When children, guardians, legal parents, non-relative extended family members, or foster parents issue complaints about the placement or removal of a child from a foster home, the State Department of Social Services has a procedure in place to review these grievances.
Similar to how state law requires Juvenile Courts to have court processes for the review of decisions regarding a child in foster care, the State Department of Social Services also has processes for the intra-agency review of child placement decisions. These processes are important to ensure the safety and well being of our children in foster care.
Right to 7-Days Written Notice of Intent to Move Foster Child
The agency must notify foster parents in writing at least seven days in advance of intent to remove the child and of the right to request a grievance review. The County may include a waiver of these notice requirements in the written placement agreement, but this waiver cannot exceed 6 months and is an exception used solely to meet unusual individual needs. California DSS Manual 31-440.1
The agency is not required to give notice if:
- The child is in immediate danger
- A signed waiver has been obtained from the foster parent
- A court has ordered the child’s removal
- Adverse licensing or certification actions have occurred which prohibit the foster parent from continuing to provide services
- Removal of a voluntarily placed child is made or requested by the child’s parent/guardian
- The child is moved from an emergency placement
IMPORTANT: If a foster child in your care has been removed by the county case worker without 7 days written notice (and none of the above exceptions to the notice requirements apply), please contact us immediately. You may have the right to a grievance review if your request is made in a timely manner.
How to Request an Intra-Agency Grievance Review Hearing
The department must have grievance procedures to review complaints from foster parents, legal parents, guardians and children concerning the placement or removal of a child from a foster home. All issues shall be resolved in the best interest of the child. California DSS Manual 31-020.1
Grievance review is not required when:
- Removal of a child is for any of the reasons listed in the section above, where the agency is not required to give notice of intent to remove the child (i.e. the child is in immediate danger, etc.)
- Removal of a child or modification of services results from an administrative review panel determination
- Removal of a child is for direct placement into an adoptive home
- The complaint regards only the validity of a law or statewide regulation
- The complaint regards an issue for which a fair hearing is available as specified in Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 10950, 10965.
The agency must explain the right to a review and provide a copy of the grievance procedure regulations to:
- The legal parent/guardian at the time of placement
- The foster parent at the time of licensing
- Any complainant at the time a complaint is filed.
Your request for a grievance review must:
- Be in the form of a written statement signed by the complainant (this can be a written letter sent by certified mail (or hand delivered) to the supervisor and director of the county department);
- Set forth the facts which the interested person believes provide a basis for reversal of the agency action of removal;
- Be sent or filed within ten (10) calendar days after becoming aware of the action under complaint. NOTE: In cases where the department must provide notice, the complainant must submit the review request to the agency at least two calendar days before the intended date of removal.
The agency must help the foster parent prepare the complaint, if assistance is requested or necessary. California DSS Manual 31-020.35
The review must be held within ten working days from the date the department receives the written complaint. California DSS Manual 31-020.4
All parties should receive notice of the date, time and place for the review not less than five calendar days prior to the hearing. California DSS Manual 31-020.41
*LOS ANGELES COUNTY* To file a grievance review hearing in Los Angeles County, please use DCFS Form 4161. Visit the LA County DCFS Policies on Grievance Review webpage for information, instructions, and required forms.
The Grievance Review Hearing
- Only someone not involved in the complaint, who is knowledgeable of the field and capable of objectively reviewing the complaint, may conduct a review.
- The review agent must try to conduct the hearing in a non-adversarial atmosphere. California DSS Manual 31-020.52
- The review agent must allow all parties and representatives to examine all documents and physical evidence introduced at the hearing. California DSS Manual 31-020.53
- Only the parties, their representatives, and witnesses while testifying, are authorized to be present during the review unless all parties and the review agent consent to the presence of other persons. California DSS Manual 31-020.54
- All witnesses must testify under oath or affirmation. California DSS Manual 31-020.55
- The review agent may continue the review for a period not to exceed ten calendar days if additional evidence or witnesses are necessary for determination of the issue. California DSS Manual 31-020.56
- The review agent must issue a written recommended decision, and the agency director must issue a final written decision, within five calendar days after review/completion. California DSS Manual 31-020.61
- The decision must be based upon the evidence presented at the hearing. California DSS Manual 31-020.62
- The director’s decision must contain a summary statement of the facts, the issues involved, findings and the basis for the decision. California DSS Manual 31-020.63
- A copy of the decision must be sent to each party, their representatives, and the State DSS. California DSS Manual 31-020.64.641 -.643
Child Stays in Home Unless in Imminent Danger
**Unless the child is in imminent danger, he/she SHALL remain with the foster parent(s), pending decision of the agency director, when removal is the basis for a complaint. California DSS Manual 31-020.7
All California State Department of Social Services regulations can be found at http://www.cdss.ca.gov/ord/PG309.htm
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