Protocol Between the Office of Adoptions, County DFCS
and Licensed Private Adoption Agencies
The purpose of this protocol is to guide the interactions between the Office of Adoptions, the county DFCS offices and ALL licensed private adoption agencies located throughout the state of Georgia from which DHR purchases adoption services. It is intended that the protocol will bring some level of uniformity between these agencies as they work together in the adoptive placement of waiting children.
It is the further intent of this protocol to give the licensed private agencies the same status as the public agencies in regard to accessibility to children waiting for adoptive placement and to thus make more adoption opportunities available for the waiting children.
1. Portfolios or Family Studies/Assessments
A. DFCS recognizes that licensing requirements mandate that private agencies write their assessments in a different format than is currently used by DFCS. DFCS agencies will accept these studies in an alternate format and will consider this format to be acceptable.
B. The licensed private agencies agree to include all of the items listed in the DFCS requirements for a family assessment including photographs or Xerox copies of these even if these are not mandated by licensing. In order to meet these standards the licensed private agency will need to obtain from DFCS information about prior contacts the family may have had with DFCS of a Foster Care, Adoption or CPS nature. Private agencies will obtain a release of information from the family members which will allow DFCS staff to share the needed information with the licensed private agency staff (see Adoption Manual Section 104.31). The DFCS agency will respond to the licensed private agency within ten (10) work days of the receipt of the request.
2. Access To Family Studies/Portfolios By DHR and Access To Waiting Children By Licensed Private Agencies
A. Workers in county agencies shall routinely call the licensed private agencies working with DHR to search for foster/adopt or adoptive families for a child whose goal is adoption. These may include children who are not free, but the plan is termination of parental rights. This should be taking place at the same time the Adoption Exchange, Office of Adoptions is looking for a waiting DFCS family.
B. Workers must share adequate information about the child with the licensed private agency staff to assist in deciding whether or not the private agency family would be appropriate for the child. Confidentiality does not prevent the licensed private agency reviewing the child’s Life History as a part of this process.
C. The licensed private agency can register all their special needs family studies, including foster/adopt, with the Adoption Exchange, Office of Adoptions. These family studies will be circulated for any special needs child just as any DFCS family assessment.
D. DFCS staff may circulate studies from licensed private agencies to other DFCS staff in their county or in other counties without approval from the Office of Adoptions or the licensed private agency. Any DFCS staff with an interest in the family will need to contact the licensed private agency as the study may have already been selected for another child. Licensed private agency parents should not be called directly by DFCS staff. DFCS staff would work only through the licensed private agency.
E. DFCS staff should be open to considering a family and sharing information about a child when approached by a licensed private agency which may have a family for a waiting child. Information about the child should be shared and placement given full consideration.
F. The Adoption Exchange, Office of Adoptions will send to participating private agencies, a copy of Form 400, Child Registration, on any child for whom a home is not available.
3. Families Under Consideration/Selection Of Families
A. All families should be considered equally and selection of a resource for a child should rest totally on selecting the best family to meet the needs of the specific child. There is not a preference to use a home from DFCS over and above that from a licensed private agency or vice versa.
B. The approval of Purchase of Service of studies/services from licensed private agencies rests with the local County Director/Designee. The studies do not have to be submitted to the Office of Adoptions for approval. It is the County Director’s/Designee’s responsibility to be certain that the study meets all of the DHR requirements before authorizing the Purchase of Service Contract. A copy of the family study should be maintained in the original of the child’s file. (Refer to Adoption Policy Manual, Sections 108.1 and 108.2)
C. DFCS and the licensed private agency need to have discussed any serious concerns about the placement prior to involving the family in a staffing and prior to the actual presentation to the family of the child(ren) by DFCS. All care should be taken to prevent disappointment to a resource.
D. A DFCS worker should not select a family from a licensed private agency without first talking with the private agency staff. If there is concurrence that the placement is a strong possibility, DFCS will send Placement letters, Form 414, along with a complete copy of the child’s Life History to the licensed private agency. The licensed private agency should then make a full presentation of the child’s Life History to the family. Following the presentation the licensed private agency should inform the child’s county whether the family is interested in pursuing the placement of the child. The family’s worker must record the presentation interview immediately as a copy must reach the child’s worker and County Director/Designee prior to the staffing. (Refer to Adoption Policy Manual, Section 105.4)
E. The Adoption Exchange, Office of Adoptions, upon receiving its copy of the Form 414, Placement Letter, will place the child on hold for the licensed private agency family. If the family is registered with the Adoption Exchange, Office of Adoptions, they will also be placed on hold for the particular child.
F. A staffing shall take place and there will be an open exchange of information which considers the needs of the child and the family and whether or not the placement is felt to be a match. If all team members agree that the placement will be made, then placement planning should begin. It is recommended that foster parents be included in this meeting as they have vital information to share and play an important part in the child’s move. If the decision to place or not cannot be made in the staffing it must be made within 10 days of the staffing date or receipt of additional information requested at the staffing. (Refer to Adoption Policy Manual, Section 105.6)
G. For foster/adopt placements where there is no Child Life History to present to the family, information from the comprehensive family assessment should be presented allowing the family to make the best possible informed decision. Any information not available should be provided within forty (40) calendar days. (Refer to Foster Care Manual, Section 1004.10)
4. Placement Planning/Placement Activities
A. A placement schedule and plans need to be initiated at the staffing or as soon as possible after the staffing if this needs to be delayed. The family needs to be involved in this and helped to see the two agencies as a team which supports moving the child in the best manner to meet the child’s needs. The planning should include visitation, placement schedule, child’s clothing needs, child’s eligibility and need for child care, who will be preparing the child to move, what role each involved person will play, information about siblings and how continued contact will be carried out. (Refer to Adoption Policy Manual, Section 105.6)
B. DFCS staff needs to assist with pre-placement visits when long distances are involved and several visits are needed before a child is ready to move. This would need to be coordinated with the parents and the licensed private agency staff.
C. DFCS and the licensed private agency need to resolve any differences so that they appear as a team to the child and foster family to reduce anxiety and make for a smooth transition for the child. This will need to continue on an ongoing basis as the placement progresses.
D. DFCS staff should ensure that the child has his/her belongings, including adequate clothing, and any needed transfer documents prior to the move. Care should be taken to transfer medical information and all the items the child and family will need. The child’s Life Book should be included.
5. Post Placement
A. The DFCS agency will complete the placement narrative and send a copy to the licensed private agency. (Refer to Adoptions Policy Manual, Section 106.11)
B. The placement will be supervised by the licensed private agency and DFCS should not contact the family or child except as prearranged with the licensed private agency. Any communication between DFCS staff and the family will be shared with the licensed private agency. (Refer to Adoptions Policy Manual, Section 107.3)
C. The licensed private agency will complete the monthly supervisory reports and send these to the child’s county DFCS and a copy to the Office of Adoptions. The reports will become quarterly at the time the petition is filed.
D. The DFCS agency remains responsible for the child’s six month review until the adoption is finalized, however, the licensed private agency and the family shall be involved in this and the family needs to understand that they could be requested to attend and that this could involve attending court. If the child’s county does not require judicial reviews of the children in adoptive placement the staffing which meets the panel review requirements may be substituted.
D. It is suggested that a joint staffing be held during the post placement supervisory period to review the placement and the child’s and family’s adjustment. This will ensure that all available services are provided and coordinated for the child/family.
E. In the event of a discipline policy infraction, the child’s legal county and the Office of Adoptions shall be notified. Refer to Section 107.7 in the Adoption Policy Manual and Sections 1015.23-1015.31 in the Social Services Manual, Foster Care Chapter.
6. CPS Reports In Non Finalized Cases.
A. DFCS staff should refer to the Social Services Manual, CPS Chapter 2106.1 –2106.22, for procedures for investigating CPS reports in non-finalized adoptive homes when a DHR child(ren) is placed in the home. DFCS will need to involve Child Care Licensing (DHR/Office of Regulatory Services, Two Peachtree Street, NW, Suite 32-415, Atlanta, GA 30303, 404-657-5563, 404-657-5708 [fax]) in these cases. Regardless of where an allegation of CPS originates, each agency should notify the other and work together to coordinate a plan of action, within the policy guidelines of each agency, and to keep each other informed of interventions and outcomes.
B. The Office of Adoptions must be notified by DFCS at once in a situation involving a CPS investigation in a non finalized adoptive home. Any requests for an Affidavit of Release will be put on hold until a favorable resolution is made or permanently if necessary. If the child has been released for adoption it will be necessary for the child’s legal county to, through their SAAG, withdraw consent to the adoption until written approval is received from the Division of Family and Children Services Social Services Section Director and the Office of Adoptions upon review of the case findings. This will happen very infrequently and DFCS staff must remain alert to the court dates and legal issues when CPS situations develop. (Refer to Adoptions Policy Manual, Sections 107.6 and 107.22)
C. It will be necessary for staff from DFCS and the licensed private agency to work closely together in cases where a CPS investigation is ongoing. DFCS staff must share all possible information with the licensed private agency and vice versa to ensure a fair assessment. DFCS staff can request a release of information from the family to assist in this if needed.
D. It will be important to avoid an adversarial relationship developing between the two agencies as this can and does happen easily when emotions and feelings are involved.
E. Roles can be worked out during the investigation with the licensed private agency offering the family support in dealing with the investigation and whatever happened in the family to bring about the CPS investigation. The role of the CPS staff is primary and overrides any other concerns at times of concern for a child’s safety.
F. There is nothing in policy to prevent the licensed private agency staff from being involved in the investigation if the adoptive family wants them present and agrees to this and if the CPS investigator approves and it does not interfere with the investigation. If the report is not confirmed and the child remains in the home, the licensed private agency will have the difficult task of continuing to work with the family and this will be made easier if they remain involved.
G. The State Office needs to concur on any plans to leave children in a home where there has been a report of child abuse or neglect. This will involve the Office of Adoptions as well as CPS and other state units. If abuse or neglect is substantiated, DFCS policy requires that the child be removed from the home. However, if remaining in the home is in the child’s best interest, this policy may be waived. (See Section 2180.4 in the Child Protective Services Manual for procedures.)
A. DFCS and the licensed private agency need to work together very closely when ever a disruption seems to be a possibility. This should involve a staffing of all those who know the child and family to be sure that the issues are properly identified and that all potential services, including crisis intervention, and funding are in place to support the placement if it is felt it should be supported. The staffing needs to be held as early as possible and can be called by either agency or by the adoptive family. The two agencies need to work closely together to prevent undue stress in the child and parents. (Refer to Adoptions Policy Manual, Section 107.10-15)
B. The Adoption Exchange, Office of Adoptions shall be involved in any potential disruption.
C. Both agencies need to consider replacement into another adoptive home if disruption does take place and this is felt to be the best plan.
D. The licensed private agency will need to submit a disruption summary to the child’s county for the child’s file with a copy to the Office of Adoptions within ten (10) working days. This will be needed to assist with future planning for the child.
E. Disruptions involving CPS issues will be addressed later under CPS reports prior to finalization.
A. The licensed private agency will be responsible for sending the request for release to the child’s county DFCS. The private agency will need to ensure that the child’s county has a medical which is current within one year and a Form 409 (Name of Child After Adoption). The child’s county will notify the licensed private agency when the family should contact their attorney. (Refer to Adoptions Policy Manual, Sections 107.19 and 107.20)
B. The family’s attorney should contact the child’s county to request the Affidavit of Release and Consent and legal documents. (Refer to Adoptions Policy Manual, Section 107.21)
C. The family’s attorney will need to inform the court at the time the petition for adoption is filed that this is a licensed private agency adoption and that the licensed private agency should be the one named to complete the court report. In cases where this does not take place and DFCS is requested to complete a report, the Special Assistant Attorney General should be requested to assist in having the licensed private agency named to complete the report if the family’s attorney cannot clear up this matter.
D. The licensed private agency will complete any requested court report for the finalization. A copy of shall be sent to the child’s county and the Office of Adoptions.
E. The licensed private agency will need to notify the child’s county DFCS of the finalization of the adoption so that the county record can be closed, stripped and submitted to the Office of Adoptions for sealing. The county DFCS should call and check on this if the time for finalization has passed with no notification.
F. If finalization of an adoption is delayed due to any type of concerns/problems, it would be in order to schedule a staffing of all involved to be certain all possible services are being made available and that all possible expertise is used to solve any problems preventing adjustment and finalization. State level consultation would be available in these situations.
9. Post Adoption Services
A. All families should be aware that, upon their request, the expertise of the state, county and licensed private agency is available to them through the lifetime of the adoption.
B. When a placement has involved both DFCS and a licensed private agency and there is a need for post adoption services, the two agencies need to collaborate to meet the needs of the family.
C. Funding may come from a variety of sources and services may include, but are not limited to crisis intervention team referrals, referrals to other community resources, case management and referral to MATCH, and placement services not to exceed a period of one year. (Refer to Section 108 for contractual services available through the Office of Adoptions.)
10. Adoption Assistance
A. Licensed private agencies need to be included in training about Adoption Assistance and to receive any new or changed information.
B. The initial application shall be completed by the child’s legal county. Caution must be taken to ensure the first check will arrive in a timely manner and that the parents understand the time frame. It is recommended that these documents for the child use the adoptive name. The family should be informed that if eligible for Medicaid, the child’s Medicaid card will remain in the child’s birth name until finalization.
C. At the child’s staffing a detailed plan for the Adoption Assistance must be developed, written down and shared with all involved. This includes the parents, the licensed private agency and the child’s legal county. The DFCS office where the adopting parents reside will be responsible for the Adoption Assistance case once the adoption is finalized. Care must be taken to prevent confusion to the adoptive parents.
D. Licensed private agencies will request Special Services Assistance from the county DFCS office identified at the staffing as responsible.
F. The licensed private agency will prepare documentation for the request for Special Services for the County DFCS if the request initiates with the licensed private agency.
11. CPS Reports After Finalization
A. Finalized adoption cases are treated by policy as a CPS case on a birth family.
B. DFCS staff in investigating a referral of CPS in an adoptive home involving an adopted child may need to have some knowledge of the child’s family history as the child will display pathology not of the adoptive family’s making. Staff may want to contact the private agency for assistance in fully understanding the situation if it is fairly recent or to contact the child’s legal county if different from the county doing the investigation. A release from the family will be needed and staff needs to realize that the sealed file is not available and thus they can only access what is recalled. This will only be of assistance in cases in the recent past.
C. Adoptive parents may need to be reminded that they can request the child’s non-identifying information from the sealed adoption record if the problems identified in the family seem to relate to the child’s history as a foster child.
D. Families experiencing problems of a CPS nature can be assisted through CPS Services as well as Post Adoption Services and Special Services Adoption Assistance. Older adopted children may need MATCH placements and/or residential placement at times. This can be arranged without dissolving the adoption.
E. The licensed private agency, with the family’s consent, should be contacted to see what that agency could do in regards to coordination of services or direct service provision to assist the family. This is especially important when the problems being experienced by the child/family are adoption related. Staff need to be aware that many adopted children will experience problems in adjustment as they move through the developmental stages.
A. The DFCS office of the county in which the family resides will be the primary agency responsible for serving the child and family in a dissolution. This agency should involve the licensed private agency and the child’s legal original county DFCS office for the purpose of obtaining information but the county of the family’s residence shall remain the county of legal responsibility. (Refer to Adoptions Policy Manual, Section 111.3)
B. An adoption should not voluntarily be dissolved unless the Department has plans to place the child for adoption again. Otherwise only custody should be involved and not a severing of parental rights.
C. When there is prior knowledge of an intended dissolution, DFCS and the licensed private agency need to communicate and work together with the family and child to determine a workable plan to protect the child and ease the transition.
D. When DFCS has been involved and finds it necessary to end an adoption in a resource developed with a licensed private agency, DFCS should inform the licensed private agency. The licensed private agency can offer support and be involved in assisting the family to the extent they wish. DFCS should obtain a release of information from the family to be able to fully share information with the licensed private agency.
13. Resolution Of Problems Between Agencies
A. Any time a problem or conflict arises between the child’s county agency and the private agency, the two shall try and work out their differences together.
B. It would be appropriate for either agency to ask for a staffing which would include Case Managers, Supervisors and Directors/Designees from both the county agency and private agency.
C. Issues to be discussed shall be documented in writing and shared with the other agency at the time the staffing is requested. (A copy shall be sent to the Policy and Contracts Manager in the Office of Adoptions.)
D. All participants must be aware of the issues to be discussed prior to the staffing.
E. A recorder shall be named at the beginning of the staffing and complete minutes shall be taken of the issues and discussion during the staffing. (A copy shall be sent to the Policy and Contracts Manager in the Office of Adoptions.)
F. If the issues cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of both agencies, an additional staffing may be requested by either agency which would include staff from the Office of Adoptions.