The Child and Family Team (CFT) Meeting
After a child or youth enters foster care in California and is placed in out-of-home care, the county placing agency is required to assemble a Child and Family Team (CFT) and hold a Child and Family Team meeting within sixty days or prior to the dispositional hearing, whichever comes first. In ICWA cases, the timeline is shortened to thirty days.
The requirement to provide CFTs builds upon existing family-centered and team-based approaches to care. The use of a strengths-based, family-centered CFT process is key to engaging children, youth, nonminor dependents, and families in the development and implementation of their individual case or treatment plans or other related services designed to meet their needs. By sharing decision-making and working together, it is more likely that positive and lasting outcomes will be achieved. See All County Letter (ACL) No. 22-35 (issued May 6, 2022)
The Child and Family Team is to be comprised of the foster child or youth (or nonminor dependent) and key individuals in his/her life. The foster child/youth has a right to participate in his/her own case plan. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16501.1
The child or youth and his/her family may request specific persons to be included on the child and family team. The law requires that the following individuals be included on the Child and Family Team and be invited to the CFT meeting:
- The child or youth,
- The biological parents,
- The caregiver,
- The placing agency caseworker,
- Representative from the foster family agency,
- Mental health representatives and providers (required to be present at the meeting if placement into a short-term residential therapeutic program or FFA that provides treatment services has occurred or is being considered),
- Formal support persons (such as treatment and educational professionals),
- Extended family members,
- Informal support persons (i.e. friends, coaches, church representatives, tribe members),
- court-appointed special advocate (unless the youth objects),
- court-appointed educational rights holder if the CFT will develop and implement a placement preservation strategy or discuss a placement change
- The tribal representative (if applicable) must also be consulted about any decision to change a placement
The purpose of a CFT meeting is to assemble the people involved in the foster child’s life to determine how best to address the child’s needs and achieve positive outcomes of safety, permanency, and well-being. Gathering people who have unique information about the child and who the child is familiar with enables the county placing agency to identify supports and services needed to achieve permanency, enable a child to live in the least restrictive family setting, and promote normal childhood experiences. Welfare and Institutions Code sections 16501 and 16501.1(a)-(c)
After the initial CFT meeting, subsequent CFT meetings can be requested by the child, youth, family or another CFT member. CFT meetings may be offered to families as often as necessary to meet their needs. CFT meetings should, at minimum, be held every six months to inform the case plan throughout the duration of the case. Additionally, they are to be held:
- If possible, prior to the removal of a child in non-emergency situations
- During the formation of safety plans, crisis stabilization, placement changes, etc.
- During any case planning process, including the initial case plan and a revised case plan. An initial CFT must be held within the first 60 days after the child has been placed in out-of-home care and the agency must consider the recommendations of the CFT in developing the case plan. If there are inconsistencies between the CFT’s recommendations and the case plan, the agency must document why the case plan does not follow the CFT recommendations. Welfare and Institutions Code section 16501.1(a)(3).
- When there is a change in case status or the family requests assistance in resolving other case issues
The individuals on the CFT provide input into the development of a child and family plan that is strengths-based, needs-driven, and culturally relevant. The CFT recommendations must be considered in any placement decision made by the placing agency and the services to be provided in order to support the child or youth.
ALL COUNTY LETTER (ACL) No. 22-73 (issued August 25, 2022) provides guidelines for how CFT meetings are to be conducted, including notice procedures and court documentation. The county placing agency is required to provide notice of the CFT meeting to the child, youth, or, as applicable, nonminor dependent, their parent or guardian, the caregiver, and tribal representative and/or Indian Custodian (if there is one). The child welfare social worker is required to document the occurrence of CFT meetings within court reports and any inconsistencies between the case plan and CFT recommendations. Additionally, if a county has produced a CFT summary report or action plan, they may attach a copy of that report or plan (redacted for confidentiality).
Los Angeles County DCFS has published their policy on CFTs that provides helpful information and guidelines on the Child and Family Team and CFT meeting.
The California Department of Social Services has issued the following All County Letters on CFTs:
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