Waive Reasonable Efforts
In a CINA case, the goal always starts with reunification with the parent(s) from whom the child was removed. The Department of Human Services (“DHS”) is required to make “reasonable efforts” towards that reunification. Some of these “reasonable efforts” are much more directly linked to reunification than others, but all are designed to help the parents get to the point where the child can be safely returned home.
While DHS offers a fairly standard “menu” of services in most cases, it is up to parents to ask for anything beyond that (rather than wait for DHS to figure out what they need and offer). If they don’t ask for other services, then they cannot later complain of a lack of “reasonable efforts.”
However, there is a situation where DHS is not required to offer reasonable efforts, and that is when the case permanency plan has changed from reunification to termination. Because the goal is no longer reunification, the corresponding requirement for reasonable efforts are waived.
Occasionally, DHS will stop other services for a variety of reasons. For example, if a parent tests negative on three consecutive drug screens, DHS will typically suspend random drug testing (unless the parent displays behavioral issues that might indicate relapse/usage). We assume that at that point, the parent is successfully maintaining his or her sobriety, so there is no need to continue spending scarce resources on testing. Interestingly, this can also be true if the parent tests positive for three consecutive tests; the thinking here is that the parent is going to continue to test positive, so again, unless circumstances change (e.g., the parent engages in substance abuse treatment, etc.), there is no point in continuing to spend resources testing someone when the results are going to be the same. In this case, DHS is simply going to assume that they are continuing to use.
If parents are “MIA” then DHS cannot effectively offer services, because they don’t know where the parent is or how to reach them.
However, suspending services like random drug testing and because parents can’t be located is not the same as waiving all reasonable efforts. That typically happens only when the permanency goal has been changed to termination. We’re going to relieve DHS of services, because services are designed to reunify—and we’re no longer trying to do that.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.