STATE OF WISCONSIN
Department of Health and Family Services
Division of Children and Family Services
DCFS Memo Series 2000-15 ACTION

November 3, 2000

Re:   ADOPTION AND SAFE FAMILIES
        ACT:  COUNTY AGENCY STATUS
        REPORTS

To: Area Administrators/Assistant Area Administrators
Bureau Directors
County Departments of Community Programs Directors
County Departments of Developmental Disabilities
     Services Directors
County Departments of Human Services Directors
County Departments of Social Services Directors
Licensing Chiefs/Section Chiefs
Tribal Chairpersons/Human Services Facilitators
From: Susan N. Dreyfus
Administrator

DOCUMENT SUMMARY

 This memo provides information regarding three reports that will be provided to county agencies to support compliance with the Adoption and Safe Families Act TPR requirements. Affected agencies are required to respond to one quarterly report indicating the status of identified child cases. Instructions for submitting status information is provided. 

Background

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 established requirements for states to pursue the termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption of children who have been in out-of-home care for
15 out of the last 22 months. While the ASFA requirement does not mandate that TPR be pursued for all children meeting the 15 of 22 month criteria, it does require that TPR be seriously considered and child welfare agencies have sound reasons for not pursuing TPR. If TPR is required, the TPR request should be filed by the end of the 15th month.

The ASFA legislation provides three basic exceptions to the TPR requirement. First, at the option of the agency, a relative is caring for the child. Second, the agency has documented in the case plan a compelling reason that a TPR is not in the best interests of the child. The compelling reason must be individualized to the circumstances of the particular child and based on the evaluation of progress toward the outcomes established within the case plan. While agencies have flexibility in determining what is in the best interest of the child, agencies cannot develop broad exception categories to exclude groups of children from the TPR requirement nor can agencies use simple checklists to document the compelling reason. Third, consistent with the timeframes presented in the case plan, the services deemed necessary to return the child to his or her family have not been provided.

If there is a compelling reason not to pursue TPR or additional time is needed to provide reunification services, the documentation of the exception to the ASFA TPR requirement must be in the case file. Once an exception is made, there is no defined point at which TPR must be considered again, although if children go in and out of care they could reach the 15 of 22 month point on multiple occasions since the cumulative months in care must be used. The TPR decision or exception must be made each time a child reaches the 15 of 22 month point.

ASFA Reports

To assist counties in keeping track of what children have reached or will be reaching the 15 of 22 month point for the ASFA TPR requirement, DCFS has developed several reports using information in the Human Services Reporting System (HSRS). The reports provide an individual listing of cases by county and by worker ID number. These reports will be distributed to counties with the following action necessary:

Phase-in Group Report – The ASFA legislation provides that for children who were in care for 15 of 22 months in November 1997 when ASFA was adopted, the TPR decision or exception must be completed by July 1, 2000. States were expected to complete one third of these cases by July 1, 1999, another third by January 1, 2000 and the final third by July 1, 2000. For the state as a whole, approximately 5,000 cases met the 15 of 22 month requirement in November 1997. As of July 2000, approximately 2,500 cases remain open and these cases are to have a TPR petition pending or documentation of the exception reason in their case files. The Phase-In Report will be provided to counties on a one-time basis in November 2000. Cases that remain open will be identified in subsequent Quarterly Reports (see below).

The Phase-in Report is provided to assist counties in identifying and prioritizing workflow only and requires no response to Area Administration or the DCFS.

Quarterly Report – This report shows all cases currently open that have reached the 15 of 22 month point as of the date the report is generated. This report will be generated quarterly. The first Quarterly Report will be provided to counties in November 2000 with data through August 2000. Subsequent Quarterly Reports will be issued every three months beginning January 2001.

While this report is intended to support local planning and monitoring efforts, counties are required to respond to the first Quarterly Report. Counties will be responsible for documenting the status of each case in the designated column of the report. Status responses must indicate which of the following actions, based on an analysis and documentation of the child’s unique case situation and circumstances, have been taken to ensure compliance with ASFA decision-making and documentation:

  1. TPR Petition has been requested and documentation of the request is in the case file;

  2. TPR Petition has been filed and documentation of the petition is in the case file, or;

  3. The child meets one of the following exception criteria and this determination is documented in the child’s case file:
  1. Child is placed with a relative who does or will provide permanency;

  2. Child’s permanency plan indicates that termination of parental rights is not in the best interests of the child, or;

  3. Services necessary to reunify the child with his or her family have not been provided by the agency.
  1. No action to date has been taken to ensure compliance with ASFA requirements.

Responses can be made on the first Quarterly Report and are due to the Area Administrator by December 31, 2000. If exception 3b applies, the response should include the reason(s) why TPR is not in the best interests of the child. The Area Administrator will determine the need for continued response by a county to subsequent Quarterly Reports.

Monthly Report – This report shows all current cases that have been in care for 12 of the last 19 months and thus are likely to reach the 15 of 22 month point. This report will be provided to counties to assist them in making the TPR or exception decisions in a timely manner. The first Monthly Report will be provided in mid-November 2000 and by the middle of every month, thereafter.

The Monthly Report is provided to assist counties in managing and monitoring workflow only and requires no response to Area Administration or the DCFS.

Additional Information

If, as a result of comparing information contained in any of the above reports, county agencies identify inaccurate data and/or omissions in the HSRS information, the agency should enter corrected or missing information into HSRS when possible.

County agencies may also wish to designate a staff person within the agency to receive the above reports. The name, address and phone number of any designated staff should be provided to the Area Administrator. In the absence of a designee, reports will be issued to the county human service or social director.

Examples of the reports and a key presenting the corresponding Human Services Reporting System (HSRS) codes are attached to this memo.

REGIONAL OFFICE CONTACT: Area Administrators
CENTRAL OFFICE CONTACT: Michelle Rawlings
Office of Policy, Evaluation
    and Planning
1 West Wilson Street
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
(608) 264-9846
rawlimm@dhfs.state.wi.us

Attachment: 

DSL 271 Form - HSRS Codes  (pdf 11 kb)  


The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.