Next Questions and Setting Court Expectations 


Note: Montana has nearly the highest number of children in foster care in the nation relative to the state's population. In 2016, Montana had the highest rate of child removal in the country. In 2017, Montana had the second highest removal rate. We must do better to reduce removals, to reduce time in foster care and to strengthen and reunite families. If you do nothing else, ASK THESE QUESTIONS AT EVERY HEARING.

  1. Do you know or have reason to know that the child is an Indian child? What potential tribes?


  2. What has been done to prevent removal?


  3. What is being done to decrease the child's time in foster care?


  4. What are the specific safety issues preventing the child from being returned home today?


  5. What efforts has the Department made to place the child with a relative or kin (friend or other individual identified by parent)?


  6. How are the Department, parents, and others supporting stability for the child (in placement, school, etc.)?


  7. What other efforts must be made to support the child and promote timely permanency in case the safety issues cannot be ameliorated?


  8. Ask parent: How do you think things are going?


Note: Holding all parties accountable improves parent engagement and timely permanency. The following are suggested to develop a plan as to how the case will proceed, what is expected of each party, and the timeframe for completion of tasks and their review by the Court.

  1. What has been accomplished since the last hearing?
    1. Parent?
    2. Department?


  2. What is the plan for unsupervised visits?

    (Presumption that visits should be unsupervised can be changed only if substantial safety risks are present. A generalized belief the parent may not return the child or the parent has history of drug use, etc., is not enough to prevent unsupervised visits.)

  3. Can visitation be increased or less restrictive?


  4. Engage parents – ask:
    1. How do you think things are going? What do you think you need at this time?
    2. What do you think your child needs at this time?
    3. How can we be assured child will be safe with you during visits?
    4. Find out about parent's living, work, and family situations
    5. Do you understand what you need to do for child to be returned?
    6. Is anything interfering with your ability to do the tasks necessary for your child to be returned?


  5. What must be accomplished before the next hearing?
    1. What will parent do?
    2. What will the Department do?


  6. Set next hearing in open court


  7. Summarize the plan and the Court's expectations – what will CPS/ SW do, what will parent do, what will attys do prior to next hearing.


    Bench Card – Next Questions and Setting Court Expectations