FAMILY AND CHILDREN SERVICES
Family and Children Services are the responsibility of the DHS Division of Family and Children Services. At the local level, the Board of the County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) makes recommendations to DHS regarding county policy and appointment of the County Director.
DFCS has two major areas of responsibility. One area is employability and related assistance programs, which includes the following:
- Food stamps: Provides food vouchers for impoverished individuals.
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF): Provides up to 48 months of cash assistance to families with dependent children, minimal resources (e.g., less than $1,000 for a mother and two children), and incomes not exceeding approximately 45 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Work activities and a Personal Responsibility and Work Plan are required.
- Medicaid: Eligibility varies with programs but generally only covers pregnant women, elderly and disabled adults, and children.
- Other: Includes general assistance, transportation vouchers, energy assistance, and childcare.
The second area of DFCS responsibility is Social Services, which includes activities to protect family members from abuse and neglect and to keep families together and children in safe and caring environments.
Because these goals are sometimes contradictory, services are usually divided into protective services (child and adult protective services) and services such as adoption, homemaking, respite, and foster care that promote family functioning. The Department can request the Juvenile Court to award it the temporary custody of a child who is in danger of abuse or neglect and in more extreme cases, can ask that the Court terminate parental rights.
Because of the complex nature of abuse and foster care cases, the State has required that counties:
1. Establish in writing a child abuse protocol, an inter-agency agreement for clarifying the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement, DFCS, school officials, hospitals, district attorneys, boards of health, and mental health centers in the investigation and processing of child abuse cases;
2. Provide for a review of the current status and plans for permanent care of children placed in foster homes.’° Many juvenile court judges have appointed a foster care review board of citizen volunteers in order to meet the placement review requirement; and,
3. Establish a Child Fatality Review Committee (as a subcommittee of the child abuse protocol committee) to oversee the local child fatality review process and report to the Child Fatality Review Panel on the incidence of child deaths, with recommendations for prevention.