, the Social Worker (SW) shall file a JV180 Request to Change Court Order with the Court within 3 business days. Please see PPG 03-06-028 for additional information regarding JV180 filing procedures.
All visits supervised or observed by DSS staff shall be narrated in CWS/CMS contact narratives within 7 working days.
To define the different types of visits between parents and children, to advise Child Welfare Social Work staff of their responsibilities regarding visitation progression, to provide guidance regarding modification of visitation orders, and to clarify when foster care payments should end.
Juvenile Dependency Court orders shall be reviewed by the assigned Social Work Supervisor (SWS) and SW upon case assignment and following each Court hearing to ensure DSS and family
compliance regarding visitation. When the most recent Court orders state, “All prior orders not modified remain in full, force and effect,” the SWS and SW must refer to previous Court orders to determine the appropriate visitation.
The Court often gives DSS discretion to move to a less restrictive level of visitation, e.g. supervised to unsupervised or liberal to extended; however, prior to exercising discretion, the SW must ensure that any discretionary guidelines set forth by Court have been met, e.g. 10 days notice to all parties, updated discovery, etc.
Supervised Visit – A visit between the parent(s) and their child that is supervised by a DSS employee, an approved agency or other third party. Supervised visits generally are one hour long per week, however, can be extended to several hours and on multiple days.
DSS Supervised Visit – DSS provides supervised visitation services for children and their families at the Visitation Center located in the Brix building. A Social Worker Aide (SWA) or SW provides supervision for families visiting at the DSS.
Approved Agency Supervised Visit – An approved agency is considered to be any provider with an existing contract with Fresno County DSS to provide supervised visitation services, or a Foster Family Agency (FFA) which has entered into an agreement with Fresno County DSS through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Supervised Visitation vendors shall adhere to all of the guidelines set forth in the contract. FFA SW’s and staff are considered contracted providers of supervised visitation services under the FFA MOU. (This does not include FFA foster parents.)
Third Party Supervised Visit – A Third Party Visit is supervised by someone approved by the DSS. A third party supervisor is considered to be any individual other than DSS staff, FFA SW, or other Contracted Provider. A Third Party Supervisor is generally someone who has a relationship with the parent or child and may include, but is not limited to relatives, care providers, non-related extended family members, friends, church members, etc. Please see PPG 03-04-024, Third Party Visitation, for further information on Third Party Visitation guidelines.
Unsupervised Visit – A visit between the parent(s) and their child that is not supervised by anyone. Visits can be for one hour to all day, but can not be overnight. The parent(s) may have unsupervised visits somewhere in the community, their home, or somewhere agreed upon by the SW and parent(s).
Liberal Visit – A visit between a child and parent that is unsupervised and overnight. A liberal visit may be one or more nights, and last up to a maximum of fourteen (14) calendar days/13 nights in a calendar month.
NOTE: In order to avoid a disruption in the child’s Title IV-E Foster Care funding, the liberal visit shall not exceed a total of 14 days in a calendar month, whether the visit days occur on separate dates or consecutively.
Extended Visit – A visit between the parent(s) and their child that lasts beyond 14 consecutive days. Extended visits become placements when the Court orders Family Maintenance services for the child and parent(s).
Following the Detention hearing, the parent(s) meet with the Services Coordinator, who will schedule the initial supervised visits for the parent(s) and their child. Thereafter, supervised visits by DSS or an approved agency are scheduled by the DSS Visitation Coordinator. Third party supervised visits are scheduled by the assigned SW and/or the parent(s) and the approved third party.
Supervised visits can be from one hour to several hours long. Generally a supervised visit does not go past four hours.
Best practice to support case plan goals and outcomes is for the assigned SW to supervise family visits on a regular basis. The SW shall supervise a minimum of one visit per month per family. The SW will observe the relationship between the parent(s) and the child and narrate the visit in CWS/CMS.
If supervised visits continue past three months, a case consultation or teaming meeting shall be held to review the case progress and clearly identify what is going well, any safety concerns, and any complicating factors. If it is determined that it is safe to progress to a less restrictive level of visitation, the SW shall first check the minute orders to determine if DSS has discretion to move to less restrictive visitation. If DSS does not have discretion, a JV180 petition shall be filed requesting the change in the visitation order. If it is determined that it is not safe to progress to less restrictive visits, the SW will document what safety concerns still exist and outline specific Safety Goals related to visitation progression. This information will be documented on form CWS 0029, Permanency Teaming Summary Report, which shall be signed by all participants.
The case consultation or teaming meeting may include, but is not limited to, the following participants; the SW, SWS, Parent(s), Care Provider(s), the child, service providers, Child Focus Team (CFT), Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
There is no change in the foster care payment when the child is on supervised visits.
Once the assigned SW has received Court authorization allowing unsupervised visits, the assigned SW will contact the parent(s) and care provider to schedule the visits. The SW will consider the following when scheduling unsupervised visits:
If the parent(s) will be taking their child to their home during an unsupervised visit, the SW must have first visited the parent(s)’ home to assess for safety and risk factors. If the home is found to be unsafe or possibly place the child at risk, the SW and parent(s) will need to agree upon an alternative location for the unsupervised visits to occur.
Although relatives and friends can be included at unsupervised visits, the parent(s) should be encouraged to spend as much individual time with their child as possible.
The SW shall make a face to face contact with the child and the parent during at least one unsupervised visit per month per family in order to observe the relationship between the parent(s) and the child.
If unsupervised visits continue past three months, a case consultation or teaming meeting shall be held to review the case progress and clearly identify what is going well, any safety concerns, and any complicating factors. If it is determined that it is safe to progress to a less restrictive level of visitation, the SW shall first check the minute orders to determine if DSS has discretion to move to less restrictive visitation. If DSS does not have discretion, a JV180 petition shall be filed requesting the change in the visitation order. If it is determined that it is not safe to progress to less restrictive visits, the SW will document what safety concerns still exist and outline specific Safety Goals related to visitation progression. This information will be documented on form CWS 0029, Permanency Teaming Summary Report, which shall be signed by all participants.
The case consultation or teaming meeting may include, but is not limited to, the following participants; the SW, SWS, Parent(s), Care Provider(s), the child, service providers, CFT, CASA.
There is no change in the foster care payment when the child is on unsupervised visits.
The SW must have visited the parent(s)’ home or the location for the liberal visits to assess the location for safety and risk factors prior to authorizing liberal visits to begin. If the location is found to be unsafe or possibly place the child at risk, the SW and parent(s) will need to agree upon an alternative location for the liberal visits to occur.
The SW will ask the parent(s) to identify other individuals who will have regular contact with the child(ren) during the liberal visit. The SW shall assess the appropriateness of each individual
identified. The assessment shall include, but is not limited to, CWS/CMS, CLETS and Fresno County Sheriff Clearances.
If an individual is determined not to be appropriate to have contact with the child(ren), the SW shall document the information in CWS/CMS and also provide notification to the parent in writing that the individual has not been approved for contact with the children. This may occur either during a formal case staffing or at an informal in person meeting with the parent(s) and shall be documented on the Staffing form 6022 and in a contact narrative in CWS/CMS.
Note: DSS staff is not authorized to disclose the details of an individual’s DSS and/or criminal background to a parent. The specifics may only be shared with the individual in question.
The SW shall make a face to face contact with the child and the parent during at least one liberal visit per month per family in order to observe the relationship between the parent(s) and the child.
When the child is on a liberal visit, the parent(s) is/are not entitled to receive CalWORKs or CalFresh (Food Stamp program) on behalf of the child. The SW will make an appropriate plan with the parent(s) and foster parent(s) to ensure the child’s needs are met during the liberal visit.
Liberal visits should not go on for an extended period. Generally after 30 to 60 days of liberal visits the parent(s) and the child can begin an extended visit. If liberal visits have continued past 60 days, a case consultation or teaming meeting shall be held to review the case progress and to clearly identify what is going well, any safety concerns, and any complicating factors. If it is determined that it is safe to progress to an extended visit, the SW shall first check the minute orders to determine if DSS has discretion to move to less restrictive visitation. If DSS does not have discretion, a JV180 petition shall be filed requesting the change in the visitation order. If it is determined that it is not safe to progress to an extended visit, the SW will document what safety concerns still exist and outline specific Safety Goals related to visitation progression. This information will be documented on form CWS 0029, Permanency Teaming Summary Report, which shall be signed by all participants.
The case consultation or teaming meeting may include, but is not limited to, the following participants; the SW, SWS, Parent(s), Care Provider(s), the child, service providers, CFT, CASA.
Foster care payment will continue to be provided to the foster parent during the liberal visit. The foster care payment will end when the child leaves the foster home and is placed with their parent(s).
Once the SW has received the Court order allowing an extended visit, the SW will contact the parent(s) and foster family to schedule an extended visit.
The SW will make a minimum of two face to face visits with the parent(s) and the child in the home during the first 30 days of the extended visit.
Extended visits become placements when the Court orders Family Maintenance services for the child and parents.
When the child is placed with their parent(s), either on an extended visit or with Court ordered Family Maintenance services, the SW shall complete the following:
When the Court has ordered Court ordered Family Maintenance between the child and their parent(s), the SW shall complete the following in CWS/CMS:
Non-Minor Dependent (NMD) Visitation
Any change in visitation for NMD’s must continue to be ordered by the Court past the youth’s eighteenth birthday. Changes in visitation orders for NMD’s can be accomplished in any one of the following ways:
Restarting Visits or When a Parent Presents Themselves
There are times when parents have not made themselves available for visitation for a significant period of time or when a parent is located after the start of the Dependency case.
In both situations, the SW shall assess/reassess the parent for visitation with their child(ren).
For parents with no prior visitation orders the SW shall file a JV 180 petition requesting the appropriate visits for the parent (refer to PPG 03-06-028, Requests to Change or Modify Court Orders).
For parents with prior visitation orders, if the SW determines the level of visitation previously ordered remains appropriate, the SW shall arrange visitation as mentioned in the previous sections of this PPG. If the level of visitation previously ordered is no longer appropriate, the SW shall file a JV 180 Request to Change Court Order.
Being the bad guy at court.....
Lots of time attorneys do not want to spend time fighting the system or dragging out court cases out of fear of being disliked. And even though many attorney's will say they will risk losing their job or that they are wasting everybody's time and resources, in the end they are doing their job by really advocating for their clients be it parents or children.
Too often parent's attorneys and children's counsel will refrain from properly advocating for their clients. They simply agree with the department's recommendations. They believe that because if I "demand all of these documents and court orders everyone is going to be mad at me". They do not want to do all of these things even if it is in the best interest of their clients simply out of fear of looking bad or being a nuisance. They believe that asking the court for formal discovery requests and setting trials will "stir the pot" too much and waste the county's money.
As counsel it is very important to ask yourself why are you there? Are you there to be simply be an attorney in name for the client or actually represent your client. by any means you can. Ask yourself what are you hired for. Did the county hire a facsimile of an attorney or did they hire counsel to properly advocate for their clients? Are you paid to go through the motions or are you paid to represent your clients? You are not simply there as decoration you are there to advocate.
There are plenty of hearings where the judge mainly hears one person talking while the rest of the attorneys sit passively and accept the recommendations and orders of the department. There are many times where parent's counsel will advise their parents to agree to the recommendations and get started on their services to expedite the process. This may be acceptable in some cases where the parent knows that setting a contested hearing will do more harm than good, but there are plenty of instances where the parent should set a contested matter to really fine tune their services and the court order. Also, bear in mind that the department is not always right in their recommendations. The department may commit procedural mistakes. The lawyer is the parent or the child's only advocate in the courtroom so having a zealous lawyer representing them will make them feel like their interests are really being presented and properly defended.
Even though you may want to avoid being that attorney who has a reputation, an attorney who fights for their clients interests despite the fact that they may demand a lot of attention and time of the court are the ones who in the end are the most respected and sought after by clients.
Remember that having a child be present at the CFT meetings and court are very important. Many people forget that the child is the center of these meetings and often do not invite the child to the meetings or the court hearings. For young children under three it may not be acceptable for them to be in court as they are too young to speak or understand the nature of the proceedings. However, with older children, it is important that the judge see them physically and be able to hear their opinion if the have one. Even though the child has minor's counsel, a CASA worker, GAL, and or case foster parent present nothing is a better source on the child's well being than the child. Words and meaning gets lost in translation and this can lead to erroneous statements being made in reports that neither the child nor the parent has actually stated.
During CFTs the child may be able to voice concerns about their treatment in the foster care placement or let the case worker know how visits are going with mom or dad.. The child can also speak to the case worker and let the case worker see and hear how they are doing. With all of the paperwork that occurs the child can be easily lost in the mire and become just a case number to the case worker and the judge. The CFTs also give an opportunity for the case worker to see how the parents and the child speak and address each other. During CFTs the parents and the child can become emotionally heated and leading to yelling and tension between parent and child. This is a golden opportunity for the case worker to see how the parent and child manage their frustrations. I have seen CFTs where the child and the parent begin to yell and one of them walks out in frustration and needs to be calmed down.
That is all for today.
So as much as I'd love to discuss the details of Panoramic software, there is little to no information about the functions of the public guardian public conservator software. So instead I will be discussing the issues with the child welfare database CWS/CMS.
The child welfare services agency in California has a large central database where they store information about the children's' cases and generate documents. This large system handles all the data from California's 58 counties. The program was introduced around 1980s in an effort to shift heavy case loads from paper files to electronic files. At the first time it was implemented, there were many issues with the software crashing and slowing down, but as the years passed it became more manageable and quicker.
The CWS/CMS system has many features with over 800 pages that help case workers manage their cases, input data, prepare files for court, and organize notes about the children and the parent's progress. The system is supposed to help county employees research and pull data from other counties should parents and children move. from one county to another. Rather than using snail mail or having to send paperwork requesting transfer of data, the CWS/CMS system allows case workers to directly pull data at their convenience (Child Welfare History Snapshot). The system also has forms that help auto-generate court documents or case plans to reduce the amount of work case workers need to do. Rather than writing a new case plan or court report each time a new one is needed, they can impute the family information and the system will auto-generate the needed document. The system also
Despite all of these purported benefits, many case workers and data control assessors have found issues with the CWS/CMS system. The first and most common complaint about the system is how slow it is and how it causes massive case delays. The system was implemented around 1990s and has not been updated since so the massive data transfer can cause crashes and significant delays.
Most case workers would rather spend their time on helping the children and families on a more personal basis rather than just imputing data and preparing forms.
A lack of computer skills, compounded by the complexity of the CWS/CMS system adds additional demands for overtime. d. Social workers are often required to navigate through multiple pages within the caseload management system exceeding 800 computer screens.
The inflexibility of the CWS/CMS system software programs creates a condition whereby social workers frequently input inaccurate data in order to satisfy program requirements.
The lack of timely CWS/CMS technical problem response from Boulder, Colorado, often interferes with meeting the time constraints demanded by the system for data collection and mandatory reporting. g. Many social workers do not feel confident
Implementation of the CWS/CMS system for case management causes a hardship on the social workers, such as: a. Many of the social workers spend 50-70 percent of their time performing administrative duties, including travel, preventing them from giving attention to the needs of the children in their care. This condition is a major contributor to the need for overtime hours.
As you can see just the control panel alone has many complicated entries and icons that take a lot of time to learn how to navigate. I hope in the real software they have descriptions for each one because that looks really confusing.
And also to add they have a software for structured decision making which helps case workers with whether to move forward with cases. In addition to the CWS/CMS software, they have word documents where they prepare court reports and case plans. The CWS/CMS software is aligned to auto-generate word documents, but I am sure that the case workers have to review the word documents to ensure that everything properly translates over from CMS.
Because of all of these issues and the fact that the CWS/CMS system is a fairly old data base the agency that manages CWS online software, Child Welfare Digital Services has developed and introduced a new version of the CMS system. They call it CWS Cares. They boost that this new software is much quicker than the old version, helps locate data faster than before, and should have less crashes and system delays. I believe planning to implement it was introduced in 2018. We shall see how this compares to the old one and if it is any improvement over the current one.
So recently on a lecture hosted by SDSU, they brought up issues with child welfare practices and one being with case plans that do not help parents. Too often the case plans are blank templates in which the case worker imputes generic services for all parents.
They stressed the importance of the case plan in the family reunification services and how it should really strive to reflect the deficiencies and changes that the parents need to make.. The case plan as they called it is a "living document". They mean living as in that it follows the parents throughout the lifetime of the case and should be constantly changing to reflect progress in the case.
Too often the case plan is a static document that has little variance. It usually is drafted around the jurisdiction disposition period and does not change throughout the life of the case. I understand that case workers are busy and do not have the time to check in as much as they should or edit and file a revised case plan to reflect any progress or lack thereof. However, the case plan should be edited to add in progress or milestones that the parents have reached. By doing such the parents will have the motivation that they are doing the right things to get their children back.
The dependency system is infamous for being overloaded with cases and without relatively frequent check in with the parents they may become discouraged and give up or slow down on their progress. Those who fight such changes argue that this would cause even more delays and make it much harder for case workers to close out cases on time. I am not sure as I do not actively work with CWS but it seems that in the long term it would reduce the number of cases and case worker would be able to close out cases faster.
I know that the child welfare services/ case management system (CWS/CMS) is known for slowing down everything as it is a lot of point click point click click as case workers are trying to fill in fields and insert commentary. Even though the paperwork is mandatory and a dominate part of the job, it is very important that the case worker does not forget to meet with the parents and check in. It can be as simple as a phone call or short meeting where they ask "How are things going? What services have you completed this month? What do you need help with? How is minor?" These questions are very simple to ask...finding the time to ask such is far far harder. However, asking these may reveal some important information or unmet parental needs.
On a final note, the presenters commented on not all aspects of the case plan being service oriented. Take for example if a parent learns visually or has more hands on needs, the case worker should take note of that and see if they can make accommodations. Not all parents benefit from a lecture style parenting class and may struggle with parenting even after completing their requirement. They propose that they learn from books or videos and then check in with the case monthly about what they learned and how they implement it with their children. If this works, the case worker should petition to have that as an alternative to traditional parenting classes. Again this may seem like it would cause delays, but let me remind you that there is a difference between compliance and actually learning from the services. There is no point in having the services if it does not benefit the parent. By taking a few extra minutes to ensure that the parent actually learns and benefits from their case plan requirements, recidivism may reduced thus decreasing the case loads for case workers in the long term.
Legalese can confuse anyone but parents new to the system and guardians who are sitting in on hearings may find the entire process confusing and daunting. Juvenile dependency is a unique branch of law with special rules and terminology such as dependency and DCFS. As a result, many parents and children find themselves facing foreign court procedures and a "new" language. This sample question sent in by a caretaker show how critical documents are often phrased in words that pass over most heads.
To begin the literal English translation of the following would be
Contested [parent's disagree with the findings over] jurisdictional hearing [the hearing regarding where the court assumes legal responsibility over the child] on original dependency petition (300) [refers to the Welf and Inst Code sec 300 that regulates dependent minors] filed on date of Dept. of Public Social Services. [the original petition asking that the state take legal responsibility over the child due to parental unfitness].
In short the parents disagree with the court orders during the jurisdictional hearing which was based on the original petition for dependency. To refresh dependency is the status of the minor being under the legal custody of the state /county due the parents being found unfit. In this the case the parents did not agree with the findings that sought that the court adjudicate [find/order] the children dependent and ask that the court set a contested matter hearing.
Even though it would be easy for the court to put the wording of the process in simple english that everyone can understand, the legal system is not structured in such a way and parents and caretakers best be off researching any words or terminology they do not know. If they have court appointed counsel, they can ask their counsel what the meaning of the words mean and what their implications are. Don't allow yourself to get lost in the mire of words and legal rules. Advocate for yourself because if you do not understand what is going on there is no way that you can properly complete what is need of you.
Juvenile Dependency and