Children’s Placements – Providing Input & Addressing Concerns
As court appointed representatives of children’s best interests, CASA volunteers have a duty to help ensure that children’s placements are meeting their needs. Where and with whom a child lives while in CPS custody is central to the child’s safety, permanency and physical, social, educational and emotional well-being. Recent laws and policies have enhanced CASA’s role in providing input into placement decisions and in monitoring the quality of care that children receive in their placements. The follow resources are intended to give CASA advocates the tools to use in fulfilling these enhanced duties.
Standards, Laws and Policies Governing Placements
Every foster care placement must meet minimum licensing standards and contract provisions to provide certain services to the children in its care: transporting children to visits and to court, providing adequate clothing or food, etc. In addition, the Rights of Children and Youth in Foster Care provides certain rights to children and youth regarding their placements.
CASA Input Into Placement Decisions
The Family Code section 264.107 requires that CPS seek CASA and attorney ad litem (AAL) input on placement decisions unless an emergency renders consultation impossible. Additionally, following the 2013 Texas Legislative Session, DFPS developed a protocol which dictates when and how the CPS caseworker should consult with the CASA volunteer regarding a foster child’s placement change. Read the protocol.
Depending on your CASA program’s agreement with CPS leadership and centralized placement units (CPU), you may be able to contact the CPU directly by phone or email and provide information about the child’s specific needs, clarify or correct incorrect documentation (in the common application or other documents) regarding the child, and recommend a particular home for the child. At a minimum, you should be providing recommendations to the child’s caseworker and weighing in on proposed placements. CASA advocates are generally prohibited from actually making the placement arrangements for a child.
There are several factors to be weighed when making placement recommendations, but the law requires – and CASA should be recommending – the least restrictive, most family-like placement for the child that meets the child’s needs. The most family-like placement includes placement with siblings and in the child’s community.
Placement options for children in DFPS custody, from least to most restrictive, include reunification with family, relative or kinship placement, foster family home, group home, residential treatment center, psychiatric hospital, nursing home or state-supported living center.
Placement Search Directory (includes licensing violations).
When advocates have a concern about placements, they should discuss with CASA staff, and then bring them to the attention of the placement or their agency, and with the CPS worker in accordance with CASA program policies and procedures.
If your concerns are not addressed, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-720-7777. OCA will respond to you within 24 hours, guide you through making a report to the proper entity, look into your concern, and respond to you in writing within 30 days. OCA will also document your complaint and use it to identify patterns in certain placements or child placing agencies.
NOTE: If at any time you suspect abuse and neglect, you must report it directly to DFPS’ hotline (you cannot delegate this duty to your CASA staff or CPS) at 1-800-252-5400.