Chapter 2 : Section 7.1
Conditions for Return
If a child is assessed as unsafe due to impending danger, and an out-of-home Safety Plan is implemented, the Department shall identify the conditions for return of the child to the parent(s).
The conditions for return shall be provided in writing to the parent(s), guardian(s) or custodian(s), any child age 12 or older, and the out-of-home caregiver.
Progress toward meeting the conditions for return shall be assessed in conjunction with the Family Functioning Assessment-Ongoing and the Family Functioning Assessment (FFA)-Progress Update.
Conditions for return are written statements of specific behaviors, conditions, or circumstances that must exist before a child can return and remain in the home with an in-home Safety Plan.
The conditions for return are directly connected to the specific reasons why an in-home safety plan could not be put into place. Conditions for return describe the caregivers’ behaviors and family circumstances that would need to exist in order for a sufficient, feasible, sustainable in-home safety plan to be implemented.
The DCS Specialist and DCS Program Supervisor will develop the conditions for return prior to discussing them with the family. The DCS Program Supervisor will approve the conditions for return as part of approving the Safety Plan. The DCS Specialist and DCS Program Supervisor must ensure the conditions for return are comprehensive and sufficient to address all circumstances preventing the use of an in-home safety plan.
The DCS Specialist will engage with the family to review and discuss the conditions for return. This may happen during the Team Decision Making (TDM) meeting held after a child’s removal. If a TDM meeting is not required or is not held, the DCS Specialist and/or DCS Program Supervisor will review the conditions for return during the case plan staffing, checking for understanding from family and team members. The DCS Specialist reviews the Safety Plan, including the conditions for return and progress toward meeting the conditions for return, with the parents and the DCS Program Supervisor at least monthly.
Conditions for return should not be developed for any parent, guardian, or custodian whose whereabouts are unknown at the time of the Family Functioning Assessment. Once the missing parent, guardian, or custodian is located, a full assessment shall be completed and, if an out-of-home safety plan remains necessary, conditions for return will be developed at that time.
Conditions for return should not be developed for any parent, guardian, or custodian with whom reunification will not be pursued due to aggravating circumstances of abuse or neglect, or whose child(ren) have a permanency goal other than reunification.
At any time the Safety Plan is reassessed, the DCS Specialist and DCS Program Supervisor will assess whether current circumstances still indicate the need for an out-of-home safety plan, and whether any or all of the conditions for return have been met.
When the in-home safety analysis indicates that a sufficient, feasible, and sustainable in-home safety plan can be implemented, the DCS Specialist will engage with the family and service team to develop a reunification transition plan. For more information on reunification planning, see Family Reunification.
When the conditions for return are met and a child is able to return to the home of a parent, guardian or custodian with an in-home safety plan, the family’s DCS ongoing services case will remain open until the children are determined to be safe with no need for a safety plan (threats of danger are no longer present or a parent, guardian, or custodian has demonstrated an enhancement of identified diminished protective capacity to consistently manage all threats of danger).
Identifying the Conditions for Return
Prior to identifying the conditions for return, the DCS Specialist and DCS Program Supervisor identify, discuss, and analyze:
how each identified impending danger threat is manifested in the family;
the safety threshold criteria, particularly the observable and specific family condition and the out of control nature of the threat;
caregiver protective capacity, attitude, and awareness; and
the potential for threatening caregivers or persons to leave the home.
The DCS Specialist and DCS Program Supervisor should consider the following when determining specific conditions for return to the family:
The original reason for an out-of-home safety plan (i.e., caregiver behaviors that were violent or out-of-control, there are safety issues with the home environment, and/or lack of resources or support within the family network).
Whether the child(ren) are fearful of returning home. The in-home safety plan is feasible and considers the child(ren)’s current emotional needs.
There are adequate services and/or supports (responsible adults) that can substitute for all diminished caregiver protective capacities to control the impending danger within the home. Explain those services/supports.
The level of supervision necessary to ensure child safety has been determined.
The times, days, or under what circumstances responsible adults or safety services must be available to ensure child safety have been determined.
The stated conditions for return address all of the issues that made an out-of-home safety plan necessary.
If the stated conditions for return are met, a sustainable in-home safety plan is possible.
The stated conditions for return include conditions related to the parent demonstrating the willingness and consistent ability to support an in-home safety plan.
Meeting the stated conditions for return will confirm the parent is willing and able to continue working toward completion of the case plan and identified treatment goals.
Development of the Conditions for Return
Conditions for return describe what the particular family’s behaviors, conditions, and circumstances will look like when all five of the in-home safety analysis questions are answered yes, and there are responsible adults and/or safety services who can substitute for the parent/caregiver’s diminished protective capacity, so that threats of danger are consistently controlled.
To develop the written statements of conditions for return, consider each of the five in-home safety analysis questions. For any question answered no, document the specific reason(s) why it was and continues to be answered no.
Question #1: Is there a combination of safety actions and supportive resources capable of sufficiently controlling the identified danger threats, and are there sufficient resources within the family network or community to control the identified threats?
Safety actions and services to control the safety threats are dependent upon the identified impending danger threat. The safety actions and services must be available to the family at the necessary days, times, and locations, and they must be sufficient to control the identified danger threats. Responsible adults and safety services must be immediately available whenever the danger threats are or could be present.
Condition for return statements associated with the sufficiency of resources should reflect what would need to be different in comparison to what was determined to require an out-of-home safety plan. The written conditions should describe:
The specific safety actions and/or services that would need to be in place to control safety threats in the home.
The level of effort necessary to manage behavior and/or provide social connections and/or provide basic parenting assistance etc. (identify what).
Question #2: Are the parents, guardians, or custodians willing for an in-home or combination safety plan to be implemented and have they demonstrated that they will cooperate with the responsible adults, safety service providers, and safety actions identified in the Safety Plan?
Willing to accept and cooperate refers to the most basic level of agreement to allow a Safety Plan to be implemented in the home and to participate according to agreed assignments. The parents, guardians, or custodians do not have to agree that a Safety Plan is the right thing, nor are they required to like the plan; but they must be willing to accept and cooperate with the plan in order for it to be effective.
Conditions for return statements associated with a caregiver’s lack of acceptance and willingness to participate in developing an in-home Safety Plan should reflect what would need to be different in comparison to what was determined to require an out-of-home Safety Plan. For example:
Caregiver is open to having candid discussion about the reason for a Safety Plan and what the Safety Plan would involve regarding child safety.
Caregiver expresses genuine remorse about (specific maltreatment) toward child and is willing to discuss the need for a Safety Plan.
Caregiver expresses a genuine interest in doing what is necessary to have the child return to the home.
Question #3: Is the home environment calm and consistent enough for an in-home Safety Plan to be implemented and for responsible adults and/or safety service providers to be in the home safely?
Calm and consistent refers to the environment, it’s routine, how constant and consistent it is, its predictability to be the same from day-to-day. The environment must accommodate plans, schedules, and services and be non-threatening to those participating in the Safety Plan.
Conditions for return statements associated with the home environment should reflect what would need to be different in comparison to what was determined to require an out-of-home Safety Plan. For example:
Specific individuals (identify and describe what was problematic about certain people being in the home and threatening to child safety) no longer reside in the home and the caregiver’s commitment to keeping them out of the home is sufficiently supported by in-home safety actions and/or services.
Caregiver no longer expresses or behaves in such a way that reasonably will disrupt an in-home Safety Plan (describe specifically what would be different that was preventing an in-home Safety Plan), expresses acceptance of the in-home Safety Plan and concern for child; and safety actions and/or services are sufficient for monitoring and managing caregiver behavior as necessary.
Specific triggers for violence in the home are understood and recognized by caregivers, and the responsible adults and/or in-home safety service providers can sufficiently monitor and manage behavior to control impulsivity and prevent aggressiveness.
Question #4: Can an in-home Safety Plan and the use of in-home safety actions and/or services sufficiently control impending danger without the results of outside professional evaluations (psychiatric/psychological or medical)?
This question is concerned with specific knowledge that is needed to understand impending danger threats, caregiver capacity, or behavior or family functioning specifically related to impending danger threats; and whether the absence of such information hinders the DCS Specialist’s ability to know what is required to control threats. Specifically, whether there are gaps in information related to family functioning after the completion of the Family Functioning Assessment, and a clinical evaluation is needed in order to provide further clarification in identifying specific circumstances related to caregiver capacity and behavior that influenced the identified danger threat(s). Evaluations that are concerned with treatment or general information gathering (not specific to impending danger threats) can occur in tandem with in-home Safety Plans.
Conditions for return statements associated with a caregiver’s capacity should reflect the information needed from an evaluation in order to fully assess family functioning, including information necessary to understand what is contributing to the manifestation of impending danger. The additional information gathered from the evaluation(s) may result in the need to reassess and revise the Safety Plan and/or the conditions for return. Although a diagnosis or clinical condition of a caregiver may not be immediately available, the DCS Specialist should still identify observable behaviors and/or circumstances that must be controlled or managed in order for an in-home Safety Plan to be successful. For example:
Caregiver has participated in the recommended evaluation(s) and the results provide sufficient information to understand how the danger threat(s) manifest within the family.
Caregiver demonstrates increased emotional stability and/or behavioral control (describe specifically what would be different) to the point where an in-home Safety Plan and safety management can assure child safety.
Caregiver is demonstrating progress toward (describe specifically what would need to be different; e.g., stabilizing emotionally; increased control of behavior) to the extent that in-home safety services can be sufficient and immediately available for effectively managing caregiver behavior.
There are responsible adults and/or sufficient safety service resources available and immediately accessible to compensate for a caregiver’s cognitive limitations and provide basic parenting assistance at the level required to assure that the child is protected and has his or her basic needs met.
There are sufficient responsible adults and/or safety service resources available and immediately accessible to compensate for a caregiver’s physical limitation by providing basic parenting assistance to assure the child’s basic needs are met.
Question #5: Do the parents, guardians, or custodians have a suitable place to reside where an in-home or combination Safety Plan can be implemented?
A suitable place to reside refers to (1) a home/shelter exists and can be expected to be occupied for as long as the Safety Plan is needed, and (2) caregivers live there full time. Home refers to an identifiable domicile. A domestic violence or other shelter, or a friend’s or relative’s home, qualifies as an identifiable domicile if other criteria are met (e.g., expected to be occupied for as long as the Safety Plan is needed, caregivers live there full time, etc.).
Conditions for return statements associated with a caregiver’s residence should reflect what would need to be different in comparison to what was determined to require an out-of-home Safety Plan. For example:
Caregiver has a reliable, sustainable, consistent residence in which to put an in-home Safety Plan in place.
Caregiver maintains the residence and there is confidence that the living situation is sustainable.
Caregiver demonstrates the ability to maintain a sustainable, suitable, consistent residence (describe specifically on an individual case by case basis what would be a sufficient demonstration of a caregivers ability to maintain an adequate place to reside and implement an in-home Safety Plan).
If the conclusion of the Family Functioning Assessment-Investigation and the in-home Safety Plan analysis results in a decision that an out-of-home Safety Plan is necessary to sufficiently manage child safety, the DCS Specialist, with guidance of the DCS Program Supervisor, will document what is required in order for an in-home Safety Plan to be established and the child(ren) returned home (conditions for return).
The DCS Program Supervisor will participate in identifying the conditions for return with the DCS Specialist. All conditions for return statements must be approved by a DCS Program Supervisor prior to providing a written copy to the family.
The DCS Program Supervisor will confirm the conditions for return are directly connected to the specific reasons/justification from the in-home Safety Plan analysis and the reasons why an in-home Safety Plan could not be put into place at the conclusion of the Family Functioning Assessment and/or maintained as a part of ongoing safety management.
Document the conditions for return on the Safety Plan and Safety Plan Signature Page. Following DCS Program Supervisor approval, copies are to be provided to:
the parents, guardians, or custodians;
any child age 12 or older;
the out-of-home caregivers; and
any adults or service providers who are responsible for carrying out identified safety actions and/or services.
Upload an electronic copy as an Artifact in Guardian and place the hard copy in the case file.