Q: Why is DSS allowed to place so many class requirements on the parents that they cannot hold onto a job and meet the DSS requirements at the same time?
A: Case plans, including those that involve training for parents, are developed in collaboration with parents to ensure the parents have input into the plan. Those parents who are willing to collaborate in this “plan development” usually are able to meet the requirements of the plan while still meeting their other obligations, such as employment. When conflicts arise, DSS will work with parents to address those conflicts. There are parents, however, who are unwilling to participate in the case plan development and are unwilling to follow through on the plan as developed, whether they have participated in the plan development or not. In these instances, there often are conflicts related to competing obligations that are much more difficult to resolve.
Case plans are developed in cooperation with parents, if they are willing to cooperate in its development. Case plans are driven by the issues identified in each individual case. Services are offered to the parents to meet the requirements of the case plan to remedy the identified issues as quickly as possible. If it is a case where the courts are involved, the court either adopts the case plan, or will recommend modifications. DSS and the courts regularly work with parents to help them comply with their case plan, with as little impact as possible on other activities. There will be instances where conflicts arise and in those cases the matter is addressed by the parties concerned. As a case progresses through the system, unanticipated issues arise that might require the case plan to be modified. The goal is to make the home environment as safe as possible for the children once they return home.
Q: What is the purpose of the case plan? What are some of the most common case plan activities that parents are given to achieve?
State guidelines and standards require case plans to be developed to achieve a particular goal in a case. If the goal is reunification, the case plan will address the objectives -- what must be done -- to achieve reunification. If the goal is adoption, the case plan will address objectives toward adoption. If the case goal is preserving the family, then the case plan will address objectives toward family preservation and reducing risk.
The case plan is developed jointly with the social worker, parent/caretaker, and other necessary parties to identify all actions that must be taken and objectives which must be met to achieve the overall case plan goal. Activities are very specific to each individual case and are driven by what risk factors have been identified in the case that have led to abuse or neglect, and what objectives are sought to eliminate the abuse or neglect. The most common examples would deal with services to address substance abuse, domestic violence, proper parenting skills, or other issues related to meeting the child's ongoing needs. Whenever abuse or neglect is identified in a case, there are generally factors that a social worker can identify as having some role in the resulting abuse or neglect. Social Workers are accustomed to looking for these factors. Identifying contributing factors is the beginning point for the case plan. Other issues may emerge as the work moves forward.