Effective Date: 08-28-2023
10.2.1 Diligent Search for Placement
Diligent search: An exhaustive effort to identify and locate the parents, grandparents or relatives whose identities or locations are unknown.
The diligent search process begins immediately upon a child entering the custody of the Children’s Division. Grandparents must be actively sought out and contacted within three (3) hours of the child’s removal.
Missouri statute defines a relative as a grandparent or any other person related to another by blood or affinity (marriage) or a person who is not so related to the child but has a close relationship with the child or the child’s family. Additionally, per Section 210.565.2(2) RSMo a foster parent or kinship caregiver with whom a child has resided for nine (9) months or more is considered to be a person who has a close relationship with the child.
If placement is made with an individual who meets the definition of relative, diligent search efforts do not have to continue for relatives. However, it is best practice to continue search efforts to determine all potentially available placement options should a placement disruption occur or in order to find relatives that may provide additional support to the child. Additionally, the Children’s Division must resume the search efforts if ordered by the court, a change in the child’s placement occurs to a non-relative, or a party shows that continuing the search is in the best interests of the child. Parents differ from relatives in diligent search efforts as a diligent search for parents must continue until all parents are identified and contacted.
If placement is made with an individual who would not meet the definition of relative, diligent search efforts must continue until a relative is located for placement, for six (6) months following the child’s entry into out-of-home placement, or until the court excuses further search, whichever occurs first. Parents differ from relatives in diligent search efforts as a diligent search for parents must continue until all parents are identified and contacted.
If a non-offending parent or relative resides out of state and wishes to be considered for placement, an ICPC referral shall be made immediately. See the ICPC process in CWM 4.2.11. If an out-of-state placement option exists and the Children’s Division has failed to file an ICPC request with the receiving state, the court can enter a finding that the Children’s Division has not made a due diligence search and can order the Children’s Division to file a request with the receiving state.
Pursuant to Section 210.305.2 RSMo, diligent search activities shall include, but are not limited to:
- Interviews throughout the case with the child, the child’s parents, grandparents, relatives, and any other person who is likely to have information;
- Comprehensive searches of databases available to the Children’s Division;
- Inquiries during court hearings; and
- Any other reasonable means or sources of information.
For a comprehensive list of diligent search activities see Attachment A (Diligent Search Activities).
10.2.2 Notifying Relatives
Within three (3) hours of a child entering protective custody, all grandparents should be located, contacted and notified of the child’s entry into care.
Within 30 days of the child entering protective custody, all grandparents, adult siblings, parents of siblings and adult relatives, including those residing out of state, must be provided notice by use of the CD-203 Relative Notification Letter sent by certified mail. Section 210.305.6 RSMo governs the information that must be provided when notifying relatives. By use of the CD-203 Children’s Division will be in compliance with this requirement. The CD-203 should be provided to every relative, including those who become the child’s placement, as it informs them of their rights and responsibilities. Notification to grandparents and other relatives may be done without a signed release of information form or permission from the parents. However, no protected health information about the parents should be disclosed.
The requirement to notify is subject to exceptions due to family or domestic violence or other safety concerns. A supervisor shall be consulted and must approve any decision to not notify a grandparent or relative. The specific safety concern and justification for not notifying shall be documented in the electronic case record. It is imperative that safety concerns that result in not notifying a relative be addressed with the Family Support Team and the Court, while also balancing protection of the child and any adult victims. A referral to the Division of Legal Services may be made as needed.
All contacts and attempted contacts, including diligent search activities to identify or locate a parent or relative must be documented in the electronic case record.
In circumstances where a child re-enters foster care after termination of parental rights and adoption, the Children’s Division is not required to locate and notify biological family members at the time of the child’s re-entry into foster care. However, this does not prohibit the Children’s Division from seeking out and assessing those individuals’ abilities and interest in supporting the child or becoming a placement. Decisions to contact individuals in this circumstance should be made within the context of the Family Support Team while considering the best interests of the child.
If a grandparent or relative entitled to notice fails to respond to the Children’s Division, responds and declines to be considered as placement for the child, or is otherwise presently prevented from being considered as placement for the child and later petitions the court for a change in placement, the grandparent or relative that initially failed to respond to Children’s Division or initially declined placement must provide evidence to the juvenile court that such change of placement is in the child’s best interests.
When an adult relative is identified, the Children’s Division should ask the family to describe their relationship with the child or family to help identify best interest factors. Consideration may include:
- The person’s relationship to the child and length of involvement with the family;
- The person’s involvement with the family (e.g. has provided care for the child or parent, assisted the family through crisis, provided moral support, member of church or community organization, or is a neighbor);
- Whether the person has ever resided in the home with the parent or child and if so, when and for how long; and
- The person’s ability to provide the necessary care and support unique to the child’s needs.
10.2.3 Documentation and Notice to the Court
The Children’s Division must provide the court with detailed information about the diligent search efforts for parents, grandparents and relatives within 30 days from the date the child was removed from their home, at each review hearing, or as otherwise required by the court.
Information provided to the court shall include:
- The names, relevant information, and all efforts to locate parents, grandparents and relatives, including dates of each attempted and completed contact and responses received from each individual;
- A detailed explanation of the consideration given to each relative, including why placement was or was not in the child’s best interest;
- Reasons why any relative was not considered for emergency or permanent placement;
- All efforts for placement of the child out-of-state through the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) under Section 620 RSMo, including:
i. Names of parents, grandparents or relatives who were considered for an interstate placement, and any determinations made regarding the approval or denial of placement;
ii. Any pending or availability of placement of the child through an interstate compact agreement; and
iii. All potential out-of-state placements where an ICPC referral has not been made, and the reasons the ICPC process has not been initiated;
e. Any action taken on behalf of Native American children and how the Children’s Division has complied with the placement requirements set forth in 25 U.S.C. Section 1915. Please see CWM Section 4.4.1 for additional information pertaining to ICWA placement requirements;
f. If a sibling separation was necessary, the reasons why, plan for ongoing communication and visitation; plan and timeline to reunify the children in the same placement; or reasons why visitation or placement together is not in a child’s best interest;
g. What the child has shared regarding their preference for placement; and
h. Any decisions to not notify a relative due to family or domestic violence or other safety concerns, including the specific safety concern and justification for not notifying the relative. (If including certain details in the court report has the potential to cause harm to a child or adult victim a referral to DLS should be made for assistance prior to filing said report.)
10.2.4 Making a Placement Decision
Each placement decision must be made on a case-by-case basis considering and balancing each child’s unique needs, family relationships, safety, and the totality of the child’s relationships and specific needs.
Federal and state laws guide our placement recommendations. Recommendations should be fact based, child-specific and always in the best interests of the child. Placements should also be in the least restrictive setting to meet the child’s needs and in consideration of placement preferences related to parents, grandparents, adult siblings, parents of siblings and other relatives.
Before planning for reunification or placement in a home, Children’s Division must obtain and review the criminal history for any adult residing in the home of the proposed placement. Convictions for certain Missouri felony offenses when a child was the victim will automatically preclude placement in that home. Those offenses are listed in Sections 210.117 RSMo and 211.038 RSMo.
To determine if a person has been found guilty of a crime it is necessary to check the record of the court and, when possible, obtain a copy of the record of the finding of guilt and document the finding in the electronic case record.
Other convictions for offenses against the family (Chapter 568 RSMo) or sexual offenses (Chapter 566 RSMo) not specifically listed in Sections 210.117 RSMo and 211.038 RSMo, or for out of state convictions for similar offenses, the Children’s Division or the court may exercise its discretion regarding placement. This is a multi-layered decision which must consider the child’s best interests and may involve a referral to the Division of Legal Services. Please note that Chapters 566 and 568 only address the required statutory disqualifying offenses that are sexual in nature or are offenses against the family. Parents or other potential placements may have other criminal history which would indicate that such placement would not be in a child’s best interests.
Additionally, if the juvenile court determines that a child has abused another child, Missouri law prohibits Children’s Division and the Court from returning the abusing child to or residing in any residence located within one thousand feet of the residence of the abused child, or any child care facility or school that the abused child attends, until the abused child reaches eighteen years of age. These prohibitions shall not apply where the alleged abuse occurred between siblings or children living in the same home.
Placement decisions should be made using the Family Support Team process. Should the Family Support Team be unable to reach a consensus regarding placement, Children’s Division, as the child placing agency with legal and/or physical custody of the child, shall make the placement decision and can make a referral to the Division of Legal Services as appropriate. However, if more than one grandparent requests consideration, the Family Support Team shall make a recommendation to the juvenile court about which grandparent should be considered for placement and the juvenile court should make the placement decision pertaining to cases with multiple grandparents requesting placement.
All placement decisions should be thoroughly documented in the electronic case record taking particular care to explain the factors which were considered, who participated in the process and how the decision relates to the permanency plan and is in the child’s best interest.
10.2.4.1 Emergency Placements
An emergency placement is a temporary placement of the child in the home of private individuals, including neighbors, friends or relatives as a result of a sudden unavailability of the child’s primary caretaker.
When a child enters custody, an emergency placement with a relative or licensed non-relative foster home may be needed while determining Native American status and completing a diligent search for non-offending parents, grandparents and relatives of the child.
Placement shall be made with a non-offending parent, grandparents or relatives of the child who are willing to take placement, within three (3) hours of the child’s removal from their home, except when the Children’s Division determines that placement is not in the best interests of the child and subject to the provisions of Sections 210.117 RSMo, 210.482 RSMo and 211.038 RSMo regarding background checks for emergency placements.
If a non-offending parent, grandparents or relatives of the child cannot be located or approved for placement within the three-hour period, the child may remain in the temporary emergency placement or placement in a licensed foster home may be made while the search for relative placement continues.
If a relative is located and desires to be placement for a child, background check and assessment procedures must be followed. Consult with your resource development staff and the Child Welfare Manual for further guidance: Section 6, Resource Development, Chapter 16 (Relative Resource Home), Subsection 2 (Agency Arranged Relative Foster Care Due to the Children’s Division Legal Custody).
If a relative is located and desires to be placement for a child certain background checks and assessment procedures must be followed. Consult with your resource development staff and the Child Welfare Manual for further guidance: Section 6, Resource Development, Chapter 16 (Relative Resource Home), Subsection 2 (Agency Arranged Relative Foster Care Due to the Children’s Division Legal Custody).
10.2.4.2 Placement Preference
(Section 210.565 RSMo)
A non-offending parent must be given first consideration for placement if the parent is entitled to physical custody per Section 211.037 RSMo, unless:
a. there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is in imminent danger of suffering serious physical harm or a threat to life as a result of abuse or neglect if placed into the care of the non-offending parent per section 125 RSMo;
b. they are the subject of an open investigation of abuse or neglect;
c. they have criminal violations within the past five years related to drug or alcohol abuse, child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or stalking;
e. as otherwise indicated in a court order.
For offenses not specifically listed or referenced in Section 210.117 RSMo or Section 211.038 RSMo, such as offenses listed in chapters 566 and 568 RSMo or other offenses that would relate to the safety of the child in the parent’s care, Children’s Division shall exercise its discretion regarding placement of the child with said individual by assessing the safety and best interests of the child if placed with the individual.
For any criminal history not specifically listed or referenced in Sections 210.117 RSMo or 211.038 RSMo in which Children’s Division may exercise its discretion for placement, careful consideration should be given to additional factors, such as:
- the date of the offense and the passage of time since the offense was committed;
- the nature and circumstances of the offense;
- whether the perpetrator successfully completed their sentence or term of probation without further incidents;
- whether the perpetrator of the offense successfully completed any course of treatment or rehabilitation;
- whether the victim of the offense suffered injury of any kind, including physical and emotional;
- the conduct of the perpetrator of the offense since committing the offence, including:
i. whether the offender has been found guilty of any subsequent offenses, and
ii. whether the offender has been determined to be the perpetrator of any incidents of child abuse or neglect; and
g. whether there are facts and circumstances which would indicate that perpetrator of the offense may pose a present risk to the health, safety and welfare of the child.
The Children’s Division has the discretion to determine the weight to give to any factor or combination of factors when making the placement decisions. Staff may also contact the Division of Legal services for legal advice.
The Children’s Division may still recommend a child not be placed with a parent, even when that parent is not prohibited from placement by law, if such placement is determined to be not in the child’s best interest. Such a recommendation should be made carefully and balanced with the parent’s constitutional due process liberty interest right to raise their children.
Children’s Division staff shall fully engage with any parent, even if placement with a non-offending parent cannot be made. That engagement should include, unless otherwise ordered by the court; providing information about the child, arranging visitation, providing needed services and referrals, and completing home visits. See CWM Section 4, Chapter 6 (Working with Parents).
Staff must list the absent or non-custodial parent as a case member on the custodial parent’s AC case in FACES; their whereabouts on the Family View screen should be indicated as out of the home.
Efforts to involve the parent, including every contact attempt, should be documented in the electronic case record.
If a non-offending parent wishes to have placement of their child and resides out of state, an ICPC referral shall be made immediately. See the ICPC process in CWM Section 4, Chapter 2 (Placements), Subsection 11 (ICPC).
If the juvenile court determines that a child has abused another child, the child perpetrating the abuse shall be prohibited from returning to or residing in any residence located within one thousand feet of the residence of the abused child, or any child care facility or school that the abused child attends, until the abused child reaches eighteen years of age. The prohibitions of this subsection shall not apply where the alleged abuse occurred between siblings or children living in the same home.
Relative and Foster Placements
If placement with a non-offending parent is not possible, the following shall be the order of placement preference, considering the best interest of the child in all cirumstances:
- Adult siblings or parents of siblings
- Any foster parent who is currently licensed and capable of accepting placement of the child.
The preference for placement shall only apply where the court finds that placement with such grandparents or other relatives is not contrary to the best interests of the child considering all circumstances. All placement considerations are subject to approval of a background check as detailed in Sections 210.117 RSMo, 210.482 RSMo and 211.038 RSMo.
Placement shall be made with grandparents or relatives of the child who are willing to take placement, within three hours of the child’s removal from their home, subject to approval of a background check, unless determined not to be in the child’s best interest.
If placement of a child with grandparents or relatives is deemed not to be in the best interests of the child, the Children’s Division shall document the just cause for denial of placement. Grandparent and relative placement options should be revisited if initial factors contributing to denial are remedied.
If grandparents or relatives of the child cannot be located or approved for placement within the three-hour period, the child may remain in the temporary emergency placement or placement in a licensed foster home may be made while the search for relative placement continues.
If a grandparent or relative chooses to become a licensed resource provider and does not meet certain non-safety licensing standards, a non-safety waiver process exists. For more information regarding licensing of relative homes see Section 6, Chapter 16 (Relative Resource Home), Subsection 2, – (Agency Arranged Relative Foster Care Due to the Children’s Division Legal Custody)
Unless ordered by a court, the parent of a foster child shall not live in the grandparent or relative home with the child, with the exception of a Trial Home Placement period and the exception of a foster youth who is a parent to a child in the legal custody of the Children’s Division (CYAC). If a court orders that a parent of the child may remain in the resource home, the Children’s Division must comply with the court order, however, should the parent of the child not be in compliance with Sections 210.117 RSMo, 210.482 RSMo and 211.038 RSMo in regard to background checks, or the Family Support Team determines that placement arrangement not to be in the best interests of the child, the Children’s Division must notify the court. The placement provider will not be eligible for maintenance payments if the child’s parent resides in the resource home and the placement provider must be notified of such. If the resource home was not previously licensed, they will not be eligible for licensure if the child’s parent resides in the resource home.
When a child cannot be placed with a parent, grandparents who request placement shall be given first preference for placement of the child except when the Children’s Division determines that placement with grandparents is not in the best interests of the child and subject to approval of a background check.
The status of a grandparent shall not be affected by the death or the dissolution of the marriage of a son or daughter. The age of the child’s grandparent or other relative shall not be the only factor that the Children’s Division takes into consideration when making placement decisions.
If more than one grandparent requests consideration, the Family Support Team shall make recommendations to the juvenile court about which grandparent should be considered for placement.
Grandparents have the right to become a party to the juvenile court case by filing a request to intervene when custody of a grandchild is at issue and upon filing of the motion and a hearing will be made parties unless the judge decides it is against the best interests of the child.
(2) ADULT SIBLINGS and PARENTS OF SIBLINGS
Section 210.565.2(3) RSMo defines a sibling as one of two or more individuals who have one or both parents in common through blood, marriage, or adoption, including siblings as defined by the child’s tribal code or custom.
Section 210.565.2(1) RSMo defines an adult sibling as any brother or sister of whole or half-blood who is at least eighteen (18) years of age.
When a child in foster care is placed with their sibling’s parent, licensure should be pursued for the unrelated child.
Missouri statute, Section 210.565.2(2) RSMo, defines a relative as a grandparent or any other person related to another by blood or affinity (marriage) or a person who is not so related to the child but has a close relationship with the child or the child’s family. A foster parent or kinship caregiver with whom a child has resided for nine (9) months or more is considered to be a person who has a close relationship with the child.
(4) FOSTER HOME
Recognizing the critical nature of attachment for children, if a child re-enters the foster care system and is not placed in a grandparent or relative home, the child’s former foster parents shall be given first consideration for placement of the child per Section 210.566.4(3) RSMo.
The final placement consideration is given to any foster parent who is currently licensed and capable of accepting placement of the child per Section 210.565.3(4) RSMo.
Absent evidence to the contrary, the court may presume that continuation of the child’s placement with his or her current caregivers is in the child’s best interests.
ADDITIONAL PLACEMENT CONSIDERATIONS
Indian Child Welfare Act: American Indian/Alaskan Native
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, P.L. 95-608, is a federal law which regulates placement proceedings involving Indian children. It mandates preventive services before removal to protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian families and tribes. The Children’s Division complies with all mandates of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which includes preventing the unnecessary and arbitrary removal of Indian children from their families and tribes; placing an Indian child who must be removed in an available and safe home that reflects the unique values of American Indian culture; and adheres to the placement requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
For procedures related to ICWA refer to Section 4 (Alternative Care), Chapter 4 (Working with Children), Subsection 4 (Special Populations).
Child’s best interest
(Section 210.564 RSMo)
In all circumstances, the safety, welfare and best interests of the child is paramount in all decisions made by Children’s Division regarding a child.
The best interests of a child results in an outcome that preserves and promotes meaningful relationships and community while safeguarding the child’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
The best interests of the child are based on myriad factors including but not limited to:
- Physical and emotional safety
- Medical necessity (specialized or medical equipment needs)
- Mental health needs (counseling, psychiatric care, emotional support)
- Sibling relationships
- Education stability
- Supervision needs (based on age/developmental or behaviors)
- Maintaining familiar connections and community
- Establishing the least restrictive setting
- Proximity to the family home to maintain parent/child contact
- Religious and cultural practices
- Permanency goals
Recognizing the critical nature of sibling bonds for children, with consideration to preference of placement, Children’s Division must exercise reasonable efforts to place siblings in the same home, unless doing so would be contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings.
If siblings are not placed together, the Children’s Division shall make reasonable efforts to provide frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction between the siblings, unless this interaction would be contrary to a sibling’s safety or well-being.
When the Family Support Team determines that a sibling group cannot reside in the same household, the following should be considered in conjunction with placement preferences:
- Placement in the same community or close proximity
- Continuation in the same school setting
- Placement in a setting where the caregivers will encourage and facilitate frequent and meaningful contact.
Children of Youth in Alternative Care (CYAC)
A priority should be made to place a minor parent and child together, whenever possible.
(Section 210.565.9 RSMo)
The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) plays a key role in determining the child’s wishes and feelings about their placement. The GAL may meet with and interview the child if the child’s age and development are appropriate for such a conversation. The child’s wishes are a factor in placement recommendations and decisions however, they do not supersede the preference for relative placement and cannot be contrary to the child’s best interests. The Children’s Division may also discuss the child’s wishes for placement with the child. See CWM 4.4.1 (Children in Placements) for additional information pertaining to working with children.
Related Practice Points and Memos:
08/28/2023 – CD23-27 – Diligent Search and Placement Guidance