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FYI: The following article is from a newsletter by the Alliance for Children’s Rights.  The question comes up frequently.

Q: What happens if a relative that is seeking placement of a child lives in a different county from the child? Which county processes the resource family approval?

Scenario: DCFS is removing two children from their mother’s home in Los Angeles. Mother tells the social worker the children are very close to their grandmother, who resides in Riverside County, and she would like the children to be placed with her.

A: Both counties play a role in approving the home for placement. Pursuant to the Out of County Approval Protocol for Resource Family Approval and Emergency Placements, the placing county (which is the county of jurisdiction where the case is filed) is responsible for the initial assessment of the home and caregiver to ensure basic health and safety standards are met so that the child can be placed in the home prior to full resource family approval (this is referred to as an “emergency placement”). The placing county is responsible for this initial assessment of the home even in situations where the home is in another county. It is possible for the host county to handle both the initial assessment of the home and the resource family approval processes. The placing county is permitted to send a request to the host county asking if they would process the emergency placement. The host county is required to respond to such a request within two business days of the request. If the host county declines to to do the initial assessment, then the placing county is responsible for completing the initial health and safety inspection required prior to an emergency placement.

Following the initial assessment and placement into the home, the host county, the county where the caregiver is residing, is responsible for completing the resource family approval process. The placing county is instructed to submit a written request to the host county to complete the RFA process. The host county is required to acknowledge receipt of this request within 5 business days.

Thus, in the example above, Los Angeles County is responsible for the initial assessment of the home to ensure that the relative and the home environment meet health and safety standards and, if they do, for the placement of the child. Counties are required to give preference to relatives in placing children and must place the child with a willing relative if possible. Following the placement, Riverside County, where the grandmother resides, is responsible for processing the resource family approval whereby the child may continue to live with her grandmother (if she is indeed approved), and the grandmother may receive benefits to help her care for her grandchild.

In the event that the placing county decided not to place the child on an emergency basis pending approval, then the placing county would request that the host county initiate and complete the RFA process and the relative would be considered for placement if and when they are approved as a resource family.

NOTE: Nothing has changed in the law regarding the preference for placement with a relative, regardless of whether the relative is placed out of county. The Out of County Approval Protocol simply sets forth the mechanism by which counties are expected to work together to approve these out of county placements.