V. D-1. Child Assessment and Plan

Effective 8/15/08

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V. D-1. Child Assessment and Plan

Effective 8/15/08

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When children are placed in foster care, day to day safety is ensured, in part, through frequent, meaningful caseworker contacts with children and their caregivers. Children and families are better served when there is a positive, meaningful relationship between the caseworker and family members.  This relationship is important in case planning and achieving safety, well-being and permanency for children.  Children’s voices need to be heard, valued, and considered in decisions regarding their lives.  It is important for a caseworker to know the children’s thoughts and feelings in regard to their life situations their understanding of why they are in care, and their hopes and dreams.  Planning for children focuses on the goal of preserving their family, reunifying their family, or achieving permanency in another family.  We must consider who is important to the child, what connections the child wants to keep, and what the child thinks will happen to him/ her in the future.  In order to proceed to effective planning with and for the child, it is important to find out as much as possible by talking with the child and those who know him/her.



The child assessment has two purposes.  The first purpose is to gather enough information regarding the child in order to be able to effectively plan with and for the child.  It is important that information is gathered regarding all aspects of the child’s life.  Therefore information should be gathered from those involved with the child, including caregivers, birth parents, service providers, teachers, and -  most importantly - from the child.  This information, which is gathered over a period of time as part of the ongoing assessment, should answer several fundamental questions:


 What does the child understand about his/her current situation and what does s/he want?
 Who is important to the child?  What connections doe s/he want to maintain?
 Who does the child feel safe with?
 How is the child doing in his/her placement?  in school?
 How is the child’s physical, emotional and mental health?


The second purpose of the child assessment is to identify what the child needs and develop a plan to meet those needs.  The Child Plan focuses on how the child’s identified needs will be met during the next six months. A Family Team Meeting will be held to review the assessment to ensure all needs have been identified and to determine who will do what to make sure the needs are met.


We commit to assessment in four key areas:


2.Developmental issues (well-being)
3.Permanency and stability issues
4.Support Systems


We commit to seeing the child monthly, with the majority of visits in the child’s home that also provide the child opportunity to have private conversation with the caseworker and to have monthly contact with foster parents.  We commit to seeing the child’s parents monthly if the permanency goal is reunification.

We commit to seeing the child’s home environment every month.  In increasing our purposeful contacts with children, we commit that we will not interrupt the child at school.  (An exception here would be a child protective assessment).  We commit to a family team meeting process for sharing our assessments with significant others in the child’s life, and to developing a plan with those others at that meeting.  We commit to include the child’s parents, foster parents and the child at the Family Team Meeting to develop the Child Plan and invite them to sign it along with the caseworker and supervisor.


Frequency of Contact

Children Placed in State

The Child and Family Services Reviews, conducted by the Administration for Families and Children, have shown that more frequent casework contact with the child and parents result in better outcomes for children.  Frequent contacts with the child increase positive outcomes in areas which include:  


 reduced risk of harm.
 needs identification and services for the child, parents and foster parents.
 child and family involvement in case planning; achievement of  the permanency goals of reunification, guardianship, and permanent placements with relatives.
 success in meeting children’s educational, physical and mental health needs.  


In addition, frequent contact with parents has positively influenced their children’s placement stability


With the goal of improving outcomes for Maine families and children, the caseworker will make at least one purposeful face-to-face contact each month with the child in all cases, with the parents in reunification cases and with the foster parents/caregivers.  The plan for how contact will occur will take into consideration the wishes of the child, however, the majority of visits will take place in the residence of the child.  In order to ensure that the child’s educational process is not interrupted the child’s school day (classes, lunch, recess, study halls, etc.) is not to be disrupted to complete this monthly contact.  


New placements need to be seen more frequently at the onset of the placement with a visit at least once within the first 2 weeks of the placement. The caseworker should have at least one telephone contact with the child and caregiver within the first week of placement if unable to visit during the first week. The following visit must be in four weeks after the placement. There should be at least one telephone contact between the first and second visit.



Children Placed Out Of State

Out-of-state placements in family settings require ICPC approval.

For children placed out-of-state under ICPC supervision, visits are conducted by the supervising agency monthly in conformity with federal and DHHS policy guidelines and timely written reports are required Caseworkers with children in foster placement out of state must have at least one substantive phone conversation with the child monthly.  The child must also have one face-to-face contact with a Maine OCFS caseworker at least once every 90 days. For children in out-of-state adoptive or permanency guardianship placements and for children placed out-of-state, with a plan to grant custody to another party, the supervising agency will conduct monthly visits and the Maine OCFS caseworker will make one face-to-face contact with child once every 90 days and a final visit prior to adoption finalization or a court decision resulting in a change of custody.


Out-of-state or distant in-state residential treatment centers, juvenile corrections facilities and other distant placements monthly contact by OCFS staff is required.


Children Placed in Maine from Other States

Children being supervised by the Department through the Interstate Compact will be supervised in accordance with the request from the sending State and receive monthly contact in accordance with federal guidelines.  


See Appendix One for a summary guideline for frequency of contact.



Caregivers and children will be informed at the time of placement and during subsequent contacts that the caseworker will be seeing the child at least monthly, with the majority of visits in the home.  The caseworker will convey to the child and his/her caregivers the responsibility of the caseworker to know the child and what is occurring in his/her placement, school, with his/her family and services.  The better the caseworker knows what the child needs the better the caseworker can work with the child and others in the child’s life toward safety, permanency, and wellbeing.


Conducting the Assessment

The Child

Between a child and the caseworker, a variety of opportunities for contact exist that can help the caseworker assess a child’s needs as well as safety.  A caseworker may visit the child at his/her placement, attend a family visit, attend a family team meeting or an agency team meeting, or transport the child to an appointment.  It is expected that the caseworker incorporate time alone each month with the child to allow the child to express any concerns or opinions s/he have on such issues as his/her placement, visitation or case goal, as well as to assess the child’s safety in his/her current placement.  


Five key areas need to be been explored as part of the assessment and in the preparation for the Family Team Meeting and development of the case plan.  These areas are:


 safety issues
 developmental issues
 permanency and stability issues
 support system


By putting the child at ease, the caseworker encourages the free exchange of information.  By asking open-ended questions about what it is like for the child to live in his/her placement, the caseworker can encourage the child to talk about what is important to him/her and to explore for any safety issues.  The caseworker may focus in depth on different areas each visit.  Through follow-up questions, children and youth should be encouraged to expand on their answers related to key issues of safety, permanency, and well-being.


See Appendix Two for relevant areas to explore during contacts with a child.


Parents and Caregivers

Caseworkers shall meet with parents on a monthly basis when the case goal is family reunification.  This allows the caseworker to assess the parents’ perspective on their progress, to address any concerns, and to gather information on how parents think their child is doing.  The caseworker will visit the parents’ home on at least a quarterly basis and more often if the case circumstances indicate.


The caseworker will meet with the foster parent or other caregiver monthly.


Ongoing contact with the child’s caregivers helps the caseworker assess the progress of the child as well as any current needs of the child and the caregivers.  

See Appendix Three for some relevant areas to explore with caregivers.


The Child’s Environment

In addition to interviews with the child, the caseworker will observe the child’s environment at least every month.  


Observations of Interactions of Child and Caregiver(s)

It is important to observe interaction between child and caregiver(s).  How consistent are descriptions by child and caregivers with those interactions the caseworker actually observes?  For pre-verbal children, caseworkers need to observe the caregiver/child interaction during some basic caregiving activity such as feeding, bathing, playing, etc.  By observing these interactions, the caseworker can better assess for signs of nurturing behavior, attachment (both directions) and normal growth and development. In addition it is very useful for the caseworker to observe the child interacting with the entire foster family, including foster siblings as well as any other caregivers.


Information from Providers and Other Supports

In order to accurately identify the child’s needs, the caseworker will interview significant providers and informal support people during the course of the child assessment.    Monthly contact will be documented in the narrative log.  The caseworker will collect medical, educational and mental health records for the child’s case record, as this information needs to be incorporated as part of the ongoing assessment and analysis of progress and needs.


Documentation of Child Assessment

The Child Assessment is an ongoing set of activities.    The caseworker will summarize the information collected during the past six months and identify progress made in meeting the needs of the child as well as unmet needs.  This information will be used to analyze the child’s safety, well-being, and progress toward permanency.  Monthly contact will be documented in the narrative log.


The Child Assessment will be documented as part of the Child Plan in MACWIS and will address the following areas in the appropriate section of the case plan (they may be placed in the section entitled "other"):  


Child Assessment (questions to be answered)


1.Safety issues
a.How safe has the child been?
b.How safe is the child now?


2.Developmental issues (Well-being)
a.How has the child’s physical health been?
b.What are the child’s health needs?
c.How has the child’s mental health been? Is there a diagnosis?
d.What are the child’s mental health needs?
e.How has the child’s education been?
f.What are the child’s educational needs?


3.Permanency and stability issues
a.What was the permanent plan and what steps were taken to reach it?
b.What needs to be the permanent plan?
c.What were the living arrangements/placements and how did they work out?
d.What living arrangement/placement does the child need?
e.What was done to meet the caregivers’ needs?
f.What does the caregiver now need in order to care for the child?


4.Support systems
a.What are the strengths and needs in terms of services and support systems for this child?
b.What contact has the child had with parents, siblings and kin and how has it worked out?
c.What contact is needed and what steps are needed to ensure it?


Developing the Child Plan

During the child assessment process, the caseworker will prepare significant people for participation in a Family Team Meeting following the completion of the assessment. The approach should be one of collaboration and of building on strengths to meet needs. The meeting process will be explained and the participants will be invited to help identify and review the child’s needs, then to partner on developing a plan to meet those needs.  We invite and expect parents, foster parents, children aged twelve and older, the child’s caseworker along with the supervisor as often as possible - to participate in family team meetings to develop Child Plans.


Documentation of Child Plan

The child assessment as recorded in MACWIS in the Child Plan will be shared with participants.  The proposed plan will be modified as needed.

Each need identified will be documented in the Child Plan in the following format.


 What are the current needs and goal for the next six months?
 The services and supports needed are:
 The purpose of each service:
 These services will be accessed by: (who will do what, when)


The finalized child plan must be put in writing.  We invite parents, foster parents and children aged twelve and older to sign the case plan.   If they do not sign the plan, the reason must be documented in the narrative log.  When reunification is the permanent goal for the child, both family plan and child plan must be completed through the Family Team Meeting process. The child plan, as well as any family plan, must be submitted to District Court prior to the next review.





Frequency of face-to-face contact with parents and children

(Contact shall be face-to-face unless otherwise specified)



1.Cases in assessment:
 Within 72 hrs of report-same day interviews with critical case members (parents and children)
 A home visit to observe the family in the physical environment


2.In home cases:
 A monthly visit, meeting with parents and children.


3.Child in custody:

New placements:

 Contact with the child within the first week (if unable to visit, a phone call within the first week)
 Contact with the child within the second week of placement, if a phone contact was made the first week.



 Contact with the child monthly
 Contact in the foster home/group or residential placement at least every month to observe the living environment.
 Contact with parents monthly in reunification cases.


4.Out-of-State placements:


 For children placed out of state in foster homes, kinship placements, or adoptive/guardianship placements, the receiving state will be requested to conduct monthly in-home contact visits with child(ren) and caregivers.


Group/Residential, hospital placements out-of-state:

 Maine caseworker, ICPC supervising caseworker from other state or contracted agency will visit once per month.
 Contact with assigned caseworker every 90 days


5.Meeting with parents:
 Caseworkers are expected to meet monthly with parents and to strategize methods to engage those parents who may be reluctant to partner toward safety, permanency, or well-being for the child.  


Meeting with parents in prison:

 For parents with a reunification plan, the caseworker must have monthly contact.  Supervisors and caseworkers can develop a plan to have monthly contact with the parent in prison by telephone or correspondence.  This plan should be documented in case narrative record.  
 If reunification is not a reasonable plan with the parent in prison, a cease reunification order should be pursued with respect to that parent.  If the goal for the parent is reunification, the expectation is for monthly contact by the caseworker.


Meeting with parents out-of-state:

 If reunification is the plan with the parent, an ICPC request will be made for a home study of that parent to determine if they are a resource for the child.  
 In the ICPC request for services, monthly contact with that parent will be requested from the receiving state.
 If reunification is the plan, the Maine caseworker will have monthly phone contact with the parent for ongoing assessment of the parent’s willingness and ability to be involved in the child’s plan.
 The Maine caseworker will develop a plan to meet with the parent.  The parent may come for a visit with the child creating an opportunity for the caseworker to meet with the parent.
 If the parent is not approved as an appropriate resource by the receiving state, a cease reunification order should be pursued for that parent.  


Meeting with parent if the child is not having contact with the parent:

 If reunification is the plan, the caseworker will have monthly contact or request monthly contact through ICPC if the parent is out of state.  
 If reunification is not the plan and a cease reunification order has been granted, caseworker contact with the parent will occur as necessary to meet the child’s needs.


6.Meeting with both foster parents:
 A plan to see both foster parents should be recorded in the case record.
 At time of contact, caseworker will explore if the foster parents have needs that have not been met.
 Caseworker must have substantive contact with at least one foster parent monthly.  Caseworker must have substantive contact with both foster parents periodically, but not necessarily monthly. The case plan should specify the plan and frequency of contact with foster parents to ensure their needs are met.


7.Trial Home Placements:
 Weekly contact with parent(s)/child(ren), for the first six weeks of placement.  (Can be every other week if the child is regularly in school or in out-of-home setting and the person in authority is advised that child is in trial home placement.)
 Biweekly contact with the parents and child(ren), for the next six weeks of placement .  Following the first twelve weeks, contact with the child(ren) and parent(s) at least once a month.
 One home visit per month will be unannounced.


8.Monthly contact if the caseworker is on leave:
 The caseworker and supervisor will develop a reasonable plan for how monthly contact will occur with the child, family members, and foster parents.  The plan will be recorded in the case record.
 This plan can allow for another caseworker or the supervisor to make the monthly contact.




Suggested areas to explore during contacts with children in foster care.


1.What is life like in the placement setting for the child?  How does the child describe it and express his/her feelings about it?  What is the child’s understanding of why she/he is in this placement setting?  How does the child feel about the caregivers?  Who are the people in the home?  What does the child think about the other children in the home?  If the child is not feeling good about something, to whom does the child go in the home?


2.What is the routine in the placement setting?
 Who wakes you up in the morning?  How does that happen?
 Who likes to cook in the family?  Who cleans up?  What is your favorite food?
 How do you get to school?
 What is your favorite thing to do after school?  
 When it’s time for bed, what helps you go to sleep?
 Do you get up early or sleep in?
 What is your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
 What is your favorite thing to do if you get to stay up late?
 Where is your favorite place to go?


3.Where do you sleep?  Where does everyone else sleep?  


4.Do you ever stay over (respite care) at someone else’s house?  How do you like that?  How often do you do that?  To which home do you go?  


5.What are the rules (things you can’t do and things you’re made to do)?  What happens if you break a rule?  


6.How do you know when foster parent, mom, dad is angry?  How do you know when you’re feeling angry?


7.Do you ever feel sad/scared/confused?  What makes you feel sad/scared/confused?    


8.Who are your friends?  What do they like to do?  When and where do you see them?


9.How is school?  What is going well and what is not going so well?  


10.What kinds of things do you like to do?  (sports, video games, music, etc.)  What are you doing now?  (lessons, neighborhood activities, school activities, activities with caregivers)  Are there things you’d really like to be doing that you aren’t?


11.How are visits with your family?  Do you see your brothers/sisters?  How is that going?  Is there anyone you aren’t seeing whom you would like to see?


12.What would you like to happen in your future? What plans/dreams do you have?  


13.If something is really worrying you, who can you talk to?


14.Do you know how to reach me if you need to?




Suggested areas to explore with caregivers.


1.What is it like for you to care for this child?  What has been the effect on your family of having this child placed here?  
2.Describe the child.  What is positive about the child?  What is the most challenging aspect of caring for this child? What potential does the child have?  What challenges does the child have?
3.How has the child changed since coming here?  How has the child adjusted to this placement?
4.What are the goals for this child and his/her birth family?  How are the family visits going from your perspective?   What does the child say about them?  Are you involved in the family visits and how are you supporting the visits?
5.What services does the child receive?   Are there any services that child needs that aren’t being provided?
6.Has the child been to see a doctor, dentist, eye doctor, etc?  Are there any health concerns?
7.Is the child seeing a counselor/therapist?  How is that going?  Do you participate in the sessions?
8.What things does this child like to do?
9.Who do you go to, if things aren’t going too well?
10.What do you need to support your continued care of this child?