Sierra County CWS Self Improvement Plan
A Child Welfare Service/Probation Self Improvement Plan meeting was held Thursday, 10 March. There were about 18 people in attendance, including County Supervisors (the Brown Act was considered), representatives of the Child Abuse Prevention Council, Probation, Mental Health, two representatives of California Social Services, and two members of the local media.
Representatives from DSS reviewed the law and the purpose of the process by which California hopes to continually improve CWS/Probation services to children under protection of the state.
Eventually, the participants broke into 3 small groups, with two supervisors taking part and one abstaining in the interest of the Brown Act.
The groups discussed one or more of four issues of deficiency: Permanency; Placement Restrictiveness; Social Worker/Probation Officer contacts; Placement Stability.
Permanency (Long Term Care)
When it is unlikely that a child will be returned to family, a long term plan must be made. Ideally, if the parental rights have been terminated by the state, adoption is a solution. If not, perhaps a guardianship with relatives or Nonrelated Extended Family Members (NREFM), or with another caring family. Some children simply can’t be placed in those kinds of homes, for various reasons, and they will go from foster care to foster care. This last group helps drive the miserable outcomes for kids exiting foster care. How can resources be better used to reduce the number in the last group of children?
There are various levels and degrees of restrictiveness in foster homes, both officially and unofficially. Ideally a foster home would be as home and family like as possible, and would be familiar to the child, and all siblings would be placed together. Sometimes a placement in a relative home is possible; many times it is not. In any case, the placement should be as “normal” as possible. Perhaps not coincidental to this federal outcome measure is the fact that the least restrictive homes are the cheapest, and the most restrictive the most costly.
Social Worker/Probation Officer Contacts
In order to provide services and help the child and perhaps family, there needs to be contact with the child/children as specified in the case plan. These need to be entered into the contact notebook of the CWS Case Management System.
Associated with permanency and least restrictive placement is placement stability, which means that the child or children are placed together and stay in the first placement. The Feds have standards for how many placements per year the child should have.
The groups also discussed important related issues. A big one: forward services, or “differential response” using family resource center staff instead of a CWS social worker to prevent the child from ever going to foster care.
The groups discussed how the problems might be mediated. A significant problem is the lack of foster families in the county, which impacts 3 of the 4 outcome measures discussed. The Improvement Plan will call for a plan to increase the number of foster families, and provide social workers with more placement options.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, call SC SS at (530) 993-6700