Family and Children’s Services may determine that intervention with the Juvenile Dependency home with the parents or the child may be removed from their home if the situation is too dangerous for the child to remain in the home. Since the parent’s rights are affected, the Juvenile Court makes official decisions to ensure that all actions taken are lawful. Parents and children are appointed attorneys who assist them through the court process and work to help the family resolve the concerns so the child can safety return home, or when that is not possible, to help ensure the child is in a safe, permanent home. Court is needed in order ensure the protection of the child. In court cases, the child may remain.
Family Reunification Services
Mendocino County Family and Children’s Services provides family reunification services to parents whose children have been removed from their care to help them successfully reunify with their children.
When a child has been removed from their home by a Social Worker, Juvenile Court dependency proceedings are initiated. If the Juvenile Court Judge orders that the child will remain out of the parents’ care, the Judge may order family reunification services for one or both parents which are detailed in a case plan. The case plans are developed by the Social Worker with the child and family. Parents have 6 to 12 months, and in some very limited circumstances 18 to 24 months, to complete their case plan and show the Judge they have made the necessary changes to provide a safe home for their child.
Family and Children’s Services maintains oversight of the child and parents and works with the parents to assist them in making the necessary changes to provide a safe home. This involves connecting parents to services such as mental health counseling, parenting education and support, domestic violence treatment services, anger management counseling and substance abuse treatment services. Court hearings are held every 6 months to keep the Judge informed as to the parents’ progress with services and determine if the child can be returned home.
During the time the parents are involved in Family Reunification Services, the child is placed in foster care or in a group home if the child is determined to need intensive mental health or behavioral services. Visitation occurs on a regular basis between the parents, child and siblings while the child is in out-of-home care, unless the Judge has ordered no visitation to protect the child.
Family Maintenance Services
If it is determined that the child is able to remain in the home or is returning home, the family may require oversight by the Juvenile Court and Family and Children’s Services. In this case, the Judge may order family maintenance services which are detailed in a case plan similar to that of a family reunification plan. The case plan is developed by the Social Worker with the child and family and identifies the specific needs of the family and services to ensure the ultimate safety of the child. These services may include mental health counseling, parenting education and support, domestic violence treatment, anger management counseling and substance abuse treatment services. Court hearings are held every 6 months to keep the Judge informed as to the parent’s progress with services and determine if the child can remain safely in the home without further supervision from the Court or Social Worker.
Permanent Placement Services
For children and youth who are not able to successfully reunify with their parents, our responsibility is to achieve permanency for these children in a lasting, nurturing and legally secured relationship with an adoptive parent(s) or legal guardian(s) who will ensure the child’s safety.
Sometimes, due to the needs of the child, guardianship or adoption is not available. In those circumstances, we aim to find a permanent foster home that provide a stable, nurturing environment for the child/youth until they turn 18. For these cases, court hearings are held every 6 months to keep the Judge informed as to how the child/youth is doing in care and our progress towards achieving permanency for the child/youth.
Supportive Transition Services (AB 12)
AB 12 is the name of the California Assembly Bill that was passed to extend foster care options for youth until age 21. This program is known as Supportive Transition and is a voluntary program for youth who turn 18 in foster care to help support them as they transition to adulthood. The Supportive Transition Program creates independence while providing a safety net of professionals and their services in a supervised environment. The program begins when they are 18 and can last until the age of 21 depending on the choice of the youth. Foster youth in this program are referred to as Non-Minor Dependents (NMDs). NMDs remain under the supervision of the Juvenile Court and have review hearings every 6 months until reaching age 21 or until the NMD has opted out of the program or the case has been dismissed due to non-compliance.
Housing options include foster care, Transitional Housing Program Plus Foster Care (THP+FC) and in limited circumstances, group home care but only through age 19. The most common structured housing program for NMDs is THP+FC which provides an apartment for NMDs with stipends for food, electricity and clothes. The weekly supervision by a Case Manager and monthly supervision by a Social Worker provides oversight and learning opportunities to teach a wide variety of life skills, including money management, with independence as the ultimate goal.
Another housing option which is located and identified by the NMD is a Supervised Independent Living Placement (SILP). A SILP must be approved by the Social Worker and meet minimum standards created by the State of California. NMDs residing in a SILP receive a monthly stipend, from which the NMD must cover all of their own expenses including rent, utilities, etc.
The criteria for qualifying for this program is any combination of the following:
• You are working toward a High School Degree or GED
• You are enrolled in college, carrying at least 6 units, or in a vocational school or program
• You are employed and working at least 80 hours a month
• You are participating in a program to assist and remove barriers to employment
• You cannot do any of the above due to a medical condition