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What is a DHR Safety Plan?

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You are at work when you receive a call from your wife telling you that your teenage son is being rude and disrespectful. Wanting to help her, you leave work to go home to defuse the situation. When you arrive, your son is in the front yard playing football with his friends. You say “hey” to everyone and then tell her son to come with you. As the two of you walk away, you put your arm around your son’s shoulders as you talk to him about being respectful to his mom. All is well until you receive another call from your wife the next day telling you that DHR is at the front door asking for you.

Sadly, this type of situation occurs often. When DHR receives a report of Child Abuse/Negligent (or CA/N), regardless of its validity, they have a duty to investigate.

The Department of Human Resources (DHR) is responsible for protecting the welfare and safety of children in Alabama. When there is an allegation that a child’s safety or health is at risk (often referred to as CA/N or Child Abuse or Neglect), DHR will take steps to investigate the allegation. If DHR suspects the child is unsafe -that the child is vulnerable to present or impending danger threats and parents/caregivers are unable or unwilling to provide protection- they will often encourage the parent(s) to enter into a Safety Plan.

Safety plans are developed by DHR in an attempt to control and monitor safety threats against a child. The Alabama Administrative Code states:

Safety plans are developed to protect children from safety threats when the parents’/primary caregivers’ protective capacities are insufficient. Safety plans are based on identifiable safety threats and coupled with diminished parental/primary caregiver protective capacities which place the child at present or impending danger. Safety plans shall use the least restrictive alternative for protecting the child, and any out of home placements shall be in the least restrictive, most family like setting that can offer safety and meet the children’s individualized needs. When developing an “in-home” or “out-of-home (non-foster care)” safety plan, the person responsible for protecting the children can be either a professional or nonprofessional (e.g., family member, relative neighbor), and must be cleared through the Central Registry when evaluating protective capacities.

Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-34-.06.

There are three types of safety plans, and these are based on the child’s living arrangements.

(1) In-home Safety Plan

In an In-home Safety Plan, the child remains in their own home while DHR provides services to control safety threats inside the home.

(2) Out-of-home Safety Plan (Non-foster Care)

In an Out-of-home Safety Plan (Non-Foster Care), the child lives temporarily with someone else outside of their home while their parent undergoes services to remove the perceived threat. In this Safety Plan, a child is typically placed with another family member or family friend that is agreed on between the parent and DHR. By Code, the maximum timeframe that an Out-of-Home Non-Foster Care Safety Plan can be in place without court involvement is ninety (90) days.

(3) Out-of-home Safety Plan (Foster Care)

In this type of Safety Plan, the child is placed in a licensed/approved foster home to provide protection to the child. In such situation, the parent typically does not have any input on who, or where, the foster care is. Out-of-home Safety Plan (Foster Care) intervention is utilized when the child is at imminent risk of serious harm, the parent is unable or unwilling to provide protection, and it isn’t possible to protect the child through a less intrusive means.

Regardless of the type of Safety Plan, it is supposed to be an agreement between all the parties. Unfortunately, it does not always seem that way to a parent. Often, parents feel like their child will be removed by DHR if they do not consent to a Safety Plan, and thus, they “agree” to a Safety Plan because they believe they do not have any other choice. It’s important to understand that a Safety Plan is completely voluntary; a parent does not have to agree to enter into a Safety Plan. Moreover, a parent can terminate a Safety Plan at any time even if they initially enter into it. With that said, refusing, or terminating, a Safety Plan can have consequences, so it is extremely important to seek the advice of an attorney before taking any action.

You have rights as a parent, and it’s vital that you understand your rights! Jim Golden Law can work with you and defend you against any unlawful actions that can potentially threaten the custody of your children. In any case, Jim Golden Law advocates relentlessly for parents who deal with DHR. Give us a call at 866-950-6652 for an initial strategy session.


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