Meaningful Contacts with Families


Initial Face to Face contacts occur when a CPS professional, often referred to as a caseworker, has their first in-person contact with the allege child victim and/or parent(s) or caregiver(s) on primary, secondary, and non-caregiver cases. This is the CPS professional’s first opportunity to have a meaningful interaction with the family. While making a high quality safety decision is the focal point of the professional’s role at the initial contact, professionals can still utilize the information and resources throughout this tool kit to make contacts with children and parents more meaningful.  

A minimum of monthly face-to-face contacts must occur with children and parents who are involved with CPS in-home cases, CPS out-of-home care cases, and Child Welfare out-of-home care cases. These required contacts typically occur within the ongoing phase of our CPS system. CPS professionals have the opportunity to be planful and intentional about making contacts with children and parents meaningful.

What is a Quality Contact?

Quality contacts are “purposeful interactions between caseworkers and children, youth, parents.” These interactions are often referred to as “home visits” or “face-to-face contacts.”

A CPS professional’s visits with children and families is the foundation of the work we do. In the most recent Children and Family Services Review (CFSR), it was identified as an area that needed improvement.  As a result, DCF and Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System (WCWPDS) partnered to implement several PDSA collaborative sessions for agencies to come to the table and implement their own change project intended to improve the quality of their face-to-face contacts with children and families. Non face-to-face contacts with families can still be intentional and purposeful; however, the resources contained within this toolkit focus on face-to-face contacts.

Quality Contacts Project Reports

Available Online Training

Meaningful Casework Through Quality Caseworker Contacts - This webinar for direct practice child welfare professionals provides strategies to bring intentionality to their daily contacts with children and families to improve child safety, permanence, and well-being. The estimated time to complete this webinar training is about 50 minutes.

Supervisory Support of Quality Caseworker Contacts - This webinar for supervisors is intended to be taken after supervisors complete the “Meaningful Casework Through Quality Caseworker Contacts” training. The objective of this webinar is to coach supervisors in supporting their staff’s professional development and success in implementing quality contacts with children and their parents. The estimated time to complete this training is about 30 minutes.

Tools and Resources

In 2020 and 2021, agencies created and implemented their own tools that they were able to customize to best fit their agency’s needs. Some of the tools created were case note templates, visit preparation checklists, follow-up checklists and many more. These tools are available for you to use, copy, and customize to best meet your agency’s needs.  

Visit Check List and To-Do List - Adams County


The Adams County Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Team implemented a prep checklist to better prepare for home visits and used the tool when meeting with families. Also, a to-do list with carbon paper was used in meetings to document actions the family and/or CPS professional agreed to take, and copies were left with both the family and CPS professional to improve accountability. Finally, the team implemented a new process they termed “Enhanced Assistance Tasks" (EATs). 

The tool

Adams Visit Checklist and To-Do List


As a result of the project, the team noted that the checklist led to better documentation of what was discussed in the visit. The prep sheet and to-do list also assisted in reminding workers to address safety concerns, family goals and tasks necessary to comply with expectations. While more time is spent prepping for the visits and more time is spent meeting with families, the team is saving time in the long run through covering all topics and not needing to schedule additional meetings or follow up with additional phone calls.

Face-to-Face Case Notes Template - La Crosse County


La Crosse County created a structured case note template to be used for all face-to-face interactions with case participants. The county’s goal in using the structured case note was to encourage concise and focused case notes, as well as to allow for easy tracking of action steps. 


Face to Face Case Note Template


CPS professionals found that this structure helped focus their case notes on relevant details from visits and cut out some of the ‘noise’ that occurs in a typical visit. They also felt this was faster as they were able to begin their case notes in that structure during meetings and then more easily translate those into their fully formed case notes once they adjusted to the structure. Lastly, CPS professionals also had an easier time remembering what all parties had agreed to accomplish by the next meeting and following up on those.

Case Management Log - Trempealeau County


Trempealeau County created a simple template to document what had or had not been done in the case, such as the dates of contact, drug tests, and other important events that occurred each month. The template created is essentially a log that condenses all case management contacts, drug testing, etc., into one user-friendly spreadsheet that can easily be referenced when needed. The log was based off information needed in court to give updates to the judge. Likewise, it is also helpful in case transition meetings to inform the new CPS professional of the work that has been completed in the case.

The tool

Case Management Log

Client Contact Summary Sheet

CPS Professional and Family Support Contact Checklists - Washington County


Washington County created two case note templates to streamline their case notes documentation, ensure all important documentation was being collected, and remove unnecessary details cluttering the note. One tool was for CPS professionals and the other was for family support assistants.


CPS Professional Contact Checklist

Family Support Assistants Contact Checklist


Washington County participants found that there was an initial investment of time in learning this process. However, throughout the case the participants found it saved time and made it easier to find and track information – specifically court documents and Permanency Plans. It was also easier to follow up with subsequent visits. Family support assistants reported that the notes assisted them with easily identifying the quality of a visit, and for better ease of seeing change cycles for meetings with social workers. Team members also preferred structured notes over the narrative style in most situations. Finally, workers also found that the template took less time than they initially thought it would.

Action Planning Tools - Waukesha County


Waukesha County created an action planning tool  and implemented during contacts with families– including family team meetings, home visits, and agency staffings. The tool reflected the needs, goals, action steps and timelines for team members. A few different versions of the form were created to utilize in different settings.


Action Planning Tool -1

Action Planning Tool -2

Action Planning Tool -3


As a result of the project, team members felt more comfortable and confident in the roles and steps towards meeting case goals and achieving safety, permanency and well-being. Social workers increased rapport and understanding of the family’s needs and families felt they were heard to a greater extent. Workers appreciate that they know if the families follow up on expectations set in meetings and families appreciate having a better understanding of the steps they need to follow. Everyone feels meetings are more organized and they have a better understanding of where the case is in the process. The Action Planning Tool has helped increase transparency with families, improved accountability with all case participants and provided a clear path towards permanency.

Visitation Preparation/Summary and Flyer - Wood County


Wood County created and implemented a structured case note. In Spring 2021, the PDSA Collaborative team asked the entire Wood County Ongoing Unit, including those outside of the original PDSA team, to implement the new structure, termed the Visitation Preparation and Summary Sheet.


Wood County Visitation Preparation and Summary Sheet

Wood County Unit Meeting Flyer


First, CPS professionals noted time efficiency and savings. They found they saved approximately 5-10 minutes per case note through using the Visitation Preparation and Summary Sheet. Additionally, they were able to be more focused at visits which in turn made the time in homes more efficient.

CPS professionals also noted an improvement in overall effectiveness and thoroughness of notes resulting in better response, decision making and understanding of the case when needed to be accessed by another worker. The content of these notes was also more helpful to new CPS professionals accessing the case during a Termination of Parental Rights, as more complete information was captured and organized within the case note.

Finally, there was also the downstream effect of improved team morale, great teamwork, and creative brainstorming. New CPS professionals were trained on this process and found it helpful as they had been unsure with what they needed to cover at each meeting.