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Appendix I: Individual Analyses of State Policies

Key Factors
Family Foster Care
Agency Policy/Regulations

Policy Manual
Volume VII, Chapter A
Child Protective Services

Does the policy address the investigation of allegations of maltreatment in foster care as a distinct investigatory process?
  • Foster homes, categorized as one type of "nondesignated out-of-family setting," are included with unregulated family day care homes, locally approved foster homes, in-home child care providers, and individuals (not parents) providing home schooling. This policy does contain some language specifically related to foster care.

  • The policy addressing these investigations is not nearly as extensive as the policy addressing investigations in "out-of-home settings." Those settings include "state licensed and religiously exempted child day care centers, regulated family day care homes, private and public schools, group residential facilities, hospitals, or institutions."

  • A clear statement indicates that policy directives associated with investigation in nondesignated settings are in addition to the general policy requirements governing all agency investigations.
Is kinship/relative care addressed in the policy?
  • No language addresses kinship/relative care.
What agency/unit is mandated to conduct the investigation?
  • CPS staff from the local county of the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) conduct the investigation.
Is there a team approach? Who is on the team?
  • The county CPS investigator is responsible for the investigation.

  • When the foster home is a DSS-approved home, a staff member from the local office "approval agent" supports the investigation. In a foster home certified by a private agency, a staff person from that agency provides support.

  • Clear language states that the "approval agent" is not a coinvestigator but provides support functions.
What are the key activities of agency staff?

County investigator:
  • Informs the approval agent of the nature of the complaint and continues to keep the approval agent informed about the progress of the investigation;

  • Provides the approval agent with information necessary to make decisions about placement and to assure that safety of children in the foster home;

  • Informs the "lead caretaker" that the approval agent has been notified and that the investigation outcome will be shared with the approval agent as well;

  • Provides verbal or written information to the local department regarding the outcome of the investigation. The goal of the information sharing is to assist the local department in decisionmaking about current and future placements as well as necessary services that should be provided to the foster parent.
Approval agent:
  • May assist the CPS worker "with facilitating the investigation" but not in the role of coinvestigator;

  • May be asked by CPS worker to assist with gathering information, accessing parties, or providing services or assistance necessary to assure the safety of children in the home.
What time frames are identified?
  • The CPS Policy Manual, of which Part XII, Out of Family is one section, states that out of family investigations shall be conducted as any other CPS investigation unless otherwise specified.

  • Part V, The Investigation, details the Code of Virginia's mandated time frames -- the local department shall complete the investigation and render a disposition within 45 calendar days of receipt of the complaint or report. Disposition means determining whether or not the alleged child abuse or neglect occurred. However, upon written justification by the local department, based on locally determined guidelines, case by case exceptions may be made to extend this period by 15 calendar days. The time frame for completing an investigation cannot exceed a total of 60 days. No specific time frames are noted in Part XII, Out of Family.
What decisionmaking processes are described?
  • In the CPS Policy Manual in Part V, The Investigation, as per the regulation, 22 VAC 40-700-30, the CPS worker is instructed that after collecting evidence and before expiration of the time frames for completing the investigation, the investigating social worker must determine the disposition as founded or unfounded by a preponderance of the evidence, emphasizing first source evidence. With founded dispositions, two additional decisions must be made:

    1. Founded dispositions must be categorized into one of three levels. Categorization is dependent on the nature of the act and the seriousness of the harm or threatened harm to the child as a result of maltreatment. The level for a founded disposition must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. A Level 1 finding includes those injuries/conditions, real or threatened, that result in or were likely to have resulted in serious harm to a child. A Level 2 finding includes those injuries/conditions, real or threatened, that result in or were likely to have resulted in moderate harm to a child. A Level 3 finding includes those injuries/conditions, real or threatened, that result in minimal harm to a child.

    2. If the local department renders a founded disposition of abuse or neglect, then the local department must complete a risk assessment to determine whether or not the child is in jeopardy of future abuse and/or neglect and whether or not intervention is necessary to protect the child. Risk of harm to the child may be visualized as a continuum ranging from no assessable risk through high risk. The evidence may show that the abusive or neglectful event was a one time occurrence with no discernible risk in the future. In the alternative, the evidence may show the risk of the child being abused or neglected in the future to be significant, then the risk assessment should be high. The worker must focus on assessing the degree to which the child's overall situation places that child in jeopardy of harm, taking into consideration the evidence gathered during the investigation, an analysis of its reliability and importance, and an evaluation of how the various risk factors interrelate to determine the level of risk to the child. The worker shall categorize the risk as either High Risk, Moderate Risk, or No Reasonably Assessable Risk.
Is the CPS/licensing interface clear?
  • The licensing issue is not clearly addressed in the policy.
What actions are taken regarding the reported child(ren) during the investigation?
  • One of the first tasks of the CPS worker is to determine the degree to which the child or children are secure from harm or threat of serious harm now or in the very near future. Utilizing a Child Safety and Family Needs Assessment, safety must be determined for each child and the safety conclusion based on the least safe if there is more than one child in the family. This safety assessment results in one of three documented decisions: Safe: When there are no children likely to be in immediate danger of moderate to serious harm; Conditionally Safe: When safety interventions are in place and have resolved the unsafe situation for the present time (Requires a Safety Plan); Unsafe: When, without controlling interventions a child is in immediate danger of serious harm (Emergency Removal or Court action is required to insure safety of the child(ren) - a court order may replace the Safety Plan. If, when utilizing these tools, safety factors are present and not balanced by mitigating factors, the worker shall complete a written Safety Plan.

  • After collecting and synthesizing information about the alleged abuse or neglect, the worker shall make a dispositional assessment within 45-60 days of the report date, categorizing the disposition into Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3, as discussed above.

  • With a Founded Disposition, the worker must conduct a risk assessment, as described above.
What actions are taken regarding other children in the home?
  • Same as above.
What actions are taken to protect the rights of foster parents throughout the process?
  • CPS worker must conduct a face to face interview with the foster parent when he is the alleged abuser. He must be informed of the allegations in writing, including naming the child(ren) involved, and the investigative process must be explained, and a brochure with a written explanation given.

  • The foster parent must be apprised of the right to have the interview tape recorded and be given a copy of the tape recording.

  • He must be informed about the time frames for the investigation, and any extension.

  • If the investigating worker comes to the home, the foster parent shall be apprised that he does not have to let the worker in.

  • If the evidence points to a founded disposition, the foster parent shall be afforded the opportunity to be present at a predispositional consultation where all the evidence is presented before a disposition is made, and the foster parent can request additional evidence in his favor be considered.

  • When a disposition is made, the foster parent should be notified verbally and in writing, and notified in writing of his appeal rights.

  • The foster parent may appeal a founded disposition at a local and state level, and finally to the circuit court.
What supports are provided to foster parents throughout the process?
  • No supports are described.

Directions given for investigations in foster homes are less clear than directions for investigations in other forms of out-of-home care.

Supplemental Materials
  • The same policy addresses investigations in "designated out-of-family settings."

  • A Report on Investigations of Allegations of Abuse and Neglect of Children in Out-of-Family Settings is also available.

  • The statute that enables designated out-of-family investigations is Virginia Administrative Code Title 22, Social Services VAC Agency No. 40, Department of Social Services Chapter 730, Investigation of Child Abuse and Neglect in Out-of-Family Complaints.

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