Child Welfare Services: How to Create a Safety Plan for Your Family

Child custody and visitation, Family Law

Sometimes a family runs into problems and they get a visit from Child Welfare Services (CWS), a division of the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency. The job of CWS is to investigate abuse of children and develop and enforce ways to protect them. Initially, if CWS believes abuse has occurred, it may create a proposed plan to keep the children safe, which it will then send to the parents and discuss with them on how best to proceed. During this initial phase, any cooperation by the parents with CWS is voluntary; unless CWS files a Juvenile Dependency action in court, it cannot force the parents to adhere to a plan. 

Develop a Safety Plan

However, to help prevent a dependency action from being filed, it can be useful for the parents to work with CWS and develop a safety plan.  The federal Health and Human Services Child and Family Services Reviews describes a safety plan thus:

A safety plan is a written agreement that the child protective services (CPS) caseworker develops with the family that clearly describes the safety services that will be used to manage threats to a child’s safety. Safety services assist families to engage in actions or activities that may logically eliminate or mitigate threats to the child’s safety. These activities must be planned realistically so that they are feasible and sustainable for the family over time. 

The safety plan will clearly outline what these actions and activities are, who is responsible for undertaking them, and under what conditions they will take place. It is designed to control threats to the child’s safety using the least intrusive means possible. 

When the parents adhere to the plan and the threats to a child’s safety are gone, the plan can be abated and no longer followed. This cooperation and concentrated effort by the parents can not only keep a dependency case, wherein the court might take the children out of the family home and placed in foster care while 18 months of reunification services are followed, but the good record accrued with Child Welfare Services over time can prove beneficial in any future custody or domestic violence proceeding. This is particularly true if one parent is far better than the other at following the safety plan and shows that she or he would be the better parent to have sole legal and physical custody.  

If you have more questions about developing a safety plan or Child Welfare Services, give JWB Family Law a call to learn more about how we can help: 619.234.6123. We look forward to speaking with you.

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