Child Welfare Services
LCDSS administers the Child Welfare Services (CWS) program under federal and state statutes and regulations. CWS is responsible to obtain or provide interventions and services to address child abuse and neglect. The overarching goals of the child welfare programs are to promote safety, permanence and well-being for the children we serve.
The four traditional service components of the program were established through State Senate Bill 14, enacted in 1982 to implement federal requirements under Public Law 96-272:
Adoption is one aspect of permanent placement; it is also a program in its own right and is the work of the county adoption agency, which is part of LCDSS, CWS.
Child welfare social workers are available to take reports and respond to situations of abuse or neglect all hours of the day or night, every day of the year. Anyone concerned for the safety of a child can make a report by calling 707-262-0235.
Emergency response social workers investigate situations to determine if a child has experienced abuse or neglect, or if a child is at significant risk of abuse or neglect. Whenever possible, efforts are made to stabilize families so that children can remain safely with their parents. Sometimes, investigators work with parents to create safety plans, which may include arranging for children to stay temporarily with relatives or friends identified by the parents. If necessary to ensure safety, children might be placed into protective custody by law enforcement officers for temporary placement outside of the parent’s care; in these instances, the emergency response social worker may place the child with a relative or approved resource family (foster parents).
Emergency response services aim to stabilize families without the intervention of the juvenile court, if possible. When the family’s situation is such that it appears a child requires the protection of the juvenile court, emergency response social workers make the court aware of the child’s situation so that the court process can begin.
Family Maintenance (FM) provides time-limited protective services to families in crisis to prevent or remedy abuse or neglect, allowing Social Workers to work with the family while keeping the child in the home. Services can include counseling, respite care, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, victim services, and parenting education. FM may be based upon a voluntary agreement with the parents where the court is not involved, or the juvenile court may order services to be provided under Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. FM Services are provided for 6 months but may be extended if there is evidence that the objectives of the service plan can be achieved within the extended time period. If, after that time, the family is unable to adequately care for the child, the county may petition the juvenile court to place the child in out-of-home (foster) care.
Family Reunification (FR) provides time-limited intervention and support services to parents and to children who have been removed from the home to make the family environment safe for the child to return. A reunification plan is agreed to by the parents and the FR Social Worker. Services are made available to parents that can include counseling, emergency shelter care, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, and parent education. These services are limited to 6 to 12 months, depending on the age of the child, but may be extended if there is substantial probability that with continued services the child will be able to return home. The reunification plan must be satisfactorily fulfilled for the children to be returned home.
The goal for every child or youth that enters foster care is to exit foster care into a situation where their needs for safety, permanence and well-being can be met by committed family members, mentors and/or other support persons.
The preferred version of “permanence” is for a child to be able to return safely to the care of his or her parents. If this is not possible, “alternate” permanency options are considered. These include:
- Adoption or Tribal Customary Adoption
- Legal Guardianship
- Long-Term placement with a committed relative
The county adoption agency is also part of the Lake County Child Welfare Services programs. All children who are dependents of the Lake County Juvenile Court and who are in need of alternate permanency placements are served by the county adoption agency. Adoption staff works to ensure that children being adopted are matched with nurturing families capable of meeting their needs. Adoption social workers also support children, relatives and resource families as they become families through adoption.