INSTRUCTIONS TO STAFF 340:75-6-31
1. Sources and tools used to determine the permanency plan. The Child Welfare (CW) specialist informs the parent of each permanency plan alternative and works with the parent to choose the plan that is in the best interests of the child. Sources that assist the CW specialist and supervisor with determining the best permanency plan for the child include, but are not limited to:
(1) Form 04KI012E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP), or Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report, containing current documentation of the parent's progress, correspondence, family team meetings, consultations, or conferences with service and placement providers and professionals who interact with the child and parent;
(2) KIDS Contacts and Visits screens, containing pertinent information gained from visits and CW specialist contacts with the child, parent, placement provider, and service providers;
(3) statements by the parent that indicate the parent's perceptions of:
(A) the child;
(B) parenting the child;
(C) the abuse and neglect issues that require correction; and
(D) the parent's protective capacities and corrected behaviors and conditions;
(4) statements by the:
(A) child obtained from the CW specialist's monthly visitation with the child; and
(B) placement provider and service providers regarding the parent and child's desire to reunite;
(5) consultation with the CW supervisor;
(6) recommendations by the post adjudication review board (PARB);
(7) conclusions or recommendations from a multidisciplinary staffing or family team meeting as outlined in OAC 340:75-6-31.1;
(8) consultation with Children and Family Services Division (CFSD) Permanency Planning Section or Adoption Services Section;
(9) the permanency roundtable process;
(10) consultation and coordination with tribal officials, for a child subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act, to explore the tribe's interest and ability to provide for the child's permanent placement;
(11) Form 04KI030E, Assessment of Child Safety, that reflects whether the level of safety threats have increased or decreased compared to the safety threats identified at the time of the investigation that resulted in the child's removal; and
(12) Form 04KI028E, Family Functional Assessment, that is updated as needed, including but not limited to when:
(A) there is a substantial change in the family structure; or
(B) safety threats continue to affect the child.
2. Concurrent permanency planning. Concurrent planning provides for reunification services while simultaneously developing an alternative plan, if reunification efforts fail or are no longer feasible. Concurrent planning is required for cases with current or historical familial circumstances that indicate a poor prognosis for reunification. To determine whether concurrent planning is appropriate, the CW specialist completes Form 04MP040E, Safe Progressive Permanency Tool, within 30 days of the child's removal.
(1) When concurrent planning is appropriate, the CW specialist:
(A) within 30 days of determination that concurrent planning is appropriate, meets with all possible family members and the child, as appropriate, to discuss concurrent planning and obtain the family's input on the most appropriate plan for the child and begins to initiate activities to select the most appropriate concurrent plan;
(B) selects either adoption or guardianship as a concurrent plan, consistent with the best interests of the child;
(C) develops activities and establishes time frames in order to progress toward achievement of the concurrent plan. Examples of concurrent planning activities include, but are not limited to:
(i) an immediate and ongoing diligent search for absent parents and relatives;
(ii) early identification of a resource family who is willing to be a permanent placement if reunification fails;
(iii) ongoing efforts to place siblings together; and
(iv) addressing any identified barriers to achievement of the concurrent plan;
(D) documents concurrent planning activities on Form 04MP040E, Safe Progressive Permanency Tool, and files in the case within 60 days of determination that concurrent planning is appropriate.
(2) When concurrent planning is not initially appropriate, the CW specialist and supervisor review the poor prognosis indicators per Form 04MP040E, a minimum of every 90 days or whenever family circumstances may dictate the need to initiate a concurrent plan.
3. Assessment of the custodial or non-custodial parent.
(1) In non-Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) assessment of a custodial or non-custodial parent, a home study is not required as would be required when evaluating a placement resource. The CW specialist:
(A) assesses the parent's appropriateness and ability to meet the child's by utilizing Form 04KI028E, Family Functional Assessment;
(B) conducts a Child Abuse and Neglect Information System (CANIS) check; and
(C) conducts a home visit.
(2) When the court orders a home study of the custodial or non-custodial parent who is a party to the deprived case, the CW specialist completes the study as ordered by the court.
4. Selecting the appropriate permanency plan. The permanency plan that meets the child's best interests and long-term safety, permanency, and well-being needs is selected on Form 04KI012E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP), and Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report, as applicable. The CW specialist reassesses the appropriateness of the permanency plan each time Form 04KI014E is updated. The permanency plan options are listed in paragraphs (1) through (6).
(1) Maintain in own home. When the child is in the legal or physical custody of the parent, "maintain in own home" is selected as the permanency plan when:
(A) the safety threats of abuse or neglect are under control and a safety plan is in place;
(B) the family is cooperating with CW to reduce the long-term risk of abuse or neglect; and
(C) it is determined the child's own home is an appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child.
(2) Return to own home. When the child was removed from the home for protection from abuse or neglect, "return to own home" is selected as the permanency plan when:
(A) the court has authorized the child in OKDHS custody to return to the parent's home for trial reunification;
(B) services are provided to the family to control safety threats;
(C) the family is willing and able to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect to the child and comply with a safety plan; and
(D) it is determined the child's own home is an appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child.
(3) Adoption. When the child was removed from the home for protection from abuse or neglect and the child's parent is unwilling or unable to demonstrate the protective capacities necessary to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect allowing the child to safely return home, "adoption" is selected as the permanency plan when:
(A) reunification no longer appears feasible;
(B) the adoption consultation process has been initiated, regardless whether termination of parental rights has been recommended, to discuss permanency planning options for the child;
(C) it is determined that an adoptive family is the appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child; and
(D) one of the conditions in (i) through (v) has or will occur in the near future.
(i) A request is made that the court find efforts to reunite the child have been made and failed.
(ii) A request is submitted to the district attorney recommending a motion or petition be filed to terminate parental rights.
(iii) A motion or petition to terminate parental rights is filed.
(iv) The parent has relinquished parental rights.
(v) Parental rights are terminated.
(4) Adoption preparation. When placement with an adoptive family is determined as the appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child, but barriers to adoption exist, "adoption preparation" is selected as the permanency plan.
(A) A plan for the child's adoption is strictly related to the child's behaviors and readiness for placement in a permanent family situation.
(B) Barriers to address prior to adoption may include, but are not limited to:
(i) the child's unresolved psychological issues; or
(ii) an older child's reluctance to consent to adoption.
(C) Once the barriers to adoption are resolved through progressive casework, the responsible CW specialist changes the plan from adoption preparation to adoption.
(A) When the child was removed from the home for protection from abuse or neglect and the child's parent is unwilling or unable to demonstrate the protective capacities to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect that would allow the child to safely return home, "guardianship" is selected as the permanency plan when:
(i) adoption is not feasible and guardianship in the home of a relative, kin, or other person is determined as the appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child; and
(ii) the relative, kin, or another person is willing and able to protect the child, assume responsibility for the child's care and upbringing, and accept legal guardianship of the child. Permanent placement is usually preceded by temporary placement with the relative, kin, or another person.
(B) The selection of guardianship as the permanency plan is not appropriate for children 11 years of age and under unless, upon review by the Children and Family Services Division (CFSD) director, conditions show that the best interest of the child is met by a guardianship and adoption is not an appropriate option.
(6) Planned alternative permanent placement.
(A) Planned alternative permanent placement is selected as the permanency plan only when:
(i) all other permanency plans have been explored and are not feasible or in the child's best interests;
(ii) the child chooses not to be adopted after adoption has been thoroughly explored, explained, and the opportunities demonstrated; or
(iii) placement in out-of-home care in the care of a supportive adult is determined as the appropriate, safe, and permanent living arrangement for the child.
(B) When the child is in an above foster care placement resource, the CW specialist documents the on-going concerted efforts made to locate a resource able to provide a permanent connection for the child.
(C) The CW specialist facilitates a conversation with the youth to identify possible permanent connections, including a supportive adult who is:
(i) willing to commit to a life-long relationship with the youth;
(ii) a positive role model; and
(iii) able to provide specific support to the youth.
(D) When the youth resides with a supportive adult, the CW specialist:
(i) contacts CFSD Permanency Planning Section to obtain a Permanency Pact certificate, that documents the pledge by the supportive adult to provide care and specific supports to the youth during and after the transition to adulthood;
(ii) facilitates a family team meeting with the identified permanent connection and the youth to solidify the specific supports;
(iii) completes the Permanency Pact between the youth and the adult permanent connection and adds the statement "a commitment to provide care for the youth until adulthood" on one of the blank lines on the bottom right of the document; and
(iv) provides the original Permanency Pact to the youth, with a copy to the adult permanent connection, paper case record, and youth's life book.
5. Emancipation. Emancipation occurs when the child reaches the age of majority. In Oklahoma, certain rights of majority may be given to a child in certain circumstances, but this is not the purpose of emancipation as a permanency plan.
6. Indicators to proceed with an alternate permanency plan. The conditions in paragraphs (1) through (8) may indicate a need to expedite an alternate permanency plan for the child.
(1) Completion of the individualized service plan is irregular or sporadic, and the parent has not addressed the safety threats in the home that may indicate a lack of interest in or commitment to reunification.
(2) The parent:
(A) lacks a close and positive relationship with the child;
(B) visits the child irregularly;
(C) frequently misses scheduled visits with the child; or
(D) arrives late for visits with the child and leaves early.
(3) Maltreatment during unsupervised visitations is reported. Examples of maltreatment include, but are not limited to referrals regarding the reoccurrence of abuse or failure of the parent to comply with any recommended treatment for the child.
(4) The child was returned to the home and removed again due to safety threats.
(5) The parent receives negative reports from service providers or other entities such as family team meeting members, post-adjudication review board (PARB) members, and court-appointed special advocate (CASA).
(6) Reunification has been the permanency plan for an extended period of time.
(7) The finding from the permanency hearing indicates a poor prognosis.
(8) A judicial finding that reasonable efforts to reunite are not required has been made.
7. Reunification services. Court approval is required prior to return of the child to the home of the parent or legal guardian from whom the child was removed. In preparation for reunification and to provide the court information for consideration of a request for reunification, the activities in paragraphs (1) through (8) of this subsection occur.
(1) Visitation is increased in frequency and duration with reduced supervision as described in OAC 340:75-6-30.
(2) The age appropriate child is made aware that the parent has progressed to the point that, with the court's approval, reunification may occur.
(3) Issues involving the child's apprehensions, indecisiveness, or reluctance to return home are managed through family consultation, family team meetings, counseling, or all three.
(4) Support services utilized include, but are not limited to:
(A) temporary child care;
(B) community service providers;
(C) in-home services; and
(D) continued Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility, if applicable, per OAC 340:75-6-31.2.
(5) The CW specialist informs the placement provider of the possibility of the child's reunification, provides information to the placement provider regarding the child, and includes the placement provider in permanency planning.
(6) The CW specialist obtains information from service providers regarding the degree of safety in the family home including the parent's protective capacities, behaviors, and progress in correcting the safety threats.
(7) The case is staffed with the CW supervisor.
(8) A family team meeting for reunification is held per OAC 340:75-6-31.1.
8. Criteria for reunification. Indications for reunification are listed in paragraphs (1) through (6) of this subsection.
(1) The safety threats that necessitated the intervention are minimized.
(2) The parent's protective capacities have increased.
(3) A plan is in place to address the child's safety and is documented on Form 04KI030E, Assessment of Child Safety.
(4) The parent has complied with the individualized service plan.
(5) The parent has demonstrated a change in the behaviors or circumstances that necessitated the removal, in such a manner that the conditions the court determines essential and fundamental to the child's health, safety, and welfare are met.
(6) Visitation is successful and has increased in length and frequency per OAC 340:75-6-30.
(7) The child has resolved issues related to separation from the parent through counseling or some other effective means.
(8) The child is prepared for the reunion and received support in managing his or her feelings about returning home and separating from the current placement provider.
(9) The court gives prior approval of the return of the child to the parent's home in accordance with Section 1-7-103 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes.
9. Guide for determining feasibility of reunification. The questions in this Instruction are used as a guide in assessing the potential for successful reunification or in identifying poor prognosis.
(1) Has the parent demonstrated behavioral change related to the identified safety threats?
(2) Does the parent have the ability and willingness to provide a safe home for the child?
(3) When the abuse or neglect that precipitated intervention was severe, brutal, or cruel:
(A) has the parent made sufficient progress in completing the plan established to address the safety threats;
(B) is the parent responsible for the abuse or neglect no longer present in the home; or
(C) does the non-offending parent have the protective capacities to keep the child safe?
(4) When the child has special needs, does the parent have the ability and willingness to meet the child's special needs and access community resources, when necessary?
(5) Are the child's feelings about the child's family and placement discussed during regular visits between the child and the CW specialist?
(6) Has the child resolved personal issues regarding the abuse or neglect and separation?
(7) Has the parent responsible for the abuse or neglect assumed responsibility?
(8) Is the child aware of each parent's progress on the individualized service plan?
(9) Are there relatives, neighbors, child care centers, and community services who are active participants in the safety plan who are willing to report safety threats?
(10) Does each parent keep medical appointments and have an interest in the child's school functioning?
(11) Has parent-child visitation increased in length and frequency for the child and the CW specialist to observe behavioral changes in the parent?
(12) Is there healthy, age-appropriate communication between the parent and the child?
(13) Have the behaviors or conditions identified on Form 04KI028E, Family Functional Assessment, changed or decreased compared to the behaviors and conditions identified at removal?
10. (a) Protocol utilized when a child wants to return home but safety threats are present. In some cases, the child expresses a strong desire to return home when the parent has not sufficiently reduced the safety threats to the child and increased protective capacities to allow the child to be safely returned to the home. In these circumstances the CW specialist:
(1) informs the parent of the child's desire to return home;
(2) explains to the parent the consequences of failure to:
(A) eliminate the safety threats;
(B) comply with the individualized service plan; and
(C) meet the child's need for a permanent home;
(3) examines the individualized service plan to determine if revisions are necessary and encourages the parent's input. When changes to the plan are required, refer to OAC 340:75-6-40.4;
(4) assesses whether the services are available, realistic, and necessary to address the safety threats and increase the parent's protective capacities; and
(5) arranges a consultation through a family team meeting with the parent, child, when appropriate, CW specialist, and key service providers to eliminate confusion or uncertainty for the parent.
11. Protocol utilized when a child is reluctant to return home.
(1) When the parent has corrected the conditions leading to the CW intervention but the child is reluctant to return home, the parent is informed of the child's preference and is involved in the resolution through:
(A) family counseling;
(B) consultation with the CW specialist; or
(C) a gradual reunification process.
(2) The CW specialist facilitates a family team meeting to discuss a resolution. The family team meeting requires involvement of the placement provider, child's counselor, or other service provider to explore the possibility of:
(A) abuse or neglect that has not been disclosed or discovered;
(B) family violence, substance abuse, or conflicts that have not been resolved;
(C) fears about the parent's treatment of the child;
(D) belief that the parent, stepparent, or other adults and children in the home feel negatively toward the child;
(E) fear or disapproval of the stepparent or other adults and children involved or living with the parent;
(F) concerns that conditions in the home, such as reliable meals, cleanliness, housekeeping conditions, appropriate clothing, and similar necessities, are not available; and
(G) preferential treatment by the parent of other children or persons who are involved with the parent.
12. Reunification - OKDHS supervision. When the court returns custody to the parent under the supervision of OKDHS, the CW specialist end dates the current KIDS placement episode with the exit reason of Reunification. The removal episode automatically end dates.