This page is intended only to provide general resources on the law and proceedings concerning the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division. This division is charged with “keeping children safe and families strong.” These pages are not intended to provide legal advice and counsel. At flatheadlaw.com we suggest that you seek legal advice and counsel whenever you have a legal concern.
Division of Child & Family Services
The Child and Family Services Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services provides state and federally mandated protective services to children who are abused, neglected, or abandoned. This includes receiving and investigating reports of child abuse and neglect, working to prevent domestic violence, helping families to stay together or reunite, and finding placements in foster or adoptive homes.
The division operates a toll-free child abuse hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Centralized Intake specialists screen calls, assess the level of risk to children, and prioritize reports of abuse, neglect, and abandonment according to the urgency with which social workers need to respond. The specialists forward reports of suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment to social workers in county offices for investigation.
To report a possible case of child abuse or neglect, call: 1-866-820-5437.
Social workers investigate reports and help parents find solutions to problems that may interfere with their children's safety. If the parents are amenable, the social workers can help the family get in-home services, such as home management skill training, parenting education classes, modeling skills for parents, and supervised visitations. These can be provided directly by CFSD social workers or by private agencies on contract with the division. Division policy is to provide protective services to children in their own homes when it is possible to do so without risking their safety.
Dependent Neglect Proceedings
If a social worker determines that a child is in immediate danger, the child may be placed outside the home, either permanently or temporarily. District court judges must approve all out-of-home placements.
In those cases where placement outside the home is necessary for the safety of children the social may seek emergency protective services. Most often, emergency protective services are put into place without prior notice in order to meet the child’s safety needs.
Temporary Investigative Authority: Commonly referred to as the TIA, the department may petition the court for authorization to conduct an investigation into allegations of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment when necessary. An order for temporary investigative authority may not be issued for a period longer than 90 days.
Temporary Legal Custody: Commonly referred to as TLC, if a child is found to be a youth in need of care, the court may grant temporary legal custody if the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that:
(a) dismissing the petition would create a substantial risk of harm to the child or would be a detriment to the child's physical or psychological well-being; and
(b) that reasonable efforts reasonable services have been provided to the parent or guardian to prevent the removal of the child from the home or to make it possible for the child to safely return home. An order establishing Temporary Legal Custody may be in effect for no longer than 6 months, and that period may be extended for a period not to exceed 6 months, upon circumstances allowed by law.
"Youth in need of care" means a youth who has been adjudicated or determined, after a hearing, to be or to have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.
Kinship care involves placing the child, whenever possible, with an extended family member, clan member, or tribal member. Kinship care provides the child with a safe and nurturing environment while preserving a family connection. When an out-of-home placement is necessary, social workers are required to first try to place the child with a non-custodial birth parent or with a member of the child's extended family.
If a court determines that a child cannot be returned to birth or legal parents, a permanency team reviews the child's circumstances and identifies whether adoption, guardianship, placement with a relative, or another living arrangement is the best option.
Adoption is generally the permanency plan of choice when a court terminates parental rights, because adoption offers a child a lifetime link to a family. CFSD administers a subsidized adoption program for children with special needs.
Guardianship is an alternative when adoption is not considered to be the best option. Guardianship is a legal relationship that can only be established or dissolved by a court.
Independent Living: For children ages 16 to 21 who are making the transition from foster care to independent living, CFSD offers a number of services, including housing assistance, counseling, career guidance, education, transportation, money management skills, and financial stipends.