Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session)

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1 Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session) Time: 2 hours Developmental Competencies CCW Understand the value of effective communication and engagement with the child welfare team. CCW Understand the caregivers role on the child welfare team as a collaborator on the case plan and as an advocate for the child and family. Talking about Competencies This 2 hour coaching session for Caregivers builds upon information contained in Caregivers Core Training (CCT) and provides detailed training related to the writing and submitting of the Caregiver s Report to the Court (DCFS ). Participants will understand the caregiver s role in the court process and how to effectively communicate with the court and other parties through the Caregiver s Report to the Court. During the session the caregiver will have the opportunity to compose an actual court report about the child in their care and receive specific feedback from the Child Welfare Trainer. Handouts and Resources Caregiver s Report to the Court (DCFS Form# ) Caregiver s Report to Court Effective Communication Tips Sample Caregiver s Report to the Court Session Flow Caregiver s Report to the Court Time 120 mins 1 Review of the Court Process 20 mins 2 Discussion of Case Specifics 20 mins 3 Writing of the Report to the Court 60 mins 4 Getting your Report to the Court 20 mins Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session) 1 of 6

2 Classroom Training PART 1: REVIEW OF THE COURT PROCESS (20 mins) Throughout the life of a case the court will review its status multiple times, at a minimum of every six months. As a caregiver you have the right to be notified of review hearings, receive the court report, attend court hearings, and provide a report to the court in writing. At many hearings, the judicial officers will also allow time for the Caregiver to address the court but this does not always happen and is based on the Judicial Officer s discretion. If you wish to be heard at the court hearing beyond the written Caregiver s Report to the Court, you should let the Social Worker or CASA know this so they can inform the Judicial Officer. This coaching session will focus on preparing an effective Caregivers Report to the Court. We will also provide an overview of the court process and your role in it. Types of Hearings: 1. Shelter Care Hearing This hearing usually occurs within 72 hours of the child coming into care. At this hearing the court decides if the child is safe and will return home or if the child should remain in the custody of the state for the next 30 days. 2. Shelter Care Review Hearing This hearing occurs approximately 30 days after the initial shelter care hearing. The court will review the status of the child and will either order the child to return home or to remain in placement. 3. Fact Finding Hearing This hearing generally occurs within 75 days of filing a dependency petition and will determine if the child will become a dependent of the state. At this hearing the parties present evidence to the court in support of their position in regards to dependency. Dependency means that the child is now in the custody and care of the state until such a time that permanency can be established. It is common practice that a Dispositional Order will also be made at this hearing, which details for the parents their requirements and services the court feels are needed to begin before a child can safely transition home. 4. Review Hearings Review hearings are held at lease every 6 months once dependency is established. At these hearings the court reviews: the child s placement, parent s compliance and progress with the Dispositional service plan, DCFS compliance and progress with the service plan, visitation and permanency. Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session) 2 of 6

3 Legal Parties: Some participants of the case have legal standing with the court and are represented by attorneys or Guardian Ad Litems or Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA). When you submit a report to the court all of these parties and their legal counsel will have access to it. Those participants are: 1. Department of Child and Family Services (Social Service Specialists, represented by the Assistant Attorney General) 2. Children- Children are appointed an attorney at the age of 12 and may have a CASA prior to the age of Parents often represented by Public Defenders or Private Attorneys 4. Tribes If applicable, often represented by Tribal Attorneys PART 2: DISCUSSION OF CASE SPECIFICS (20 mins) Now that we have an overview of the court process we will discuss your specific case and goals. It is helpful to have with you any paperwork you have regarding your child, such as: court reports, placement information or court orders. 1. Determine the status of your child s case: a. What is the legal status? Is the child in shelter care or are they dependent? b. How long have they been in care? c. What is the primary and alternate permanent plan? 2. Determine the goal of your caregiver s report: What is it that you want the court and other parties to know about the child in your care? Here are some common things that caregivers want to communicate: a. Concern about the well-being of the child and the services they are receiving. b. Disagreement with the permanent plan. If this is the case, remind the caregivers of their obligation to support the permanent plan even if they are not in agreement. c. How well the child is doing. Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session) 3 of 6

4 Part 3 - WRITING YOUR CAREGIVER S REPORT TO THE COURT (60 mins) Handout: Caregivers Report to the Court. DSHS form # Now we will go through the caregiver s report section by section and complete it. This can be done on a computer or by hand. Some questions are self-explanatory. Heading Provide the information that you know. You may be able to find the legal number on some of the paperwork regarding placement, court report or court order. If you are not able to find the legal number, ask your social worker or the child s GAL. Be aware that the parents may get a copy of this report. You do not have to use your full name in this section, just put what you are comfortable with. 1. Child s strengths, hobbies, gifts, talent, participation in extra-curricular activities/events: Let everyone know what makes this child special and unique. 2. Child s social interaction with caregivers family, peers and siblings: How does the child function within the family setting and with peers? This can include strengths and concerns. Is the child empathetic, do they appear to be bonding with your family? Are they able to form and maintain friendships? 3. Child s school progress and adjustment: Include any information regarding IEP s or special services that the child is receiving through the school district. Include any behavioral issues that occur in the school setting. 4. Child s physical health (state results of medical and dental appointments): Put information regarding the child s last medical and dental appointments. Also include an information about special medical needs and how they are being addressed. Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session) 4 of 6

5 5. Child s emotional health and well-being (Counselor or therapist appointment schedule): List any mental health diagnosis and how it is being addressed (counseling/medications). If the child is doing well, explain how you determined that. 6. Child s adjustment to caregiver family and caregiver family expectations: Is the child fitting in well with your family? Have they been able to learn the rules and routines of your household? How long did this take them? What if any where the struggles? 7. Child s visits with parents and siblings: Describe the visitation schedule, both frequency and duration. Explain how the child reacts before and after visitation. Express any concerns or strengths in regards to visitation. 8. Your view on the needs of the child: Describe your opinion as to what the child needs while in care based on your observations or information you have received from the children s natural supports. 9. Your thoughts on how these needs can be addressed: If you believe the child has specific needs, please share your ideas as to how those needs could be met and if appropriate, which providers you are aware of in your area that could meet the child s needs while being as minimally disruptive to the child as possible. 10. Your thoughts on the Department s case plan: Remember that even if you disagree with the case plan you need to support it. This does not mean that you cannot express your disagreement. But you still need to support the child through the outcome that is decided upon by the court. 11. Other child/case specific information you with the court to consider: This is your opportunity to express anything that was not included above, but you feel is necessary for the team to know. PART 4 GETTING YOUR REPORT TO THE COURT (20 mins) Now that you ve taken the time to prepare your Caregiver s Report to the Court, there are several ways you can get your report to the court for the hearing and there are pros and cons to each option. It s important to the court and the parties to the case to receive your report in advance of the hearing. 1. Provide your report to the child s social worker: a. Two to three weeks before the hearing - it will be filed together with the worker s report. Providing your report well in advance: Is professional; it allows all parties time to review your report and prepare for the hearing; Supports timely permanency for the child in your care; Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session) 5 of 6

6 Ensures your information will be considered during the child s scheduled hearing; Eliminates the potential that a defense attorney can request to postpone the hearing to a later date (when a report is not made available to all parties at least 14 days in advance of the hearing, an attorney may ask that the hearing be postponed to review the material in the report per local legal rules); b. Shortly before the hearing: The worker will do all they can to help you get your report to the court before the hearing; i. If there is adequate time, the worker will send the report to the court; ii. If the court hearing is within the next few days, the worker will take the report with him/her to the hearing. Important to Note: Please communicate and coordinate with the social worker when you send a report to the social worker right before the hearing: The worker may need time to make copies for all parties at the hearing; The worker may be out of the office prior to the hearing (sick, vacation, appointments) and may not know you ve sent your report to the worker to take to the court; The worker s schedule may require them to go directly to the court and they may not be aware your report is waiting for them at the office or in their Caregivers are encouraged to come to the court hearing you may bring your report with you. Please bring five (5) copies with you to the hearing. a. Caregivers are entitled to receive notice of the child s hearing and also have the right to be heard at the child s hearing. However each court determines how the caregiver is heard. Each court is different - some judges might: Encourage you to share some brief comments about the child during the hearing; Allow your written Caregiver s Report to the Court only to be submitted well in advance of the hearing; Allow the Caregiver s Report that you bring with you to the hearing to be entered in the court record and shared with all parties as decisions are made that day; Accept your report at the time of the hearing, but because the parties haven t had time to review it, the information will not be used that day in making decisions; Allow the attorneys to argue at the hearing, that your report should not be considered at this hearing if it was received late and they haven t had time to review it before the hearing; Continue the hearing to a later date if a defense attorney complains they have not had time to review the Caregiver s Report and respond to anything in your report. Caregiver s Report to the Court (Coaching Session) 6 of 6

7 Caregiver s Report to the Court Child s Name: Legal Case Number: Hearing Date: County with Legal Jurisdiction: Caregiver Name/Person providing information: Child s Assigned Social Worker: Please return Caregiver Report Form (via , US Postal Service or in person) to the child s assigned social worker and/or guardian ad litem. TOPICS: 1. Child s strengths, hobbies, gifts, talents, participation in extra-curricular activities/events: 2. Child s social interaction with caregiver family, peers and siblings: 3. Child s school progress and adjustment: 4. Child s physical health (state results of medical and dental appointments): 5. Child s emotional health and well-being ( counselor or therapist appointment schedule): CAREGIVER REPORT TO THE COURT DSHS (REV. 10/2011)

8 6. Child s adjustment to caregiver family and caregiver family expectations: 7. Child s visits with parent(s) and sibling(s): 8. Your view on the needs of the child: 9. Your thoughts on how these needs can be addressed: 10. Your thoughts on Department s case plan: 11. Other child/case specific information you wish the court to consider: Caregiver s Signature: Signature Date: Caregiver s Printed Name: CAREGIVER REPORT TO THE COURT DSHS (REV. 10/2011)

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