Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System: Wraparound Service Program in Santa Clara County, California . 1.3 Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children's Services


Santa Clara County has adopted the state's continuum of care model and offers emergency response, family maintenance, family reunification, and permanent placement services. Child abuse and neglect reports are initially screened and referred to emergency response. Workers in the emergency response unit are to investigate all referred cases within 3 to 10 days and within 3 hours if the case is critical. A majority of referred families never officially enter the system, and many others receive voluntary services from Family Maintenance. (2)

Most children who are taken into custody enter the system through the county children's shelter. The early intervention unit at the shelter contacts the family and makes an assessment of whether the child can go immediately to the parents' or a relative's home. Children who are not released to a parent or other relative are referred for intake. Dependent intake makes a decision within 48 hours as to whether the child should return home. In about half of the cases, the decision is to return the child to the family. A dependency petition is filed for children who remain in the shelter beyond 48 hours. Many of these children are soon returned home with informal supervision or other voluntary services. Voluntary Family Maintenance workers usually visit these children and families in their homes once a month and refer parents to parenting classes.

Reunification workers are assigned to children who are placed in foster care. They are mandated to visit the child and family once a month and refer parents to services such as drug testing and treatment, counseling, and parenting classes. In addition, case aides may visit the parents' home every 2 weeks and provide a minimal level of service such as transportation. Typically, concurrent planning is used from the beginning of reunification cases. For every case, two plans are developed -- reunification and an alternative permanency plan. Adoption workers may be assigned to these cases if there is no other placement alternative, such as guardianship with a relative.