Although it is the legal responsibility of law enforcement, the juvenile officer, or physicians to determine when protective custody is necessary, staff should provide their professional opinion regarding the need for removal of children.
Referrals to the juvenile court may be made at any time throughout the life of a case to gain assistance from the court when the parents/caregivers’ protective capacities are insufficient to control the safety threat to the child. Referrals that recommend out-of-home placement shall be made if the safety assessment indicates the child(ren) is in danger if they remain in the home and no viable Immediate Safety Intervention Plan (CD-263) can be created to prevent removal. If staff believe a child is in imminent danger or cannot be safely maintained in the care of their parent, a referral to the juvenile office should be made when it is unlikely that the threat of danger will be eliminated in a reasonable timeframe. It may be necessary to develop an Immediate Safety Intervention Plan placing the child outside the home while waiting for the court process to occur. In most circumstances, a referral to the juvenile office should be made if there is no real likelihood the threat of danger can be mitigated within a reasonable time period.
The following factors should be considered when determining the need to make a referral to the juvenile court for removal of the child from the home:
- Is the child in immediate danger or living in hazardous conditions that cannot be immediately remedied and may result in serious bodily harm?
- Is a crisis situation occurring which results in the temporary inability of the parents/caregivers to give adequate care to the child?
- Do conditions of extreme physical, emotional neglect, or abuse exist which cannot be immediately remedied or significantly reduced, or which can be expected to result in significant harm to the child?
- Is the strength of the parent/child relationship so poor that the parent is providing inadequate support and guidance to the child?
- Is the mental and/or physical capacity of the parents/caregivers of such a nature that improving parenting skills to a minimally acceptable level becomes an extensive time-consuming process which interferes in the child’s normal growth and development? Are community resources unavailable that could substitute for or remedy the concerns? Note: Pursuant to Section 211.031 RSMo., the disability or disease of a parent shall not constitute a basis for a determination that a child is a child in need of care or for the removal of custody of a child from the parent without a specific showing that there is a causal relation between the disability or disease and harm to the child.
- Have all appropriate and available community/agency resources been offered to the family to prevent placement?
- Does the child have special needs that cannot be met if the child remains with the parents/caregivers?
- Do problems re-occur which affect significantly and negatively impact the well-being of the child?
- Has the parent(s)/caregiver(s) requested out-of-home placement? Does the Division’s evaluation of this request support the decision for out-of-home placement?
- Have diligent and reasonable efforts been made to maintain the child in their own home and a threat to the child’s safety continues to exist?
If the parent fails to follow through with the plan developed in the Team Decision Making (TDM) or Master’s Level Consultation within ten (10) days, a referral to the juvenile office should be made.
Staff should utilize the Referral to the Juvenile Officer (CD-235) when making referrals to the juvenile court.
If at any time the juvenile office rejects a referral, staff must follow up with the juvenile officer to determine the reasons for the rejection and to ensure the Children’s Division’s worries have been clearly articulated. If the juvenile office continues to refuse to take action on a child who has been placed outside of the home on a CD-263, the case must be staffed with a supervisor or higher level manager to determine the most appropriate next steps.
If a family refuses to cooperate during a CA/N Report, it may be necessary to make a referral to the Juvenile Court if safety of the child cannot be assured. Situations in which the family refuses to produce the child and staff are unable to ascertain the whereabouts of the child should be given particular consideration for a referral to the Juvenile Court.
Pursuant to Section 210.146, RSMo., the Children’s Division is required to submit a referral to the Juvenile Office when a SAFE-CARE provider makes a diagnosis that a child under the age of four has been subjected to physical abuse.
If upon evaluation of a child or review of the child’s case file and photographs, the SAFE-CARE provider makes a diagnosis of physical abuse and reports such to the Children’s Division, the investigator must immediately make a referral to the Juvenile Office. The referral does not require a recommendation for protective custody. The referral must include the Children’s Division’s recommendations regarding the care, safety, and placement of the child and the reasons for those recommendations.
Pursuant to Section 211.183, RSMo., the Children’s Division is required to provide reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child. If the first contact with the family occurred during an emergency in which the child could not safely remain at home even with reasonable in-home services, the Children’s Division shall be deemed to have made reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal.
Reasonable efforts means the exercise of reasonable diligence and care by the Children’s Division to utilize all available services related to meeting the needs of the juvenile and the family.
The selection of resources and services to prevent out-of-home placement should be based on the careful examination by staff and the family of the family’s strengths, existing safety, needs, the family’s capacity to utilize and benefit from the resource, and the desired outcomes. Some families will benefit from established resources, which can be paid through traditional funding sources. Other families may have a unique need, which requires the development of an individualized resource.
Examples of services that may be utilized to prevent removal include, but are not limited to the following:
- Intensive In-Home Services (IIS). Refer to Section 2, Chapter 5.2.15, Assessing the Need for Services and Ongoing Case Management and Section 8, Chapter 188.8.131.52, Intensive In-Home Services for further information on IIS;
- Community Arranged Respite Care. Respite care may be available through community agencies. Respite is intended to provide relief for the family to resolve the immediate crisis while ensuring the child’s continued protection and safety.
- Temporary Alternative Placement Agreements (TAPA). When the Children’s Division makes a determination that a child is unsafe, families may elect to temporarily divert the child to a relative placement if the child cannot safely remain in the home with an Immediate Safety Intervention Plan (CD-263) or be placed with a non-residential parent. See Section 1, Chapter 9, Safety Planning for further information about TAPA.
- Crisis Nursery. Crisis Nursery provides temporary care for children who are at risk of abuse and neglect or who have experienced abuse or neglect. Most crisis nursery programs offer free child care 24 hours per day for a maximum of 30 days in any year.
- Community Resources. Staff should assist the family in arranging any needed mental health counseling, treatment for substance use disorder, parent skill training, and/or other services that may be necessary to stabilize the family. Staff should explore with the family their financial ability to pay for these services and/or explore insurance benefits prior to authorization for services using Children’s Treatment Services (CTS) funds.
- Orders of Protection. Staff should assist the family by providing information about how to obtain child and adult orders of protection (ex parte orders) when needed.