4250. Placement Out-of-Home and Conditions for Return Home

Original Date: October 20, 2013

Revised Date: October 1, 2019

Sunset Review: October 31, 2023

Approved by: Ross Hunter, Secretary


Provide direction to Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) child welfare employees on:

  • Determining when to place a child in out-of-home care.
  • Providing a placement that is most aligned with the child’s best interests, and safe, stable, and least restrictive in close proximity to the parent and the child’s school when possible.
  • Identifying what conditions must change for a child to return home.
  • Required safety, permanency and well-being activities.
  • Active and reasonable efforts for timely reunification.


This policy applies to child welfare and Licensing Division (LD) employees.


RCW 13.34.020  Legislative declaration of family unit as resource to be nurtured—Rights of child.

RCW 13.34.030  Definitions

RCW 13.34.040  Petition to court to deal with dependent child—Application of federal Indian child welfare act.

RCW 13.34.050  Court Order to take a child into custody, when - Hearing

RCW 13.34.060  Shelter care—Placement—Custody—Duties of parties.

RCW 13.34.067  Shelter care—Case conference—Service agreement.

RCW 13.34.130  Order of disposition for a dependent child and placement with Relatives, foster family home, group care facility or other suitable person, placement of and Indian child in out-of-home care, and contact with siblings.

RCW 13.34.145  Shelter care—Hearing—Recommendation as to further need—Release.

RCW 13.34.260  Foster home placement, parental preferences and foster parent contact with birth parents encouraged.

RCW 13.34.270  Child with developmental disability—Out-of-home placement—Permanency planning hearing.

RCW 13.34.062  Shelter Care – Notice of custody and rights

RCW 13.34.067  Shelter care—Case conference—Service agreement.

RCW 13.34.130  Order of disposition for a dependent child, alternatives—Petition seeking termination of parent-child relationship—Placement with relatives, foster family home, group care facility, or other suitable persons—Placement of an Indian child in out-of-home care—Contact with siblings.

RCW 13.38  Washington State Indian Child Welfare Act

RCW 26.44  Abuse of Children

RCW 26.44.190  Investigation of child abuse or neglect - Participation by law enforcement officer

RCW 74.13.350  Children with developmental disabilities—Out-of-home placement—Voluntary placement agreement.

RCW 74.14A.020  Services for emotionally disturbed and mentally ill children, potentially dependent children, and families-in-conflict. 

RCW 74.15.020  Definitions

RCW 74.15.090  Licenses required for agencies.

PL 114-95  Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965

Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) 1994 Interethnic Adoption Provisions of the small Business Job Protection Act of 1996; Section 1808: “Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Adoptions”


  1. Decision to Place
    1. If caseworkers are considering out-of-home placement for a child, they must:
      1. Discuss with a supervisor.
      2. Conduct a Family Team Decision Making (FTDM) meeting prior to placing a child in out-of-home care or within 72 hours of placement.
      3. Contact the tribe if a child is a member or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe from Washington state per the Indian Child Welfare (ICW) Policies and Procedures Chapter 5 Child Protective Services for Indian Children policies.
    2. Caseworkers must seek removal of a child from the home if one of the following apply:
      1. A child is in present danger or at imminent risk of harm and the protective action plan cannot maintain the child safely in the home of their parent or legal guardian.
      2. A safety threat is identified for the child while in the care of their parent or legal guardian, and either:
        1. Reasonable efforts to prevent the placement have failed including offering or providing services, or removing the persons or environmental threat from the home rather than the child.
        2. A safety plan cannot adequately control or manage the safety threat.
        3. Law enforcement (LE) has placed a child in protective custody (PC) and transferred custody to DCYF with a signed Child Custody Transfer DCYF 10.157.
    3. If a physician, administrator of a hospital, or similar institution believes a child would be in imminent danger if released to their parent or guardian and has placed the child on a hospital hold, caseworkers must follow the Hospital Hold policy.
    4. If children or youth in the placement and care authority (PCA) of DCYF, are placed in licensed or unlicensed care, and they are in present danger or there is a safety threat, caseworkers must follow the Placement Moves policy.
    5. If a biological, adopted, or guardianship child of a licensed provider is in present danger or there is a safety threat and legal authority is needed to remove the child:
      1. Caseworkers must contact LE to assess for PC.
      2. LD employees must contact LE or the caseworker or supervisor..   
    6. Refer children with a developmental disability to Developmental Disabilities Administration when they are being considered for out-of-home placement and there is no alleged child abuse or neglect.
  2. Legal Authority
    1. Before placing a child in out-of-home care, DCYF must have legal authority to assume the PCA of the child, through one of the following ways:
      1. A Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA), signed by a parent or legal guardian who has custody of the child when it is anticipated the child will safely return to their parents or legal guardians within 90 calendar days. If there is reason to believe the child is an Indian child, follow ICW Policies and Procedures Chapter 6 Casework Activities for Court Proceedings policy.   
      2. A LE officer has placed the child in PC and signed the Child Custody Transfer DCYF 10-157 form.
      3. A hospital administrator or physician has placed the child on a hospital hold and signed the Child Custody Transfer DCYF 10.157 form.
      4. A court entered an order in either a dependency case or Child in Need of Services (CHINS) case that authorized placement of the child in the care and custody of DCYF.
      5. A court order has been obtained and authorized the department to take custody of the child through a Motion for Order to Take Child Into Custody.
    2. If there is a safety threat to the child and the child’s safety cannot be managed in the parents or legal guardian’s care, caseworkers must seek legal authority for a placement even if the parent or legal guardian has arranged an alternate for placement beforehand. 
    3. If non-parental custody is pursued by the parents, caseworkers must:
      1. Continue to assess child safety and risk of the child.
      2. Obtain legal authority for the placement if there is a safety threat to the child that cannot be managed in the parent’s care.
    4. Caseworkers do not provide legal advice to parents or legal guardians on non-parental custody.
  3. Placement
    Caseworkers must:
    1. Take the following steps if a child is placed in out-of-home care.
      1. Obtain a signed copy of the Child Custody Transfer DCYF10-157 form if LE places a child in PC or if the child is placed on a hospital hold, upload the signed copy in FamLink.
      2. Verify that the custodial and non-custodial parents know that their child has been taken into custody as soon as possible, and provide a completed Temporary Custody Notification DCYF 09-731 form.
    2. Follow the Dependency Petition Process policy to petition the court for legal authority to remove the child and request a shelter care hearing occur within 72-hours of the removal of the child.
      1. Children placed under PC by LE may remain in the temporary care and custody of the department for 72 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
      2. When this occurs, a shelter care hearing must be held within 72 hours or the child or youth is returned to their parent’s care.
    3. Follow ICW Policies and Procedures when there is reason to believe the child is a member, or the biological child of a member and eligible for membership, in a federally recognized tribe.
    4. Follow the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) policy when a parent, legal guardian, or child has LEP.
    5. Notify the appropriate foreign consulate and follow the Notification to Foreign Consulate policy if a child is a citizen of another country and is placed in out-of-home care.
    6. Follow the Placement Moves policy if a child is being moved from one out-of-home placement to another.
    7. Follow the Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS) policy if a child or youth has behavioral issues and needs a higher level of services.
    8. Follow the Placement – Intensive Resources and Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children policies if out-of-state placement is being sought.
  4. Placement Setting
    Caseworkers must:
    1. Place the child with a licensed caregiver only if an approved kinship caregiver or suitable adult is not available. Licensed out-of-home placement includes:
      1. Licensed family foster home
      2. Licensed group care facilities
    2. Not use any secure detention facilities as a placement setting for children in out-of-home care.
    3. Contact the local office placement coordinator or placement desk to locate a licensed caregiver. Preferences such as family constellation, sibling relationships, ethnicity, culture, and religion must be considered when matching a child to a foster home. Race, color, or national origin of the foster parent or child must not be the basis for any delay or denial of placement.
    4. Identify kinship care or licensed placements that are:
      1. In the child’s best interest and in consideration of their safety, permanency, and well-being needs, including:
        1. The least restrictive setting available.
        2. In close proximity to the parent.
        3. Keeping the child enrolled in the school they were attending when it is practical and in their best interest. If this is necessary to maintain the child’s enrollment:
          1. Conduct transportation planning.
          2. Complete and provide the School Notification DCYF 27-093 form to the school.
          3. Follow the Educational Services and Planning Early Childhood Development K-12 and Post-Secondary policy.
        4. With siblings, unless one of the exceptions described in the sibling section of this policy applies.    
        5. Placement settings that are least likely to result in placement moves.
      2. In accordance with ICW placement preferences  when there is reason to believe the child is a member, or the biological child of a member and eligible for membership, in a federally recognized tribe.
      3. In consideration of a placement with a previous caregiver if a child returns to out-of-home care and:
        1. The caregiver is available, willing and able to meet the child's needs.
        2. Placement with that caregiver is in the best interest of the child.
    5. If there is a conflict about a placement setting, the child’s placement should be made based on what is in their best interest. 
    6. Contact a designated crisis responder to request a mental health assessment if a child is placed in out-of-home care and requires placement in a mental health in-patient setting.
    7. Refer children and families to service providers or community resources as needed and available, and as court-ordered. This includes referring a child or youth with complex behavioral health needs for Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe) screening per the WISe policy.  
    8. Provide information to the caregivers about their right to be present and participate in court hearings and share important information about a child per the Notification of Court Hearings and Information Sharing with Out-of-Home Caregivers policy.
  5. Sibling Placements
    ​Caseworkers must:
    1. Place siblings together. Siblings are only placed separately when approved by the caseworker’s supervisor and area administrator (AA), and at least one the following circumstances applies:
      1. A child is admitted into detention, psychiatric hospital, or a residential treatment facility in order to meet the child’s needs.
      2. Placement of a sibling makes another person, including their sibling, unsafe. If this occurs, the sibling who poses the safety concerns will be moved.
      3. A sibling with a physical, emotional, or mental condition requires specialized services in order to accomplish specific therapeutic goals that cannot be met in the placement with their siblings. If this applies, the sibling is only placed apart from their siblings until the therapeutic goal is accomplished.
      4. An abusive relationship between siblings exists and therapy is not effective.
      5. A suitable relative is available and placement with them is in the child’s best interest.
      6. A court order prohibits DCYF from placing siblings together.
      7. Other extraordinary circumstances that are approved by the supervisor and AA.
    2. Arrange sibling visits, if siblings are not placed together per Family Time and Siblings Visits policy.
    3. Determine communication between the child placed in out-of-home care and their parent per Outside Communication for Children in Out-of-Home Care policy.
    4. Continually assess placing siblings together if siblings are placed separately, and place together if the conditions requiring separation no longer apply.
  6. Kinship Care Placements
    ​Caseworkers must:
    1. Contact the Relative Search Unit within 30 days of out-of-home placement and follow Notification of Court Hearings, Providing Reports to Court, and Information Sharing with Out-of-Home policy. The Relative Search Unit will complete the Relative Search Tracking DCYF 10-544 form with all relatives identified.
    2. When placing with kinship caregivers, follow:
      1. Placements with Unlicensed Relatives or Suitable Persons policy.
      2. Home Study policy.
      3. Kinship Care: Searching for, Placing with, and Supporting Relatives and Suitable Other Person policy.
    3. While the Relative Search Unit is searching and notifying relatives, continue to inquire and notify all adult relatives within 30 calendar days after the child is removed from the custody of the parents or legal guardian using the Relative Notification Letter DCYF15-330.
  7. Follow Licensed Foster Care and Kinship Care policy when placing with children in licensed care.
  8. Medical Information and Care
    ​Caseworkers must at the time of placement or as soon as possible:
    1. Obtain the child’s medical, dental, and immunization history from the child’s parents, legal guardians, or medical and dental providers.
    2. Provide caregivers the following:
      1. Placement Agreement DCYF 15-281 form.
      2. Voucher for Interim Pharmacy and Medial Services for Foster Children.
      3. Caregiver Authorization DCYF 10-454 and Child Information and Placement Referral DCYF 15-300 forms.
      4. For children birth to one year, the Infant Safe Sleep Guidelines publication.
    3. Follow Health Care Services for Children In Out of Home Care policy to ensure children receive routine and necessary health care.
    4. Refer to Health Care Services for Children Placed In Out-of-Home Care policy for children’s immunization information.
    5. Provide caregivers with the child’s known physical, behavioral, and dental health care history per the Information Sharing with Out-of-Home Care policy.  
  9. Vital Statistics, e.g., Birth and Death Certificates and Social Security Cards
    ​Caseworkers must at the time of placement or as soon as possible thereafter:
    1. Obtain a copy of each child’s birth certificate and SS number or card from parents or legal guardians.
    2. If parents or legal guardians do not have or refuse to give the child’s birth certificate or SS card, take the following steps for:
      1. Birth Certificates
        1. For in-state birth certificates, request a certified copy at the DOH website. Follow regional protocols to pay for vital statistics records.
        2. For out-of-state birth certificates, follow the individual state’s protocol. To pay for out-of-state vital statistic records complete the following:
          1. Verify the fee required and the address of the state’s vital statistics agency.
          2. Provide the following information to the supervisor:
            1. The type of record or information requested.
            2. The amount needed to pay for the record.
            3. The name and case number of the individual for whom the record is requested, if applicable.
            4. The DCYF address to which the vital statistics agency should mail the record.
          3. Obtain written approval from the supervisor.
        3. For out-of-country birth certificates, ask the U.S. embassy or foreign consulate in the birth country to determine where official birth records are kept and how to apply for a birth certificate.
      2. SS Cards
        1. If the child does not have a SS number or card, cards may be obtained through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Submit to the local Social Security Office the following:
          1. A completed SSA application.
          2. An original certified birth certificate.
          3. A certified and embossed current court order showing the child’s full name, date of birth, and DCYF placement and care authority.
          4. An original and signed medical statement showing the child’s full name and date of birth, e.g., “The child was last seen on date for a well-child exam.”
        2. Verify efforts to locate a SS card are exhausted before ordering a new card because SSA limits the number of cards issued in a lifetime.
    3. Review state vital records registry using read-only access to electronic records from Department of Health (DOH) to verify the child’s birth certificate.
      1. The registry may be used to verify death, marriage, and divorce certificates.
      2. Information in the registry cannot be provided externally via screenshots or printouts as verification of birth, death, marriage, divorce or for school enrollment purposes.
    4. Provide licensed and unlicensed caregivers with the child’s SSN and a copy of the child’s birth certificate as soon as this information is obtained.
  10. Conditions for return home must be identified when a child is placed in out-of-home care or when updating a Comprehensive Family Evaluation (CFE). Conditions for Return Home are defined as what must happen for a child to return to their parent or legal guardian. Conditions are not based on the completion of a case plan.
  11. Safety, Permanency and Well-Being Activities
    ​Caseworkers must:
    1. Complete a safety assessment at key points in the case, per the Safety Assessment policy.
    2. Complete the Concurrent TANF Benefits/Family Reunification Notice of Removal from TANF Home form DCYF 15-362 within seven calendar days of a child placed in out-of-home care per Concurrent TANF Benefits policy.
    3. Refer children who are expected to remain in the care and custody of DCYF for 30 or more days to a Child Health and Education Tracking (CHET) screen. The referral must be made immediately after initial placement to ensure the CHET screen is completed within 30 days of the child’s original placement date (OPD).
    4. Refer the children, youth, and families to service providers or community resources as needed, available, and as court-ordered. This includes referring children or youth with complex behavioral health needs for a Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe) screen, per WISe policy.
    5. Complete a Family Assessment within 45 days of Family Voluntary Services or Child Family Welfare Services case assignment.
    6. Follow Health and Safety Visits with Children and Monthly Visits with Caregivers and Parents policy.
    7. Coordinate visits between parents and siblings per Family Time and Sibling and Relative Visits policy.
    8. Follow Outside Communication for Children in Out-of-Home Care policy.
    9. Make active and reasonable efforts to reunify the family.
    10. Make active and reasonable efforts to achieve timely permanency, including identifying the child’s permanent plan within 60 calendar days of OPD.
    11. Verify a copy of dependent children's birth certificates and SS numbers are in the case record.
  12. Documentation
    Caseworkers must document:
    1. Children’s placements in out-of-home care in FamLink within three calendar days of placement.
    2. In an ICW specific case note in FamLink, document efforts  taken to discuss placement preference with the parents and the tribe when there is reason to believe the child is a member, or is the biological child of a member and eligible for membership in a federally recognized child per Chapter 7 Indian Child Welfare Policies and Procedures.
    3. The following information in FamLink.
      1. Reasonableefforts to prevent the removal or to reunify the family, including a description of the services that were offered or provided. If there is reason to believe the child is a member, or the biological child of a member and eligible for membership, in a federally recognized tribe, describe the active efforts made to prevent removal or to reunify the family, including a description of the services that were offered or provided.
      2. Reasons why the child was placed in out-of-home care.
      3. Efforts to support the child in placement.
      4. Child’s routine and special needs related to their:
        1. Safety
        2. Mental health status
        3. Medical status
        4. Culture
        5. Education
        6. Religion
    4. Efforts to place siblings together, including:
      1. Document exceptions or other reasons siblings are being placed apart as it applies to each child on the Sibling Visit Details tab in the FamLink Visit Plan page.
      2. Print a copy of the Sibling Visit Details tab in the FamLink Visit Page; obtain approval signatures from the supervisor and AA.
      3. Upload approved Sibling Visit Details document in FamLink. .
    5. The conditions for return home, and reasonable efforts to reunify the family in the safety assessment or FamLink case note.
    6. The completed CIPR DCYF 15-300 form was provided to the caregiver by uploading into FamLink by either a:
      1. Signed and dated copy of the form.
      2. Copy of the email sending the completed form to the caregiver.


On the DCYF Intranet

  • Child Custody Transfer DCYF 10-157
  • Consent DCYF 09-412
  • CPS Temporary Custody Notification DCYF 09-731
  • Notification to Parents DCYF16-219
  • Relative Notification Letter DCYF15-330