340:75-6-85. Placement considerations for the child in Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) custody
(a) Legislative intent for the child placed outside the child's home. Per Section 1-1-102 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes (10A O.S. 1-1-102), when a child's placement outside of the home is necessary, per Oklahoma Children's Code, each child is assured care, guidance, and supervision in a permanent home or foster home that serves the child's best interests including, but not limited to, the development of the child's moral, emotional, spiritual, mental, social, educational, and physical well-being. The child is entitled to a permanent home and placement in the least restrictive environment that meets the child's needs. • 1
(b) DHS responsibility for the child's out-of-home placement. • 4 DHS has the duty to provide for the care and treatment of each child placed in DHS custody by an order of the court, per 10A O.S. § 1-7-103. DHS:
(1) may place the child in a:
(A) kinship care home or other foster care home;
(B) group home, or children's shelter subject to the Child Welfare Services (CWS) director's or designee's approval; or
(C) any licensed facility established for the care of children when a kinship or foster care home is not available;
(2) gives priority to the child's noncustodial parent unless the placement is not in the child's best interests; and
(3) reviews and assesses the child to determine the type of placement and services consistent with the child's needs in the nearest geographic proximity to the child's home as possible.
(c) DHS authority to determine the child's placement.
(1) DHS has the responsibility to determine if a placement is appropriate for the child in DHS custody and to remove the child from the placement when in the child's best interests, per 10A O.S. § 1-7-103, subject to the provisions of 10A O.S. § 1-4-804 and 1-4-805.
(2) A request by a placement provider for immediate removal of the child is examined and assessed to determine if the situation can be resolved to prevent disruption of the child's placement.
(d) Court's authority to approve or disapprove placement. When the court determines it is in the child's best interests, the court may place the child in DHS legal custody. Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-803, when the child is placed in DHS custody, the court may not direct DHS to place the child in a specific home or placement, but may approve or disapprove a specific placement when it does not conform to statutory requirements and the child's best interests.
(e) Determining the appropriate placement.
(1) Per 10A O.S 1-7-106, a placement is made that meets the treatment needs of the child and supports the permanency plans for the child and family.
(2) Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-204, when determining the appropriate placement for the child, DHS considers, but does not limit consideration to, the:
(A) person's ability to provide safety for the child including a willingness to cooperate with any restrictions placed on contact between the child and others and to prevent others from influencing the child in regard to allegations of the case;
(B) person's ability to support DHS efforts to implement the permanency plan for the child;
(C) person's ability to meet the child's physical, emotional, and educational needs, including the child's need to continue in the same school or educational placement;
(D) person who has the closest existing personal relationship with the child, when more than one person requests placement;
(E) person's ability to provide a placement for the child's sibling who is in need of placement or continuation in out-of-home care;
(F) wishes of the parent, the relative, and the child when appropriate;
(G) person's ability to care for the child as long as necessary and to provide a permanent home, when needed; and
(H) child's best interests including placement in a non-family-like setting.
(f) Relative placement preference when not with noncustodial parent. • 1 Per 10A O.S. §§ 1-4-204 and 1-7-106, when DHS determines that placement with the noncustodial parent is not in the child's best interests, preference is given to relatives and persons who have a kinship relationship with the child, and who are determined to be suitable, capable, and willing to serve as the child's caretakers.
(1) Per 10A O.S. §§ 1-4-204 and 1-7-106, every effort is made to place the child with a suitable relative.
(2) DHS makes efforts to locate the relative, kinship relation, or resource parent who is best able to meet the child's long-term best interests.
(3) Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-204, DHS reports to the court the diligent efforts made to secure the child's placement.
(4) When applicable to the child, DHS complies with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) placement preferences, per Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC) 340:75-19-14, and reports to the court the diligent efforts to secure the child's placement. • 5
(5) When a child is not placed with a relative who was considered for placement, DHS must advise the court why the relative was denied listing the reasons on Form 04MP056E, Notice to the Court of Relative Denied Placement. The written reasons are made a part of the court record, per 10A O.S. § 1-4-204, and documented in the CWS case record.
(g) Sibling placement. • 6 Per 10A O.S. §§ 1-4-204 and 1-7-107, when two or more siblings are removed and placed in foster care, every reasonable attempt is made to place the siblings together in the same temporary or permanent placement.
(1) When siblings are separated, the siblings are allowed contact or visitation with each other, when safe.
(2) The safety and best interests of each child determine if joint placement, contact, or visitation is allowed.
(3) When the child is a part of a sibling group, it is presumed that placement of the entire sibling group in the same placement is in the best interests of the child and siblings.
(4) Siblings may be separated when the court and DHS find:
(A) one sibling resided in a resource home for six or more months and established a relationship with the resource family;
(B) the siblings never resided in the same resource together;
(C) there is no established relationship between the siblings;
(D) it is in the child's best interests to remain in the current placement.
(5) In making a permanent placement, siblings are placed in the same permanent home. When the siblings are separated, they are allowed contact or visitation with other siblings, provided that each child's best interests are the standard for determining if the siblings are placed in the same foster placement or permanent placement, or allowed contact or visitation with other siblings.
(h) Placement in nearest geographic proximity to parent or school.
(1) Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-707, unless the child is placed with relatives or in accordance with federal and state ICWA, the child is placed, when possible, in the parent or legal guardian's county of residence to facilitate family reunification.
(A) When an appropriate placement is not available in the parent or legal guardian's county of residence, the child is placed in an appropriate home in the nearest proximity to the parent or legal guardian's county of residence to facilitate family reunification. The child's placement is not intended to correspond in frequency to the parent or legal guardian's change of residence.
(B) When determining if the child is to be moved, DHS considers the potential harmful effects of disrupting the child's placement and the reason the parent or legal guardian changed residences.
(2) When an appropriate placement is not available in the parent or legal guardian's county of residence, the child is placed in an appropriate home in the nearest proximity to the child's school district to ensure his or her educational consistency.
(i) Child's placement preference. • 7 Per 10A O.S. § 1-7-110, when determining placement of a deprived child in foster care, DHS is governed by the child's long-term best interests. The child may express a preference as to placement and the preference may be expressed by the child with or without the parents, foster parents, guardians, or any other parties present. DHS determines if the child's long-term best interests are served by the child's preference, but is not bound by the child's preference and may consider other facts when determining placement.
(j) Former foster parent preferred placement. Per 10A O.S. 1-9-119, the former foster parent has a right to be considered as a preferred placement option when the foster child who was formerly placed with the foster parent reenters foster care at the same level and type of care, when the placement is consistent with the best interests of the child and other children in the foster parent's home.
(k) Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994. DHS follows the provisions of the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 and the Interethnic Provisions of 1996, per OAC 340:75-1-9. • 3
(l) ICWA and placement. DHS follows federal ICWA, Section 1915 of Title 25 of the United States Code, Oklahoma ICWA, 10 O.S. § 40.6, and OAC 340:75-19-14.
(m) Religious consideration in placement decision. Consideration is given to the parent's wishes regarding religious preference in the selection of a placement provider for the child, per OAC 340:75-6-49.
(n) Prescribed requirements for placement provider. Each placement utilized by DHS is approved or licensed by specified procedures and meets prescribed requirements.
(1) The child in DHS custody is not placed in a home prior to the person meeting provider standards, per OAC 340:75-7.
(2) Placement providers must:
(A) provide safety for the child in DHS custody;
(B) have sufficient space in the home to allow the child privacy;
(C) support and participate in the child's permanency plan;
(D) adhere to DHS rules, such as not using physical discipline; and
(E) support the child's preferred religious and cultural choices.
(o) Certain criminal convictions prohibit placement approval. Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-705, DHS does not approve potential foster or adoptive parents for placement when the applicant, or any person residing in the potential applicant's home, has a criminal conviction for any of the felony offenses listed in (1) through (5) of this subsection. The felony offenses are:
(1) physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense within the five-year period preceding the application date;
(2) child abuse or neglect;
(3) domestic abuse;
(4) a crime against a child including, but not limited to, child pornography; or
(5) a crime involving violence including, but not limited to, rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but excluding those crimes specified in (1) of this subsection.
(p) Placement provider's age. Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-705, when a prospective placement provider meets the minimum age required, per OAC 340:75-7-12, DHS may not use the age of an otherwise eligible individual as a reason for placement denial.
(q) Placement providers as essential participants. • 8
(1) As placement providers, 10A O.S. 1-9-119 and OAC 340:75-7-37recognize foster parents and group home providers as essential participants in the decisions related to the growth, development, care, protection, and treatment of the child placed in the foster parent's home or in the group home with whom they have established a familial relationship.
(r) Foster parent rights. A statement of foster parent's rights is given to every foster parent annually and found at 10A O.S. 1-9-119.
(s) Group home rights. A statement of group home provider rights is attached to the group home contract.
(t) Foster parent eligibility to adopt the child. Per 10A O.S. § 1-4-812, during any permanency hearing when the court determines the child is to be placed for adoption, the court considers the foster parent eligible to adopt when the foster parent meets established eligibility requirements. When the child has resided with the foster parent for at least one year, the court gives great weight to the foster parent in the adoption consideration unless the child has an existing, loving, emotional bond with a relative, by blood or marriage, who is willing, able, and eligible to adopt the child.
INSTRUCTIONS TO STAFF 340:75-6-85
1. Least restrictive placement.
(1) The Child Welfare Services (CWS) director or designee must approve a child's placement in non-family-like settings that includes group homes and shelters.
(2) For a child 13 years of age or older placed in a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP) for more than 12 consecutive or 18 non-consecutive months, or for more than six consecutive or non-consecutive months for a child 12 years of age or younger, documents maintained in the child's case plan must include the:
(i) evidence and documentation submitted at each status review and permanency hearing conducted, per Oklahoma Administrative Code (OAC) 340:75-6-40.5; and
(ii) signed approval by the CWS director or designee for the child's continued placement in a QRTP.
(3) The out-of-home placement selected for the child in Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) custody is the least restrictive or most home-like setting that meets the child's needs and provides for the child's safety, per OAC 340:75-6-85 through 340:75-6-85.2 and 340:75-6-85.4. Every effort is made to place the child with a member of the child's family in a safe and appropriate home. Placements in (A) through (F) of this paragraph, listed in the least to the most restrictive order, are a:
(A) kinship home that includes a:
(i) relative home; or
(ii) close family relationship;
(B) non-kinship foster home;
(C) therapeutic foster home;
(D) group home;
(E) residential child care facility; or
(F) qualified residential treatment program.
2. When QRTP is considered for placement, and upon authorization of the placement referral by CWS Specialized Placements and Partnerships Unit (SPPU), per OAC 340:75-11-233, 340:75-11-233.1, and 340:75-11-238, the assigned child welfare (CW) specialist:
(1) places the child in the authorized QRTP, per OAC 340:75-11-233.1 and 340:75-11-238;
(2) immediately documents the placement in the child's KIDS Placement screens;
(3) includes in the child's case plan the documentation from the qualified individual who conducts the assessment and makes the determination that QRTP provides the most effective and appropriate level of care for the child in the least restrictive environment consistent with the child's short- and long-term goals, as specified in the permanency plan; and
(4) provides the evidence and documentation submitted at each status review and permanency hearing conducted, per OAC 340:75-6-40.5, for any child remaining in a QRTP placement for longer than 60-calendar days.
3. Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994. When the parent of a child in emergency or temporary OKDHS custody requests a placement that violates the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 and Interethnic Provisions of 1996 (MEPA/IEP), the CW specialist advises the parent that MEPA/IEP states that a parent's request for a same race placement is not legal and is not considered by OKDHS. Only requests regarding relative and religious preferences are considered.
4. Noncustodial parent and paternity. In many cases, Child Support Services has established and documented paternity prior to CWS involvement. Refer to OAC 340:75-6-31.5 Instructions to Staff to ensure placement with the noncustodial parent is adequately explored and the CWS case record accurately reflects all available OKDHS records regarding paternity.
5. Diligent efforts to secure placement for Indian child. OKDHS is required to make diligent efforts to place an Indian child, per the Indian Child Welfare Act or tribal placement preferences, by contacting the child's tribe once a month. The CW specialist documents diligent efforts in the KIDS case and provides to the court for the court record. These diligent efforts are considered active efforts to reunite an Indian child with his or her family.
6. (a) Judicial findings related to sibling placement. The Oklahoma Children's Code requires the court at various hearings to determine if OKDHS made reasonable efforts to:
(1) place siblings, who were removed, together in the same foster home, guardianship, or adoptive placement; and
(2) provide for frequent family time or other ongoing interaction between siblings who were removed and who are not placed together.
(b) Reasonable efforts to place siblings together. Examples of reasonable and ongoing efforts to place siblings together include, but are not limited to:
(1) conducting family meetings (FMs) that address sibling placements and exploring potential relatives who may be appropriate and capable of providing placement for the sibling group. Sibling placement and connections are reviewed at every FM and must include discussion of:
(A) each child's best interests;
(B) exploring relatives who are interested in placement of all siblings;
(C) barriers to joint sibling placement including if joint placement is contrary to each sibling's safety and well-being;
(D) an action plan to resolve identified barriers; and
(E) a sibling family time plan. Per OAC 340:75-6-30, Form 04MP047E, Family Time Plan, is used to prepare the family time plan;
(2) diligently searching for relatives and important people in the child's life who are appropriate and capable of providing placement and connections for the sibling group, per OAC 340:75-6-85.2;
(3) informing and conducting ongoing discussions with the resource specialist or district of placement specialist regarding the need to place siblings together;
(4) requesting that placement providers for siblings notify the CW specialist or resource specialist when an opening for a sibling occurs in the placement provider's home; and
(5) issuing Form 04CP006E, Letter of Notification to Adult Relatives, to known relatives to seek a placement resource or relative connections for the siblings.
(c) Sibling separation. Sibling separation may be in the child's best interests, when:
(1) a sibling physically or emotionally endangers the health and well-being of another sibling and efforts to address the behaviors with counseling or therapy failed;
(2) adoption is the permanency plan and the:
(A) CW specialist and adoption specialist explained adoption and answered any questions the sibling may have about adoption; and
(B) sibling is of the age to consent to adoption and does not want to be adopted;
(3) siblings are placed with different relatives and a plan is in place for continued sibling contact;
(4) a licensed mental health professional determined and provided a signed letter or report that movement of the sibling from the current caregiver would be detrimental to his or her emotional health, development, and well-being; and
(5) efforts to place the siblings together were exhausted and documented in the Relative/Kinship Connections screen, on Form 04KI009E, Court Report, or on Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report, and in the KIDS Contacts screen.
(d) Permanency plan of adoption and sibling placement. When the permanency plan is adoption, the CW specialist assesses:
(1) the length of time the siblings were separated;
(2) the efforts made to place the siblings together;
(3) the factors that led to the placement's disruption and if the siblings were previously placed together in out-of-home placement;
(4) the day-to-day behavior of each child at home, in school, and at other public gatherings;
(5) the type and frequency of contact between the siblings;
(6) if the children were in counseling together or separately;
(7) the recommendations of any counselor or therapist involved with the children;
(8) if the children want placement together; and
(9) the review of sibling placement and connections at every criteria staffing or FM. However, when the plan is for siblings to be adopted separately, the district director reviews the case and attends the criteria staffing. The district director signs Form 04AN020E, Adoptive Placement Criteria Staffing Documentation, denoting participation and agreement as a required participant. Each criteria staffing involving siblings must include discussion of:
(A) whether joint placement is contrary to each child's safety and well-being;
(B) every effort made to avoid permanent sibling separation;
(C) whether each child's best interests were assessed and met; and
(D) a plan to maintain sibling connections, even after permanent separation, it is contrary to each child's best interest.
(e) Inappropriate reasons for sibling separation. Examples of inappropriate reasons for sibling separation include, when:
(1) the children were separated in out-of-home placement and limited or no efforts were made to place the siblings together;
(2) an infant is not placed with older siblings and a relationship with the other siblings is determined not to exist; and
(3) siblings are in separate placements and little or no efforts were made to facilitate contact; therefore, the children do not know one another.
(f) CW specialist responsibilities during sibling separation. Every CW specialist, CW supervisor, district director, and field manager is responsible for ensuring placement of siblings together.
(1) During sibling separation, the CW specialist facilitates contact between the siblings through frequent visits, phone calls, letters, and other ongoing interaction and enlists the current providers in the facilitation and maintenance of the contacts.
(2) The CW specialist and CW supervisor review, at least monthly, each case with separated siblings to ensure:
(A) barriers to joint-sibling placement and connections are discussed, including when joint placement is contrary to each child's safety and well-being;
(B) efforts are made to resolve identified barriers; and
(C) all sibling separation documentation is included in the child's KIDS case.
(3) The CW specialist inquires, during each required monthly visit with the placement provider, about the type and amount of sibling contact facilitated by the provider during the previous month.
(4) The sibling contact facilitated by the placement provider is documented in the KIDS Contacts screen.
(5) When sibling contact did not occur in the previous month, the CW specialist facilitates a sibling visit, phone call, letter, or other interaction within two weeks.
(h) Information provided to placement providers regarding sibling placement.
(1) When siblings are placed separately and the plan is to reunite the siblings in the same placement, the CW specialist informs each sibling's placement provider during the required monthly visit that:
(A) ongoing efforts are being made to place the siblings together;
(B) the move will occur at the first available opportunity;
(C) the provider's home is not considered a permanent placement, unless sibling reunification can be achieved and all of the siblings' needs can be appropriately met in the provider's home; and
(D) the plan to place siblings together does not negate the foster parent's right to the five-judicial day notice and ability to object to the child's move, when applicable, per Form 04MP014E, Notice of Removal from Out-of-Home Placement.
(2) The CW specialist documents ongoing efforts to place siblings together in KIDS Family/Kinship Connections screen, KIDS Contacts screen, and on Form 04KI009E, Court Report, or Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report.
7. Child's placement preferences. The child's placement preferences, when the child is of sufficient age and developmental abilities, are recorded on Forms 04KI011E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Pre-adjudication Court Report; 04KI013E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Dispositional Report; or 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report. The child's preferences are not the sole consideration in determining the child's placement and case plan decisions, but the preferences are evaluated regarding the preference reasons or causes, degree of consistency, and implications for the permanency plan.
8. Notification of rights provided to child. A statement of rights is enumerated in OAC 340:75-14-2. A copy of the rights of a child served by OKDHS is provided to:
(1) each child upon entering foster care and annually thereafter; and
(2) foster parents once a child in OKDHS custody enters the foster parents' home and annually thereafter.
9. (a) Notice of hearing provided to placement provider. Notice of the hearing is provided, per OAC 340:75-1-16.1.
(b) Placement provider's right and responsibility to participate. Each placement provider is advised of his or her right to participate in meetings, such as local post-adjudication review board meetings, special staffings, scheduled permanency planning reviews, or FMs.
(c) Previous placement information provided to placement provider. The child's current placement provider may contact and communicate with the child's previous placement provider to share information about the child, when the previous placement provider agrees. CWS informs the placement provider of the number of times the child was moved and the reasons for each move.
(d) Placement provider's role in the ISP development. The CW specialist engages the current placement provider in the child's ISP development and provides a copy of the child's court-approved ISP to the current placement provider.
(e) Foster parent or placement provider professional team member. The CW specialist treats the foster parent and/or placement provider with dignity, respect, consideration, and as a professional member of the CWS team.
(1) A statement of foster parent rights is located in Section 1-9-119 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes. As a placement provider, a group home provider receives a statement of the group home rights included as an attachment to the group home contract.
(2) The CW specialist cooperates with the foster parent or placement provider to encourage a mutual exchange of information including, but not limited to:
(A) the child's physical and emotional development;
(B) significant connections and behaviors that may affect the child's permanency plan and progress;
(C) school events; and
(D) other concerns.
(f) Relationship between parents and placement providers. The CW specialist helps facilitate the placement provider's role as a team member by encouraging a professional relationship between each parent and placement provider, when appropriate. The CW specialist:
(A) the initial meeting between the parent and placement provider within 10-business days of the child's placement to share information about the child and to begin the process of creating a parent-placement provider relationship, per OAC 340:75-1-29; and
(B) discussion between the parent and placement provider about the prescribed standards for the placement provider, per OAC 340:75-6-85. Parenting methods are also discussed in detail between the participants with an emphasis on OAC 340:75-7-38; and
(2) encourages ongoing communication between the placement provider and parent to effectively facilitate family time, connection with family members, and to meet the child's identified needs.
(g) Placement providers' relationships with the child. Placement providers provide the child's basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, nurturing, emotional support, and direction and guidance for the child's growth and development. The relationship may be recorded through photographs, a Life Book, gift exchanges, and contact after the placement is completed.
10. Documenting the child's personal history.
(1) Digital photographs. The CW specialist ensures that each child is photographed with a digital camera a minimum of once every 12 months. The digital photograph is saved in the KIDS document management system no later than five-business days after the photograph is taken.
(2) Life Book. The CW specialist ensures that each child has a Life Book and that it is maintained by the placement provider. A Life Book is available in Outlook in Public Folders/All Public Folders/STO DCFS/Life Book. The CW specialist prints the applicable sections for the child and provides the sections to the placement provider when a Life Book was not created for the child. The CW specialist ensures the Life Book accompanies the child when he or she changes placement.
11. Documenting placement episodes. When a child is placed in out-of-home care, the CW specialist documents the placement in the KIDS Placement screens no later than two-business days after placement.
(1) A placement cannot be entered until a child's removal from the person responsible for the child is documented.
(2) When the placement is a kinship, paid or non-paid, or foster family home, Form 04FC011E, Placement Agreement for Out-of-Home Care, and Form 15GR004E, Notice of Grievance Rights - Minors in OKDHS Custody, are completed, provided to the placement provider, and recorded in the KIDS Document Tracking screen.