Child Welfare Policy Manual

April 16, 2014

1.2B.3  AFCARS, Data Elements and Definitions, Foster Care Specific Elements, Episode and removal circumstances

1. Question: Following a trial home visit which extends beyond six months and where the child is considered "discharged," what happens if the child returns to a group home? Is this a new placement, a new episode, or an entirely new removal?

Answer: The return to a group home or any other substitute care setting will represent a removal and the removal is the start of a new episode.

2. Question: If a child is removed from a home in which a sibling was alleged to have been abused, but the child being removed from the home was not abused, should physical abuse (alleged/reported) be marked as a condition associated with the child's removal?

Answer: A record should only indicate conditions associated with the removal of the child who is the subject of the record. In the context of AFCARS, and using the above example of alleged abuse of the child's sibling, if physical abuse is alleged/reported for the child who is the subject of the record then that condition is considered to be associated with the decision to remove that child from home and Element #26 should be coded as 1 (yes). If physical abuse has not been alleged/reported for the child who is the subject of the record, physical abuse does NOT apply and element #26 should be answered as 0 (does not apply). (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element numbers 26 - 40.)

3. Question: What if the only reason for a child's removal from home is mental abuse? How do you code this for AFCARS?

Answer: You should mark "Neglect (Alleged/Reported)" (Foster Care, element number #28) with a "1". (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Numbers 26 - 40.)

4. Question: Please clarify the meaning of the terms removal, placement, episode, and discharge.

Answer: A Removal is either the physical act of a child being taken from his or her normal place of residence, by court order or a voluntary placement agreement and placed in a substitute care setting, or the removal of custody from the parent or relative guardian pursuant to a court order or voluntary placement agreement which permits the child to remain in a substitute care setting.

Placement occurs after removal and is the physical setting in which a child finds himself or herself, that is, the resultant foster care setting. A new Placement setting results when the foster care setting changes, for example, when a child moves from one foster family home to another or to a group home or institution.

An Episode is a removal with one or more placement settings. A previous episode is one that has been completed by a discharge. A current episode is a removal and one or more placement settings without a discharge.

A Discharge represents that point in time when the child is no longer in foster care under the care and responsibility or supervision of the State agency. For AFCARS purposes, situations in which the State retains supervision of a child and the child returns home on a trial basis, for an unspecified period of time, are considered a discharge from foster care after a six month period. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix A, Section I, Roman Numeral III, Questions A and B. Also see: Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Numbers 18, 20, and 23.))

5. Question: Does the definition of Neglect include cases of failure to provide supervision (non-supervision)?

Answer: Yes. Neglect is alleged or substantiated negligent treatment or maltreatment, including failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or care and includes failure to provide supervision (non-supervision). (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix A, Section I, Roman Numeral IV, Question B. Also see: Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 28.)

6. Question: For both of the computer-generated transaction dates: should the date be generated on the date that the data was first entered or the date that the data was last updated?

Answer: This date should represent the date that the data was FIRST entered. The reason for this element is to insure that the record is entered into the system in a timely fashion. (See: 45 CFR 1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 22 and 57.)

7. Question: For a child who is in and out of the foster care system over a period of several years, what does the State report for foster care element 18 "Date of first removal from home" if it does not have the date of the first removal?

Answer: This information is required by the regulations at appendix A to 45 CFR 1355 and should exist in the case record or a court record. As is the case for all missing data, if the date of the child's first removal from home is not available, the date should be left blank.(See: 45 CFR1355, Appendix D, Detailed Foster Care, Element Number 18.)

8. Question: A State title IV-E agency has an agreement in effect pursuant to section 472(a)(2)(B)(ii) of the Social Security Act with the State juvenile justice agency. As such, the State reports to AFCARS children who are in the placement and care responsibility of the State juvenile justice agency and receiving title IV-E foster care maintenance payments in a foster family home or child care institution. When such a child is no longer receiving title IV-E foster care maintenance payments because the child is placed in an unallowable facility (e.g., in detention), should the State stop reporting the child to AFCARS?

Answer: It depends. Children in foster care who are placed in a juvenile justice facility and who are expected to be returned to a foster care setting should continue to be included in the AFCARS reporting population (see Child Welfare Policy Manual Section 1.3 QA# 12). This means that the State will report to AFCARS the date the child was placed in the unallowable facility as the date of placement in current foster care setting (foster care element #23) and indicate that the child?s current placement setting (foster care element #41) is an institution. The State will also increment the number of previous placement settings (foster care element #24).

If, however, the State does not expect the child to return to a foster care setting, the State may enter the child as discharged (foster care element #56) as of the date the child left the foster family home or child care institution and indicate the reason for discharge (foster care element #58).