Topic:
FAMILIES (GENERAL); FOSTER CARE; CHILDREN AND FAMILIES DEPT.; JUVENILES;
Location:
FOSTER HOMES;

OLR Research Report


August 20, 2004

 

2004-R-0634

TRENDS IN FOSTER CARE AND DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES' RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARD BIRTH FAMILIES

By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

You asked (1) for trend data on the number of children in foster care and the number of foster parents and (2) what responsibilities the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has to foster parents.

SUMMARY

The number of children in foster and relative care dropped by 11% between 2000 and 2004 while the number of families licensed to care for them declined by 12% during that period.

DCF has responsibilities to foster parents before a child is placed with them, at the time of placement, during the child's stay, and when it removes the child from their home. When a family is first licensed, a DCF support worker is supposed to develop a “family resource plan” that assesses the family's strengths and weaknesses and identifies the worker's responsibilities to it. When a child is placed with a family, the social worker is supposed to provide the foster parents with the child's “placement portfolio,” which contains the health care and other information and materials needed for the child's proper care and supervision.

During the child's placement, a DCF worker must periodically visit the family and maintain telephone contact. DCF must develop a treatment plan for each foster child, which includes visits with biological parents. Before any changes to those arrangements occur, social workers are to discuss them with the parties involved, including the foster family. The DCF worker is also responsible for ensuring that the foster parent understands the schedule for the child's medical care and knows that transportation to medical appointments is available. Finally, DCF must notify foster parents at least 14 days before removing a child from their home.

FOSTER CHILDREN AND FOSTER FAMILIES—TREND DATA

There were 582 fewer children in licensed foster and relative care homes on June 30, 2004 than there were on that date in 2000, an 11% decline. But the number has risen by nearly 4% since its low point in 2002. The number of licensed foster and relative care families dropped by a similar amount, 532 (12%), during that period. Most of this decline (352) was among relative caregivers. Table 1 shows the number of children in placement on June 30 in each of the past five years and the number of families licensed to care for them on those dates.

Table 1: Children in Foster and Relative Care and Their Caregivers, June 30, 2000-2004

Year

Children in Foster Care

Children in Relative Care

Total

Foster Care Families

Relative Care Families

Total

2000

3,676

1,462

5,138

1,506

1,058

2,564

2001

3,484

1,261

4,745

1,482

1,193

2,675

2002

3,334

1,045

4,379

1,449

887

2,336

2003

3,457

1,023

4,480

1,444

656

2,100

2004

3,411

1,145

4,556

1,326

706

2,032

DCF RESPONSIBILITIES TO FOSTER PARENTS

General Guidelines

DCF guidelines for foster care services state that:

1. the child's ultimate welfare and needs should be the paramount consideration guiding all discussion regarding the child and

2. the child, his or her primary caretakers, and others with whom the child has a significant relationship should be carefully prepared for a placement, to the extent possible. This preparation includes (a) pre-placement visits to the foster family and (b) sharing information about the child with the foster family.

The DCF social worker is the department's primary agent in carrying out its responsibilities to a child in foster care. The worker is to share these responsibilities with foster parents in order to ensure that the child's needs are identified and that the child receives necessary support and services. A written service plan establishes the objectives and responsibilities of the parties involved in the child's care and serves as the guide for providing services to achieve those objectives. It is an agreement between the child, his or her family, the foster family, service providers, and the DCF social worker.

As part of the social worker's relationship with the foster family, he or she should

1. provide them with the opportunity to discuss the child's progress and any unmet needs they see;

2. provide them with information, support, guidance, and referrals to other professionals on the child's behalf;

3. help them, when necessary, to identify and obtain services for the child such as medical or educational services; and

4. ensure that the foster family has access to all financial resources available to the child while in foster care (DCF Policy Manual 36.55-1, 1.2, and 1.3).

Specific Responsibilities Toward Foster Parents

Before Placement. Each licensed foster family is assigned a support worker. The worker is to:

1. within 30 days of a family becoming licensed, work with it to develop a “resource family support plan,” which assesses the family's strengths and weaknesses and identifies the support worker's responsibilities to it and services and training the family agrees to accept;

2. within the first three months after a family becomes licensed, review with it DCF policies and procedures, DCF's responsibilities to the family, and the roles of the support worker and the social worker; and

3. provide foster families who want to purchase health insurance from the state with the appropriate applications and other information (DCF Policy Manual 41-25-4 to –26).

At Placement. When a child is placed in a foster home, the child's social worker must:

1. meet with the foster family to confirm the appropriateness of the match and complete the placement process;

2. provide the foster parents with the child's “placement portfolio,” which contains the health care and other information needed for them to care for and supervise the child; and

3. using that portfolio, provide the family with written information and materials needed for the child's proper care and supervision.

Any information, including health information, that is not available at the time of placement must be provided within 30 days. If the placement is an emergency, the foster parents must receive information needed to meet the child's immediate needs within 24 hours or one working day of the placement (DCF Policy Manual 36-55-1.3; 41-19-4; 45-5.6-1).

During Placement. Both the child's social worker and the foster family's support worker have responsibilities toward the family while a child is placed there. The support worker must contact the family within 24 hours after a child is placed with it to discuss supports it might need during the placement and services available, including written information about day care. And he must visit at least once a quarter and telephone at least once a month during the placement (DCF Policy Manual 41-25-4 to –26).

DCF must develop a treatment plan for each foster child. A DCF treatment worker must contact foster parents in person (1) within two days of the child's placement with them, (2) at least once a week for the first 30 days the child is with them, (3) bi-weekly from the 31st day of placement until the first review of the child's treatment plan, and (4) monthly after the first review. The worker must contact the foster parents by phone (1) bi-weekly from the 31st day of placement until the first review of the child's treatment plan and (2) monthly after the first review (DCF Policy Manual 36-15-1.1)

Treatment plans for foster children must include arrangements for the child to visit his or her biological parents. Before any changes to those arrangements occur, social workers are to discuss them with the parties involved, including the foster family. If the change is due to an emergency situation, the social worker is to attempt to discuss the reasons for it within five days after it occurs (DCF Policy Manual 36-75-1).

The DCF worker is responsible for ensuring that the foster parent understands the schedule for the child's medical care and knows that transportation to medical appointments is available. The worker must check monthly with the parent to make sure that exams have been scheduled or have occurred, that routine health and dental care is ongoing, and that appropriate forms have been updated (DCF Policy Manual 36-45-1).

The treatment plan must be reviewed periodically at an administrative case review (ACR). The child's social worker must invite the foster parents to the ACR (but they are not required to attend).

When Removing a Child. DCF must notify foster parents at least 14 days before removing a child from their home. The notice must be in writing and provide the reasons for the removal and inform them that they can ask for a hearing on the decision. If the removal is due to an emergency, DCF must provide this notice when the removal occurs or as soon as possible thereafter. Contact between a child and a former foster parent must be allowed if the child asks for it and it is deemed in the child's best interest (DCF Policy Manual 36-55-15).

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