Caseworkers and Visits
A Guide to the Foster System: Caseworkers, Home Visits, and Parent Visits
There are a number of different caseworkers and agencies assigned to your foster family and your foster child, and keeping everyone straight can be confusing.
DCF Child Protective Investigator (CPI)
When a child is first removed from an unsafe situation, a DCF intake caseworker is responsible for finding an emergency placement for them. This can be another family member or a foster family.
The intake caseworker is responsible for the child’s case until the adjudicatory hearing when responsibility is transferred to the CBC.
Once responsibility transitions to the CBC, the DCF caseworker is no longer involved in the child’s care.
CBC Lead Agency
Once a child has been initially established in foster care, he or she is assigned to the CBC that oversees care in their region.
Florida has a privatized foster care system and DCF contracts with Embrace Families to run the foster care system in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.
Embrace Families partners with a whole range of organizations to provide many different parts of care. The following are the key contractors of Embrace Families:
Intake and Placement: Impower
Case Management: Camelot Community Care (Seminole and East Orange), Gulf Coast Jewish Services (Osceola), and One Hope United (West Orange).
Licensing of Foster Parents: Embrace Families
Emotional Support for Caregivers: Children’s Home Network, Commission 127, FACT, One More Child.
A full list of providers is available here.
Caregiver Information and Eligibility Coordinator/Caregiver Support Specialist
Every foster family is assigned a caregiver information and eligibility coordinator from Embrace Families whose responsibility is to ensure that the foster home continues to meet all DCF requirements and to provide necessary support and resources to the family. They will meet with the family annually in their home during their relicensing. They also process changes during the licensing year such as changes to capacity.
The caregiver support specialist is responsible for quarterly home inspections similar to the initial home inspection required for licensing. They will visit the home quarterly except when the home is due to relicensing. They are also responsible for communication about placements, placement stability and any other issues related to placement.
The caregiver information and eligibility coordinator and caregiver support specialist remain with the same foster family with any future child placements.
Depending on where your child lived prior to removal, they will be assigned a caseworker from one of the case management agencies. They are responsible for working with both the birth family and the child to work towards reunification. The case worker oversees the safety of the child in foster care with regular visits (monthly at your home), and provides resources to birth parents seeking reunification.
If reunification is not possible, the caseworker will work to find other permanent placement options for the child. The casewoker is specific to the child. If a new child is placed in a foster home, they will likely have a different caseworker. Caseworkers typically have 20 or so children for whom they are responsible.
Guardian ad Litem
Every child is assigned a guardian ad litem (child advocate) who provides legal representation for this child at all court hearings. In some counties they are requried to be lawyers and in others they are volunteers. The role of the child advocate is to look out for the best interests of the child and to provide the court with information to best serve and protect the child.
They will check in with the foster parent every few months and come to visit the child.
Embrace families contracts with emotional support providers to provide additional support to caregivers. Services can include support groups, meals, babysitting, etc.
This specialized group of providers are dedicated to addressing the unique concerns of caregivers, and to assist you in navigating the complex system of care. While emotional support services are completely voluntary, they are here to help when you need guidance from someone who has walked in your shoes. Foster parents who would like these services need to select from one of the four emotional support providers.
All foster homes are required to have a number of home visits on a regular basis.
Monthly home visits
Each foster child’s caseworker is required to check on them in their foster home approximately once per month. It is the caseworker’s job to ensure that the child is receiving the proper care. There are times where a caseworker may visit more frequently, such as before an upcoming court hearing, or when the child’s circumstances are changing.
Foster Parent Licensing Worker
Quarterly visits with a more extensive annual visit.
The foster parent licenting worker is responsible for ensuring that the foster parents are supported and that they are in compliance with the rules for licensed foster parents.
They will meet with the foster parent on a quarterly basis. The fourth visit, will be done by a different person who will perform a more extensive review of the foster home in order to complete the foster home’s relicense.
This is a new process for Embrace Families starting in 2021 and may be subject to change.
Guardian ad Litem
At initial placement
As needed prior to court dates
The guardian ad litem or an associate may visit the child after initial placement in order to better understand the overall picture regarding the child’s situation. While there is not a regular schedule of home visits, the child advocate may choose to visit from time to time to learn about a child’s status as their situation changes.
Whenever possible, birth parents should have regular contact with their children through scheduled visits.
How Does It Work?
As long as it is safe to do so, all children should have the chance to see their family regularly. Visitation is usually every week or two weeks after initial removal. If the parents participate and attend the visits, the frequency will likely stay the same. The court or caseworker may recommend more or less frequent visitation, based on the situation.
Visits are typically held at the foster agencie’s offices, though other arrangements can occasionally be made (park, restaurant, etc…). Your caseworker will explain how logistics should work out in your specific situation.
There is often a percieved adversarial relationship between the caregiver and the biological parents. As a caregiver, it is important to remember that you are a partner with the biological parent to help them succeed.
How Does It Work?
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When are visits not permited?
Visits are always permited unless explicitly prohibited by a judge. In some cases, the court determines that visits would not be in the best interest of the child, such as in cases of abuse or if the parent is incarcerated. However, if at all possible, all attempts are made to arrange for family visits.
How often are family visits?
The court often dictates how frequent family visits should take place. If not, your caseworker will let you know how often visits will be arranged. Timing can range from twice per week to once every two weeks or month. As birth parents move closer to reunification, the frequency of visits may increase.
What if the parents don't show up?
Unfortunately, there are some instances where the birth parents don’t show up to scheduled visits. Attempts are usually made to try to reschedule. This can be a frustrating part of the process for foster parents. Do your best to be flexible and understanding.
What should I bring?
It is often nice to bring pictures of your foster child or a letter for the birth parents with updates on their child’s progress and life events.
Do I need to attend/transport to visits?
The foster parent is not required to attend visits and will have to wait separate from the child during the visitation period. Transportation for the children can be arranged by your social worker. You are also free to transport the children if you are more comfortable doing that.
Learn More About Foster Care
The following guides can help get you up to speed on several important aspects of foster care in Orlando.