Engaging relatives in child welfare cases
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Relative engagement in child welfare cases
Oregon recognizes the importance of a child's relationships with parents, siblings, grandparents and other relatives. The Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Welfare program actively seeks to locate a child's relatives in order to engage safe, positive and supportive relatives and significant persons in a child's life during the time a child cannot live with his or her parents.
Options for Relatives in Child Welfare Cases - English | Spanish
Listed below are frequently asked questions about relatives and children in child welfare cases:
Q. What are the Department's rules about a child's relatives when a child is removed from their parent's home?
A. The Department's administrative rules can be found at the following link: Search for and Engagement of Relatives.
Q. A child of one of my relatives just went into foster care. Who do I call?
A. You should call the branch office closest to the location where your relative child was living prior to entering foster care. Click on the link to your left for Local Offices, then click on the Child welfare offices, which are listed by county. When you reach the office, give the receptionist the child's name, let them know you are the child's relative, and that you wish to speak with the child's caseworker. The receptionist can connect you to the caseworker's phone. Often caseworkers are visiting children and families and not at their desks. When you receive an answering machine, leave a clear message that indicates that you are a relative of the child, how it is that you are related, your interest in further information, and your contact information, including both phone and address information.
Q. I want to know everything that's happening with my family -- How do I find out more information?
A. When child welfare must intervene in a family it is to ensure children are safe. When we find that children cannot safely remain in their home, it becomes necessary to place them in temporary foster care. This is a traumatic time for families. They need support and reassurance that things can change. There are several ways to get information:
- You can always contact your family.
- If you are an adult relative of a child, you have been identified as a relative, and we know how to locate or contact you, the Department is obligated to let you know that the child is being removed from the custody of the parent or parents, your options to participate in the care and placement of the child, the requirements and responsibilities to become a relative caregiver, and the eligibility criteria and availability of Guardianship Assistance benefits.
- If you are a grandparent and the Department has been able to obtain your contact information, the Department will provide you with notice each time a court hearing is scheduled for the child’s case.
- You can look at our website and read the administrative rules specific to a relative's rights and to searching for and engaging relatives in child welfare cases.
Q. Am I a relative?
A. Child welfare has a very expansive definition of who qualifies as a relative and also has placement preferences with a child's relatives within that definition. The Department's definition of a relative is:
- An individual with one of the following relationships to the child or young adult through the child or young adult's parent.
- Any blood relative of preceding generations denoted by the prefixes of grand, great, or great-great.
- Any half-blood relative of preceding generations denoted by the prefixes of grand, great, or great-great (individuals with one common biological parent are half-blood relatives).
- A sibling, also to include an individual with a sibling relationship to the child or young adult through a putative father.
- An aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, first cousin, and first cousin once removed.
- A spouse of anyone listed in paragraphs (A) to (D) of this subsection, even if a petition for annulment, dissolution, or separation has been filed or the marriage is terminated by divorce or death. To be considered a relative under this paragraph, the child or young adult must have had a relationship with the spouse prior to the child or young adult entering substitute care.
- For the purposes of an international adoption, relative means an individual described in paragraphs (A) to (D) of this subsection.
- An individual with one of the following relationships to the child or young adult:
- An individual defined as a relative by the law or custom of the child or young adult's tribe if the child or young adult is an Indian child under the Indian Child Welfare Act or in the legal custody of a tribe.
- An individual defined as a relative of a refugee child or young adult under Child Welfare Policy I-E.2.2, "Placement of Refugee Children" OAR 413-070-0300 to 413-070-0380.
- A stepparent described in OAR 413-100-0020(27)(c) or former stepparent if the child or young adult had a relationship with the former stepparent prior to the child or young adult entering substitute care; a stepbrother; or a stepsister.
- The registered domestic partner of the child or young adult's parent or a former registered domestic partner of the child or young adult's parent if the child or young adult had a relationship with the former domestic partner prior to entering substitute care.
- The adoptive parent of a child or young adult's sibling.
- he unrelated legal or biological father or mother of a child or young adult's half-sibling when the child or young adult's half-sibling is living with the unrelated legal or biological father or mother.
- An individual identified by the child or young adult or the child or young adult's family, or an individual who self-identifies, related to the child or young adult through the child or young adult's parent by blood, adoption, or marriage to a degree other than an individual specified as a relative in paragraphs (A) to (D) of subsection (a) of this section.
- An individual, although not related by blood, adoption, or marriage, identified as:
- A member of the family by the child or young adult or the child or young adult's family; and
- Who had an emotionally significant relationship with the child or young adult or the child or young adult's family prior to the time the Department placed the child in substitute care.
- For the purposes of eligibility for the Guardianship Assistance program:
- A stepparent is considered a parent and is not a relative under these rules unless a petition for annulment, dissolution, or separation has been filed, or the marriage to the child's adoptive or biological parent has been terminated by divorce or death:
- A foster parent may be considered for guardianship assistance when:
- There is a compelling reason why adoption is not an achievable permanency plan;
- The foster parent is currently caring a for a child in the legal custody of the Department who has a permanency plan or concurrent permanency plan of guardianship;
- The foster parent has cared for the child for at least the past 12 consecutive months; and
- A Permanency Committee has recommended the foster parent for consideration as a guardian.
The Department gives placement preference to relatives listed in sections (a) through (c) before anyone identified through section(d).
Q. Is the Department required to place a child with relatives?
A. The Department must make diligent efforts to place a child with his or her relatives, and must also make diligent efforts to place siblings together. There are also other things a caseworker must take into consideration when selecting who will care for a child, including proximity to the child's school, proximity to the child's parents for regular visitation and reunification services, and other services and supports that may be necessary to address the needs of the child and the family.
Q. How does the Department make a decision whether or not I can take care of my relative children?
A. All substitute caregivers, including relatives go through what is called a certification process. A Department staff member, called a certifier will assist you through this process. The certification process includes, after getting your permission, a check of criminal history records and child abuse records. The Department wants to certify relatives whenever possible and in the best interests of a child, and reviews each family's unique circumstances during the assessment process. The certifier will meet with you and the family members who live in your home, and a do walk-through of your home to make sure there are no safety hazards in or around the home.
We will also conduct several interviews with you and your family as part of an assessment process to ensure the children who will be staying with you are in a safe place and are receiving the nurturing and supports they need. At the conclusion of these interviews, the Department writes a home study. You will receive a copy of that home study once it has been completed.
If you are approved to receive a Certificate of Approval to provide care for your relative child, there will be ongoing requirements for you in terms of contact with the child's caseworker, support in visitation between the child and their parents, and supporting the Department's plan for the family. You will be responsible for ensuring medical, mental health and dental appointments are kept and that the child is in school. You will also be invited to attend various training sessions, as the Department requires 15 hours of ongoing training each year for each adult on the Certificate.
If the Department is unable to certify you, you will receive a letter called a notice of intent to deny a certificate of approval. If you wish to have that decision reviewed, the letter will contain information about how you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge to have the Department's decision reviewed.
Q. I would love to take care of my relative children, but I do not have the resources to support another person in my household with my income. Is support available?
A. Yes. Any relative who is certified to care for a relative child will be reimbursed for the cost of providing care at the same rates that are paid to a non-related foster parent. These rates are based on the age of the child and are described in administrative rules. These can be found at: Payment for Family Foster Care, Base Rate, Shelter Care, Enhanced Shelter Care, Level of Care, Chafee Housing, and Independent Living Housing Subsidy.
Q. What does the caseworker do with the child's parents?
A. Each time a child is taken into protective custody, the Department works with the family to determine what caused the child to be unsafe. There can be many reasons in a family that cause a child to be unsafe. We understand that people sometimes find themselves in circumstances or conditions that make it unsafe for them to parent their children. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, the caseworker assigned to work with the family will attempt to help everyone understand what has happened in the family that caused the children to be unsafe, and what services and supports can help the family become stronger and more able to be protective of their children. Sometimes this involves drug or alcohol treatment, mental health services, parenting assistance, help with finding stable housing, or other services. The caseworker is responsible for assessing a family's strengths and needs and for developing a case plan that outlines the steps everyone will take to remedy the situation.
The caseworker has monthly contact with the family to review the progress on the work everyone is to do, and how far the family has come in changing the situation that caused the child to be unsafe. When the child can safety return home, the Department will return the child to the family. The court also reviews the case plan, at each six month interval, and sometimes more frequently.
There are times when a family is unable or unwilling to change the factors that caused the child to be unsafe. The Department works under federal timelines, and always has an alternative permanency plan, and when it becomes clear that a child is not likely to return home, the Department will actively seek another permanency plan for the children. For more information about federal requirements please see: Adoption and Safe Families Act
Q. What does guardianship mean as a permanency option?
A. When a child cannot return home to his or her parents, but parental rights are not terminated through a legal process in the courts, another adult may become the child's legal guardian and take on the responsibilities for the care of the child as well as the responsibility to make legal decisions on behalf of the child.
Q. What is guardianship assistance and how would I know if my relative child and I would qualify for that assistance?
A. The answer to this question will be posted in the near future. See the Department's policies on guardianship assistance for mor information.
Q. What does adoption mean as a permanency option?
A. When a child cannot return home to his or her parents and their parental rights are terminated either through a legal process or through the voluntary release or surrender of a child, a child becomes eligible for adoption. Adoption is a legal process in which the child takes on new parents who have full responsibility for the care of the child as well as the responsibility to make all legal decisions on behalf of the child.
Q. What is adoption assistance and how would I know if my relative child and I would qualify for that assistance?
A. The answer to this question will be posted in the near future. See the Department's policies on adoption assistance for more information.
Q. I can't provide full time care, but I still want to be involved with my relative child.
A. There are many opportunities for other types of involvement. You can contact the child's caseworker for more information. You might want to be prepared to let the caseworker know what kind of involvement you can offer. Please review the types of support you might be able to offer on the Support Preference Form (add link to CF 0268A here). Be sure to let the caseworker know your contact information.
Q. I can't seem to get a quick response from the caseworker. What do I do next?
A. Caseworkers are very busy. They are responsible for many families and cases, as well as preparing reports for court and other reviews. Sometimes a caseworker may not respond to your phone call as quickly as you would like. You can re-contact the branch office and ask to speak to the caseworker's supervisor.
If you have a disagreement with the caseworker that you cannot resolve, you can follow the Department's procedures for filing a complaint. See the rules regarding complaint reviews for more information.
Q: What is adoption assistance and how would I know if my relative child and I would qualify for that assistance?
A. Children benefit from having a permanent family and adoption is the most secure form of permanency. In recognition of this fact the adoption assistance program was created to encourage the adoption of children with special needs. Adoption assistance is a federal and state funded program which may include financial assistance paid on behalf of an eligible child to the adoptive parent, reimbursement for costs incurred in the adoption, and/or medical assistance paid on behalf of an eligible child to an adoptive parent. Unlike foster care payments, adoption assistance is not a payment to cover the cost of caring for a child. Adoption assistance is an added support to help adoptive families complete an adoption and enhance their existing capacity to meet their child's unique needs. A child in the custody of the Department, a tribe with a Title IV-E agreement or a licensed adoption agency in Oregon may be eligible for adoption assistance. The child's worker or your adoption worker can assist you in determining whether or not your relative child would qualify. Adoption assistance is always negotiated based on your child's needs and federal regulations limit the maximum subsidy to the maintenance foster care payment your child would receive if he or she were still in foster care.
Q: What is guardianship assistance and how would I know if my relative child and I would qualify for that assistance?
A. Guardianship assistance is a federal and state funded program created to encourage the movement of children from foster care to a permanent home with a legal guardian when adoption is not an appropriate plan for the child. Guardianship assistance may include a monthly financial payment paid on behalf of an eligible child to a guardian, reimbursement for legal costs incurred in establishing the guardianship, and/or medical assistance for the eligible child. Unlike foster care payments, guardianship assistance is not a payment to cover the cost of caring for a child. Guardianship assistance is an added support to help guardian families establish the legal guardianship and enhance their existing capacity to meet the child's unique needs. A child in the custody of the Department or a tribe with a Title IV-E agreement in Oregon may be eligible for guardianship assistance. The child's worker can assist you in determining whether or not your relative child would qualify. Guardianship assistance is always negotiated based on your child's needs and federal regulations limit the maximum subsidy to the maintenance foster care payment your child would receive if he or she were still in foster care.
For more information, please contact your local DHS office