Having your child separated from you, even temporarily, can be traumatic and upsetting. Whenever possible, The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) will make efforts to keep families together by working with you to find prevention programs and support services that will help keep your children at home with you, safe and healthy.
Most investigations do not result in a child being separated from their family.
However, if at any point during the investigation it is determined that your child is not safe in your home, DCFS is required to place your child with a relative or foster family, known as a Resource Family.
DCFS operates from a family-centered approach, making every effort, under court supervision, to reunite you with your child whenever possible and as quickly as possible.
Looking back, Alma is thankful for the night 15 years ago when DCFS stepped into her life the night she went into labor at a local Los Angeles hospital.
“DCFS doesn’t get involved because they want to ruin your life. They want to see happy, healthy and safe children and families.”
Testing positive for meth and alcohol, DCFS wanted to ensure the well-being of Alma’s children and the well-being of Alma, which resulted in the removal of all six of her children.
“Their involvement forced me to make a U-turn in my life. I loved my kids too much to not make the changes. DCFS put forward the resources, and I had to make sure that I put in the work.”
After a serious commitment and change of lifestyle, Alma was able to be reunited with all six of her children one by one, starting with her baby. She takes everything she learned from her parenting classes to recommended reading and applies it to help in her daily life.
“I look at how far I’ve come, and I’m proud of myself and of my kids. I’m a healthy mom and grandma now. I don’t respond in anger and violence. I’m not addicted to drugs anymore. That’s huge, and I’m so happy that I’ve been able to get this far.”
Alma became a Parent in Partnership (PIP), and has been helping other families who are currently under DCFS care. As a PIP for the past five years, Alma has seen all the families that have gone through similar struggles be reunited with their children.
“I remember the help of my social worker, and how she pushed me to keep going when I wanted to give up. Now, I get to be transparent with the hardships in being reunited with your kids with the parents I get to mentor. It’s hard work, but it’s beautiful when you reach the finish line.”
If it is determined that your child must be immediately separated from you because they need immediate medical care, have suffered, or may suffer serious harm, they will be placed with a social worker or a peace officer.
“Serious harm” may come to the child if any of the following occurs:
A parent or person who has custody fails to provide proper care or supervision.
A child is not given adequate food, shelter (home), clothing or medical care.
A child is suffering severe emotional damage.
A child’s home is dangerous because of neglect, cruelty, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or medical neglect by a parent, guardian or someone else in the home.
Whenever possible, your child will be placed with a responsible relative or non-related extended family member. They may also be placed in a licensed foster home. The address of the foster home is confidential and cannot be disclosed without a court order unless the placement authorizes the disclosure. You will be given the phone number where your child can be contacted within five hours after your child has been taken into custody.
All foster parents and relative caregivers must go through the Resource Family Approval (RFA) process to ensure that they are able to safely and effectively look after the children in their care.
DCFS will make every effort to ensure that siblings who must be placed in out-of-home care remain together in the same housing placement.
Whenever possible, DCFS seeks to place children with a family member or a non-related adult close to the child (called a “nonrelative extended family member”) to provide as much stability and familiarity for your child as possible. Be sure to tell DCFS about any relatives or friends who you believe are able to safely care for your child.
If no relative or friend is able to care for your child, they will be cared for by a county certified foster parent, also known as a Resource Family, or in a communal living setting, known as a Short Term Residential Treatment Program (STRTP).
Foster Families, also known as resource families, have completed a background check, home environment assessment, psycho-social assessment, and have received training in how to temporarily care for the children who are placed with them.
These resource families are informed that they are not the child’s parent, but instead a temporary caregiver responsible for the child’s well-being while their parents are working to reunify their family.
California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) recommends that foster children and youth remain in a family setting while they are separated from their parents whenever possible. However, for children who require intensive support and cannot be placed in a family-based setting, STRTPs provide short-term, high-quality, intensive therapeutic intervention services. STRTPs are not considered long-term placement options. All services are designed to stabilize, support and transition children and youth into a family setting when they are ready.
When your child is placed in out-of-home care, you are entitled to regular telephone contact with them as long as that contact is not detrimental to your child. Your first phone call will be within 5 hours of your child being removed from their home. Children older than 10 years have the right to make at least two phone calls to parents in the presence of DCFS staff within one hour of being removed from their home. Then, if it is safe for the child, in-person visits will be arranged according to your Family Visitation Plan.
After your case is heard in Juvenile Dependency Court, the court will determine how often, and under what circumstances, you are able to visit your child while you are working toward reunification. These visits may be supervised, depending on the specifics of your case.
Your child’s case worker is critical in making recommendations for these visitations, so it is important to work with the case worker to establish and adhere to the Family Visitation Plan established early on in the process. Learn more about the role of juvenile dependency court.
If you are not getting the court-ordered visitation with your child that you are entitled to receive, contact your attorney to ensure that your visitation terms are honored.
When a teen parent in foster care has custody of his or her non-dependent child, the court can only order visits between the teen parent, their parent(s) and appropriate family members. A dependent teen parent who has custody of their non-dependent child is the only person who has the right to make visitation decisions regarding the non-dependent child.
The Incarcerated Parents Program (IPP) facilitates visitation between women who are incarcerated at the Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) and their children in out-of-home placement.
The program is open to incarcerated mothers with children between the ages of 0-21. Mothers must have a current open Family Reunification Plan with DCFS, and not have a “stay away” or restraining order in criminal or juvenile dependency court, in order to participate.
IPP helps ensure incarcerated parents complete any court-ordered programs, acts as a liaison between social workers and the incarcerated parent and helps improve outcomes for released parents through resource referrals and supportive services. IPP is available on a first come, first served basis.
Path to Reunification
After your child is placed out-of-home, your case worker will help you develop a Family Reunification plan with clear goals, a visitation schedule, and other steps you must take for the court to determine that your child can safely live with you.
It is very important to follow the case plan developed for you and your family. Comply with all court orders, follow the advice of your attorney, attend all the programs and services and report your progress in the programs to your social worker and attorney. The faster you complete the programs, the faster you will get your child back.