When a child(ren) enters out-of-home care, the whereabouts of one or both of the biological parents or relatives may be unknown. In order to achieve early permanency for the child(ren), a diligent search must be made to locate and maintain contact with both parents of the child(ren) or to locate grandparents and/or other relatives as a possible placement resource. The law requires the fit non-offending or non-custodial parent to be given first consideration for placement, with some exceptions, as long as that parent is entitled to physical custody. Failure to locate parents timely can result in problems achieving permanency for the child(ren). A complete and diligent search must be thoroughly documented in the case narrative and on the CS-1 to verify that all reasonable efforts have been made to find the parent(s) or to locate relatives.
If the non-offending or non-custodial parent cannot be located or is unable to have the child(ren) placed in their home, the worker should make reasonable efforts to first place the child(ren) with a grandparent during the first three (3) hours after custody. The worker should ask the parents, child, or caretaker for the names of grandparents and other relatives to begin a diligent search and complete a background check if placement becomes an option.
Section 210.127, RSMo defines “diligent search” as “the efforts of the Division or an entity under contract with the Division to locate a biological parent whose identity or location is unknown, initiated as soon as the Division is made aware of the existence of such parent, with the search progress reported at each court hearing until the parent is either identified and located or the court excuses further search.” This criterion also applies when searching for grandparents and other relatives.
When notifying relatives, staff should disclose the following:
- The child has been or is being removed from the parent(s). Staff do not need to go into detail about the reason for removal as any removal related to the parents’ health information is protected;
- The options the relative has according to the law to participate in the care and placement of the child, including any options which may be lost by failing to respond to the notice;
- The requirements to become a resource family home and the additional services and support which are available for children; and
- How guardianship could be a possible outcome for the child.
The following activities are to be completed by the Children’s Service Worker within 3 hours of taking protective custody of the child(ren):
- Conduct an immediate diligent search to locate, contact, and place with grandparents.
The following activities are to be completed by the Children’s Service Worker within two working days (48 hours) of taking protective custody of the child(ren):
- If the caregiver is not the custodial parent, talk with the current caregiver about the whereabouts of the child’s parent(s) or relatives who may know their whereabouts.
- If the non-custodial parent or relative’s whereabouts are unknown, ask the custodial parent where the other parent or relatives may be found,
- Make a personal visit to the parent’s last known address if there is reason to believe they may be there. If multiple parents are identified, make contact with all missing parents including visits to each last known address unless it can be verified that the parent no longer lives there. Document what is known about the parent and what attempts have been made to locate the parent(s).
- If a relative has been identified, contact the relative to see if they are willing to be considered as a placement for the child(ren).
- If the absent parent or relative lives a considerable distance from the worker’s county office, these guidelines shall be followed:
- Workers need not travel outside their own county/circuit, if they do not have reliable information regarding the parents or relatives. If the address is in another county/circuit/region and the information is reliable, the worker may request that a worker in the other county/circuit/region contact the parent/relative.
- If the absent parent or relative lives in another state and the information is reliable, the worker may contact the other state for assistance in locating that parent/relative. The worker may request a worker from the state in which the parent/relative is residing to contact the parent/relative by phone/and or visit them and ask the parent/relative to return a certified letter sent to their address.
The following activities are to be completed by the Children’s Service Worker within 30 working days of taking protective custody of the child(ren):
- Identify and notify all adult grandparents and other adult relatives within 30 days when a child is removed from the custody of their parent(s) unless there is domestic violence.
A complete and diligent search also requires the following:
- Using all known variations of the parent/relative’s name, search readily available resources, such as:
- Production system including:
- Staff should complete a Call/Case Prior History search using the following search types;
- Social Security Number
- Address Search
- Staff should complete a Call/Case Prior History search using the following search types;
- Staff should complete a Family Assistance Management Information System search by completing a DSS search in FACES. To access the FAMIS screens in FACES, staff should enter the parent/relative’s name, DCN, or social security number on the Call/Case Prior History screen. Staff should select the DSS search button and FAMIS case information will display on the FACES screen.
- Child Support
- Staff should complete a Missouri Automated Child Support System (MACSS) search by completing a DSS search in FACES. Staff should complete a Call/Case Prior History search in FACES and select the DSS search button. MACSS case information will display on the FACES screen.
- IMES, IBTH, IDTH, etc.
Bureau of Vital Records information is for inquiry only and should not be printed, faxed or copied. Certified copies of Missouri records of birth, death and fetal death reports can be obtained by submitting a written request to:
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Bureau of Vital Records
P.O. Box 570
Jefferson City, MO 65102
For more information regarding Missouri birth and death records click on the following hyperlink: Request a Vital Record from the Department of Health.
- Missouri Department of Corrections Offender Web Search at https://www.doc.mo.gov
- Telephone Directory;
- Directory Assistance; and
- City Directory.
- Production system including:
- Child’s birth certificate.
- When searching for parent(s) of abandoned newborns:
- Call local hospitals to see if any new mothers came into the emergency room for treatment soon after the birth date of the child; and
- Check hospital records for leads, if baby was abandoned in a hospital.
- Search agency records and make a master list of:
- Previous phone numbers and addresses used by the parent/relative and the dates;
- Names with current and previous addresses and phone numbers of people and agencies who have known the client, such as relatives, friends, employers, neighbors, probation officers, doctors, schools, hospitals, or others; and
- Parent’s birth date (may be obtained from the child’s birth certificate), social security number and other identifying information.
- Pursue leads developed in all efforts:
- Make in-person and/or telephone contacts with family, friends, and neighbors at the parent/relative’s previous addresses; document results of each contact individually and specifically in the case narrative and on the child’s CS-1. Establishing good contact with these people is important in order to gain trust. Although they may not be willing to provide the parent/relative’s location, they may encourage the parent/relative to come forward or provide other useful information in locating the parent/relative.
- Send “certified, return receipt requested” letters to the previous addresses of individuals not contacted in person.
- Send blind copies of letters to addresses from which certified letters were returned (optional).
- Send letters of inquiry to professionals or to agencies within the community which may have had contact with the family.
- Address a letter to the parent/relative and place in an unsealed envelope and send to the Social Security Administration, Bureau of Data Processing, Baltimore, Maryland 21232, with a request that it be forwarded to the parent/relative. Include the Social Security number if available.
- Should identity and location of an absent parent or putative father be sought, the worker will use the Request for Location Services form, CD-88 and/or the Putative Father Registry.
- Contact other agencies in Missouri and out of state which may have knowledge of the parent/relative, including, but not limited to:
- Family Support Division Central Locate and Recovery Unit (CLU)—CLU provides staff with location information from the State and Federal Parent Locator Service. If workers complete a DSS search and no Missouri Automated Child Support System (MACSS) information is found, the worker should complete a CSE-250. Judicial Request for Location Services for alternative care cases only. The CLU will provide the worker with location information if available. New requests should be made when CLU reports no information was found after the 180 day search period to ensure diligent searches occur on an on-going basis.
- Department of Revenue/Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV)–Designated CD staff in each Region has authorization to complete a diligent search using DMV screens. Workers should complete the Request for Location Services form, CD-88, and submit it to their designated staff. Designated staff should complete their search within 7-10 business days and return the updated form to the Children’s Service Worker. The list of designated staff that can search DMV screens is posted on the CD intranet on each Region’s web page.
The Children’s Service Worker will then complete their search for the parent or relative based on the information provided by the designated staff. Once identified, the worker should contact the individual by means of a certified, registered letter. Due to the confidential nature of a child’s case, no identifying information should be provided in the letter. The letter may state that the individual’s name was provided to our agency as a parent or relative to a child in our custody as a possible placement resource. If the individual responds to the letter, the worker should verify their identity (by age/social security number/date of birth, or other identifying information as documented on the CD-88). Once the individual’s identity has been verified, the child’s identity can be released. If the individual desires to be considered as a placement resource, staff should proceed by completing a background check on the individual:
- Law enforcement agencies including, city, county and state;
- Department of Corrections ;
- Utility companies;
- Local hospitals ;
- Department of Mental Health;
- Schools, including trade schools, community colleges, and universities;
- Labor unions;
- Other social service agencies ;
- Ethnic organizations;
- Immigration and naturalization service; and
- County tax collector.
- Attach written responses and the envelope to copies of the original requests and file in the case record:
- File return receipts in the case record; and
- Open returned letters and attach envelopes and file in the case record.
- Thoroughly document all face-to-face and telephone contacts including:
- Name of person contacted;
- Relationship of person contacted to parent;
- Responses, leads given;
- Location or phone number where initial contact occurred and how person can be contacted again;
- State information requested and verification that person was given written instructions on how to contact Children’s Service Worker; and
- Any other pertinent information.
When a non-resident or non-custodial parent is located and services are being provided to that parent, a Family-Centered Service (FCS) case should be opened. Each parent should have a FCS case open in FACES. The children will be listed on both cases as case members, with the whereabouts noted as appropriate.
In situations where the non-custodial or absent parent is not a possible reunification resource, no services are being provided to the non-custodial or absent parent, and there is no written service agreement with the non-custodial or absent parent, no FCS case would need to be opened.
Staff may list the absent or non-custodial parent on the custodial parent’s FCS case as a case member their whereabouts indicated as out of the home. Reasonable efforts to involve the parent should be documented on the child’s alternative care case.
Diligent Searches should be ongoing during an intervention. Diligent Searches should occur periodically while the case remains open. Staff should utilize the Permanency Planning Review Team Meeting schedule which occurs at a minimum twice a year to serve as a reminder to complete a diligent search and document the efforts in the case narrative.