Staff should also keep in mind the legal requirements and limitations that affect decision making. The worker must have enough knowledge of the law to understand the process and be able to explain it to the family. Good case plans are good legal plans. The focus should remain on why the child came into care. The worker must prove their case in court through court reports, CS-1s, and testimony to provide the evidence needed for court decisions. Any decision made should include the ability to implement the plan:
- To make a recommendation that the child return home, there must be a good case plan that is legally sound and good documentation of the family’s participation in the plan to support the recommendation.
- In order to reach an adoption, TPR must occur. In order for TPR to occur, there must be a consent for TPR or documentation to support at least one legal ground for TPR and best interest. In addition, the age of the child becomes a factor because children over the age of 14 must consent to adoption. Children must also be placed in a home for 6 months before adoption can occur.
- In order to reach guardianship, there must be documentation to show that the parent is unfit, unwilling, and unable to provide for the child.
The Children’s Division must conduct an immediate diligent search for grandparents once the decision has been made to take custody during the first three hours after placement. If the child is not placed with grandparents, the Children’s Service Worker must document in the case narrative and on the child’s CS-1 why the child was not placed with grandparents. In addition, the law requires the Children’s Division to identify and notify all adult relatives of the child’s custody within 30 days of the child’s removal. If relatives cannot be identified or found initially, the search for grandparents and other relatives should continue while the child is in care. These efforts should be documented in the case narrative and on the child’s CS-1.