California is a State-supervised, county-administered child welfare system. The Ventura County Human Services Agency (HSA) is responsible for CPS in Ventura County. The mission of HSA is to provide "equal access to appropriate services, treatment, and support to improve the quality of life in Ventura County by achieving equitable outcomes and promoting self-sufficiency, family unity, and community empowerment." In Ventura County, CPS is administered by the Children and Family Services Department (CFS) of HSA, whose primary focus is on family preservation and child safety. Its mission is to "identify children at risk of abuse or neglect, intervene on their behalf and ensure that they have safe and permanent homes."
Exhibit 9.1, Services Continuum, graphically depicts the child protection decisionmaking process of CFS. As the flow chart illustrates, families came to the attention of CFS through Emergency Response (ER) referrals. This service was contracted out to a community-based organization called Interface Children, Family Services (Interface), which provides CPS hotline services, emergency response screening, and potential referrals to prevention services. Based on screening and risk assessment results by CFS social work staff, families are either referred to additional services that do not require court intervention or are scheduled for a court hearing. Juvenile court hearings are held in Superior Court to determine whether the child should remain with the parents under CFS supervision or be placed in foster care. The hearing may take place in Dependency Drug Court if it involves drug or alcohol exposed infants. Dependency Drug Court proceedings are held in the same courtroom and under the same judge as the other CFS dependency proceedings. Working with the same judge who is familiar with and has presided over both types of CFS proceedings is a benefit to the families. If it is decided to maintain the child with the family with agency support, a further determination is made as to whether family group decisionmaking should be considered. If the Dependency Drug Court agrees that an effort should be made to keep the child with the family, it assumes responsibility for ongoing jurisdiction and regular reviews. Whenever a child is involved with the system, concurrent planning occurs to prevent removal of the child from the family or reunify the family if the child was removed; and to arrange an alternative, permanent living situation for the child should the family be unable to provide care and assure the safety of the child.