3.6 Involving Non-Custodial or Non-Resident Parents
Engagement of and relationship building with non-custodial or non-resident parents are of central importance in gathering meaningful information from families, children, and youth regarding their needs and strengths and is essential for achieving safety, permanence and well-being for children.
The non-custodial or non-resident parents should be contacted about their children as part of an open FCS case, unless prohibited by law, even if the primary parent does not want such contact to occur. In some cases, the primary parent will not want the non-custodial or non-resident parent to be included in decision making for their child, while in others the primary parent may simply be embarrassed that they are involved in an abuse or neglect proceeding and not want the non-custodial or non-resident parent to find out. Some primary parents may also shield their children from the non-custodial or non-resident parent because of a history of past child maltreatment, or violent or criminal behavior. In all of these situations staff are to encourage primary parents to be cooperative with engaging the non-resident or non-custodial parent as appropriate in preserving the best interest and safety of their child(ren).
Involving a non-custodial or non-resident parent may be beneficial as:
- A child’s identity is strongly influenced by his or her family. Encouraging the engagement of a non-custodial or non-resident parent may introduce a child to members of his or her family previously unknown or uninvolved.
- A non-custodial or non-resident parent may provide valuable family history or health information.
- Essential family information will be gathered should the need for future alternative care placement arise.
- The non-custodial or non-resident parent may have relatives who are willing to be involved in a supportive role to the family as part of the FCS case.
Suggestions for Encouraging a Parent to Engage a Non-Custodial or Non-Resident Parent
- During the initial FCS assessment start the engagement process by asking about the non-custodial or non-resident parent and their involvement with the family.
- While completing the genogram and eco-map, ask about and document the non-custodial or non-resident parents and their family information as well as the relationships within the family.
- During each home visit discuss with the parent the importance of involving the non-custodial or non-resident parent in their child’s life.
- Provide information and guidance to the parent about how to engage the non-custodial or non-resident parent during interactions with the family.
In FCS cases, services are provided to prevent or remedy child abuse or neglect. Children’s Division staff have the responsibility to preserve confidentiality; however, for successful treatment services, staff should engage the non-custodial or non-resident parent as appropriate in preserving the best interest and safety of their child(ren). Non-custodial and non-resident parents should be contacted about their child(ren) even without permission from the primary parent as part of an open FCS case unless there is a legal reason not to do so. The legal reason not to contact the non-custodial or non-resident parent should be documented in the case contact notes under the primary parent’s open FCS case. Legal reasons might include but are not limited to a child order of protection or a no contact order. The primary parent should be reminded that any biological parent of child(ren) involved in the FCS treatment case has the right to access the case information, provided they only receive information regarding the child.