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Appendix A Community Caregiver Reference

Introduction

The purpose of this reference is to provide additional practice information on receiving a referral that a child may be in need of protection, determining the appropriate response, and conducting a child protection investigation related to a community caregiver. Community caregivers are defined as anyone providing care to a child in an out-of-home setting. For the purposes of these standards, there are two categories of community caregivers:

Community caregiver investigations are complex and require a purposeful, collaborative, and child-centered approach. Community caregivers are subject to a high degree of responsibility given their role as substitute caregivers. These roles may sometimes expose them to heightened stressors and increased vulnerability to allegations of child maltreatment. Regardless, all children have a right to be protected from maltreatment, and CASs have a responsibility to conduct thorough and objective child protection investigations into alleged concerns of child maltreatment when it is determined that an investigation is the appropriate response to a referral.

This reference highlights the key differences in standards 1-5 in relation to community caregivers (both family-based and institutional). It also includes additional practice notes which further explain the activities and concepts that are required in standards 1-5 related to community caregivers. It is intended to serve as a reference for workers when conducting these specialized types of investigations, and may also be helpful for supervisors in supporting child protection workers to carry out these specialized investigations. This reference is not meant to be used as a standalone document but is meant as a supplement to what is already contained in the Standards. Note that there are no requirements contained in this reference that are not already contained in standards 1-5.

Of additional note, there are thicker borders around certain information in this reference. This is so these sections are easy for child welfare professionals to locate. The content in these sections relates to the factors which are to be considered when conducting assessments of safety and risk in institutional settings.

Standard #1: Intake: Receiving a Referral and Determining the Appropriate Response

How are the community caregiver requirements unique for this standard?

Key Differences

Additional information is to be collected from the referral source in the case of referrals about community caregivers including:

For community caregiver institutional investigations, the response time options are within 12 hours (if there is an imminent threat to the safety of a child or when physical evidence is at risk of being lost due to a delay) or within 48 hours (if no imminent safety threats to the child) from the receipt of the referral. This differs from the 7 day response time option that is available for family based investigations.

Additional Practice Notes
Gathering Additional Sources of Relevant Information

For referrals received about community caregivers, information is also gathered from the following sources:

Furthermore, the worker also collects any other information available from other staff at the agency/setting who have knowledge of the community caregiver.

Opening a Case

When opening a case regarding a community caregiver:

Notification to the Ministry – Alleged, Witnessed or Suspected Abuse of Children

Depending on the nature of the allegation, there may be additional requirements for the CAS to report serious occurrences such as allegations of child protection concerns against licensed community caregivers to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) (see References (MCYS/MCSS, 2013)). It is important for CAS workers who screen referrals to be aware of these requirements.

Determining the Appropriate Response to a Referral about a Community Caregiver

In the same way that a CAS assesses a referral that is not about a community caregiver, an analysis of the Eligibility Spectrum rating, along with all other available information is undertaken to assist in determining the appropriate response to a referral about a community caregiver.

Where Investigations may not be Required

It is important that CASs are able distinguish between referrals about licensed residential settings that raise child protection concerns (which may warrant a child protection investigation), and those which may relate to quality of care or potential licensing concerns in licensed residential settings (which may require some other type of follow up). Some examples of the latter type of referral are as follows:

Workers who screen referrals should be familiar with CFSA and Ministry licensing requirements. If these concerns come to the attention of the CAS it is important to share this information with the relevant CAS department/staff or outside placement resource (OPR) with the responsibility for overseeing the residence in a timely manner. The purposes of sharing this information are to assist in facilitating:

In addition, if there is another complaints mechanism available to address the complaint, the CAS should provide information to the referent about it (e.g. complaints about rights of children in care under s. 109 of the CFSA).

Referrals about Foster Parents

The most up-to-date practice recommendations of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) indicate that referrals/allegations about foster homes require very careful evaluation. Foster families experience similar stressors to those experienced by other families in their communities. In addition, certain circumstances related to providing foster care may raise the risk of maltreatment (e.g. stressors associated with caring for children who may have complex needs). Lastly, other circumstances can increase the risk that a report will be filed when no maltreatment has actually occurred. These may include situations in which:

In situations in which a child or other referral source may have made an erroneous report in the past, a thorough and cautious screening of subsequent reports is critical. The Child Welfare League of America states that it is preferable to err on the side of caution and conduct a protection investigation than to screen out a report that may be legitimate (CWLA, 2003).

Providing Supports to the Child Victim’s Family

When the appropriate response to a referral about a community caregiver is a child protection investigation, and the child victim’s family requires supports, the CAS may provide the family with a “community link” or open a case for “other child welfare service” (e.g. under Section 6 of the Eligibility Spectrum).

Standard #2: Planning and Conducting a Child Protection Investigation

How are the community caregiver requirements unique for this standard?
Key Differences

The investigative steps for an institutional investigation differ from those of a family-based investigation:

Required Steps in an Institutional Investigation

  1. interviews with the alleged victim(s), staff witnesses (current and former), child witnesses, facility administrator, supervisor of the alleged perpetrator and the alleged perpetrator; and
  2. examination of the physical layout of the setting.

Optional Steps in an Institutional Investigation

  1. examination of facility files and logs such as:
    • daily logs on the activities of children;
    • a log on medications administered;
    • a record of restraints and serious occurrences; and
    • an individual file on each child.
  2. examination of information about the alleged victim(s), which may include the following:
    • characteristics of the victim(s) including their primary language and problems which might affect their ability to be interviewed (e.g. deafness, speech difficulties);
    • length of stay in setting;
    • prior allegations of abuse in any setting;
    • prior allegations of abuse related to the current incident, perpetrator or setting;
    • prior abuse or exposure to abuse in another setting;
    • child’s relationship to and feelings for the alleged perpetrator; and
    • any other information relevant to the investigation.
  3. examination of facility policy and procedures, staffing level and shift patterns, staff training and qualifications, daily routine, programming
  4. examination of records to determine if there have been allegations of abuse in the past connected with the setting

Community caregiver investigations are to be conducted by child protection workers who have specialized knowledge and skills related to these investigations.

Additional Practice Notes

When conducting these specialized types of community caregiver investigations it is important that roles and responsibilities of all agencies involved are clear, and that appropriate information sharing takes place between relevant parties.

Responsibilities of the Investigating CAS

When it is determined that an investigation is the appropriate response to a referral, the CAS has the responsibility for conducting a thorough, objective and child-centered child protection investigation into the alleged concerns of child maltreatment.

Choosing the Investigative Approach

As part of the investigation plan, the same criteria and considerations are applied when the CAS chooses either the “traditional” or the “customized” investigative response for family-based community caregiver investigations.

Community caregiver investigations in institutional settings should utilize the more structured “traditional” approach, either with the police if a criminal offence has been alleged against a child in accordance with local CAS/police protocols, or without the police.

Notification to the Child’s Parent/Primary Caregiver

The CAS contacts the parent/primary caregiver prior to interviews with the child when:

The child’s parent/caregiver is notified of the investigation by a worker who has an ongoing relationship with him/her. Workers will:

The investigating CAS informs all agencies which have children placed in a residential setting that an investigation with respect to the setting is underway.

Responsibilities of Agencies with Care and Custody of the Child(ren) (Parent Agencies)

As part of the investigative process, all parent agencies may be asked by the investigating CAS for information concerning their children. It is important that support and treatment for children be continued by parent agencies during the investigative process. If it is determined that the only way to ensure the child’s safety during an investigation is to move the children from the setting, the parent agencies will plan for replacement of their own children, unless emergency placement is required, in which case the investigating CAS may have to make temporary alternate arrangements.

Responsibilities of the Administrator of the Setting

If there is no indication that the administrator of the setting (owner, operator, director) is implicated in the alleged child protection concerns, their responsibilities include:

Standard #3: Conducting a Safety Assessment and Developing a Safety Plan

How are the community caregiver requirements unique for this standard?
Key Differences

For institutional investigations, a safety assessment tool is not available for assessments of safety threats. Despite this, every institutional investigation requires an assessment of immediate safety threats; however different factors are considered and the outcome is to be recorded as a narrative in the case record.

Additional Practice Notes
Application of the Safety Assessment

In community caregiver investigations (family-based and institutional), a safety assessment is not completed with the child victim’s own parent/caregiver unless there are protection concerns related to the family. The clinical tools that comprise the Ontario Child Protection Decision-Making Model have been designed to guide decisions related to child maltreatment which has occurred within a family context and are not appropriate for use in institutional settings.

Institutional Investigations – Safety Assessment Factors

Issues to consider in determining if there is an imminent threat to safety in an institutional setting include:

Institutional Investigations – Safety Planning

The administrator of the setting should participate in the development of the safety plan (where one is required). The safety plan may include:

If the safety threats outweigh the positive strengths of the child’s relationship with the setting or the ability of any safety plan to mitigate them, the safety plan could include moving the child from the setting.

Standard #4: Conducting a Risk Assessment

How are the community caregiver requirements unique for this standard?
Key Differences

A specific risk assessment tool is not currently available for assessing risk of future maltreatment in an institutional setting. Despite this, every institutional investigation requires the assessment of longer-term risk of harm; however different factors are considered and the outcome is recorded as a narrative in the case record.

The results of the risk assessment are also shared with the community caregiver/ institution (where applicable).

Additional Practice Notes
Application of the Risk Assessment

In community caregiver investigations (family-based and institutional), a risk assessment is not completed with the child victim’s own parent/caregiver unless there are protection concerns related to the family. The clinical tools that comprise the Ontario Child Protection Decision-Making Model have been designed to guide decisions related to child maltreatment which has occurred within a family context and are not appropriate for use in institutional settings.

Institutional Investigations – Risk Assessment Factors

Factors to consider in assessing the risk of future harm in institutional settings include:

Child Vulnerability Factors:

A child may be considered highly vulnerable when he/she:

Alleged Perpetrator Related Factors:

Setting Related Factors:

Sharing the Results of the Institutional Risk Assessment

It is important that any risk factors which may affect the future maltreatment of children in the setting be communicated to the administrator of the institutional setting and the person alleged to have caused the child protection concerns. The results of the CAS’s risk assessment are shared in a manner appropriate to the situation. This information sharing could take place in a case conference with the relevant parties. Local protocols and procedures between CASs and institutional settings may assist in clarifying these processes further.

Standard #5: Concluding a Child Protection Investigation

How are the community caregiver requirements unique for this standard?
Key Differences

Criteria for Concluding an Investigation

The criteria for concluding an institutional investigation differ from family-based investigations. An institutional child protection investigation is concluded when sufficient information is gathered to determine whether:

Key Decisions

For institutional investigations, the verification of the alleged protection concerns and the investigation disposition decisions are both made; however a determination about whether a child is in need of protection does not need to be made.

Notification of Outcome of Investigation

In addition to notifying the child alleged to be in need of protection, the caregiver(s) of the child, the child’s worker, and the person alleged to have caused the child protection concerns of the outcome of the investigation, an administrator of the institutional setting, and the worker responsible for oversight of the community caregiver are also notified in the case of all community caregiver investigations (family-based and institutional).

Documentation

The documentation requirements at the conclusion of institutional investigations differ slightly from those of family-based investigations. In addition to the documentation completed during the course of an investigation that is included in standards 1-4, the following documentation is to be contained in the case record at the completion of an institutional investigation:

Additional Practice Notes
Making a Verification Decision – Investigations Involving the Use of Physical Restraints

When the focus of a child protection investigation is the use of a physical restraint, the following questions are considered in making the verification decision:

Supports to Children and Families

At the conclusion of an investigation, it is suggested that the worker consider whether the child and/or family would benefit from community services or resources to assist in dealing with the impact of any maltreatment of the child by a community caregiver.

Notification of the Outcome of Community Caregiver Investigations

Institutional Settings

Notification to the person alleged to have caused the need for protection and the administrator of the setting is provided in writing and contains non-identifying information including:

It may also be beneficial for the CAS to have discussions with the administrator of the setting and/or the person alleged to have caused the need for protection to provide any further information on the outcome of the investigation that may be relevant (e.g. to promote further understanding the outcome, or to preventing the likelihood of future harm).

Family-based Settings

Notification to a foster home, kinship service/care home or a customary care home is provided within the context of a face-to-face meeting which minimally includes the investigating worker and the worker responsible for overseeing the home. The outcome of the investigation, including the outcome of the risk assessment, is shared at this time.

Written notification is also provided to the family and the worker/agency responsible for overseeing the home and contains: