DFPS Rolls Out New CANS 2.0 Assessment Requirement for Kids in Foster Care

DFPS Rolls Out New CANS 2.0 Assessment Requirement for Kids in Foster Care

CANS 2.0 Background Information

DFPS rolled out the new CANS 2.0 assessment for kids in Texas foster care on September 1, 2016.  Here’s what you need to know.

May 5th, 2015 the 84th Texas Legislature passed SB 125. SB 125 directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to develop and implement a plan to perform a comprehensive and developmentally appropriate assessment of every child who enters DFPS conservatorship. This assessment must occur no later than a child’s 45th day in DFPS conservatorship (i.e. foster care, kinship care, etc . . . ).  It must include a screening for trauma and it must include interviews with individuals with knowledge of the child’s needs.

DFPS and CANS 2.0

DFPS partnered with Dr. John Lyons, creator of the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool, and Chapin Hall, at the University of Chicago.  Together they customized a version of the CANS specifically to meet the requirements of SB 125. The CANS is widely used across the United States by child welfare professionals in communicating the needs of children. The resulting customized Texas Child Welfare version is referred to as CANS 2.0.

DFPS started by assessing children 3 through 17 years of age who enter DFPS conservatorship on and after 9/1/2016. DFPS has stated an understanding that SB 125 addresses all children; however, they have determined to meet this requirement in phases with the first phase focusing on the children mentioned above. DPFS also decided to exceed the required timeframes by ensuring these children are assessed by their 30th day in care. This should help ensure that the results from the assessment are included in initial service plans. DFPS has not published any plans for children birth through 2 years of age at this time.

STAR Health, Medicaid for children in DFPS conservatorship, provides funding for this assessment.  They also manage the network of professionals who are trained and qualified to perform CANS 2.0. Statewide.  For most of the State, only STAR Health approved professionals are qualified to perform this assessment.  See CANS 2.0 and OCOK below for the exception.

How CANS 2.0 Impacts Foster Families

Starting 9/1/2016 foster parents receiving placement of children new to foster care will receive a phone call from STAR Health. STAR Health will call the foster parent(s) to discuss plans for scheduling this CANS 2.0 assessment. STAR Health will provide the foster parent(s) with a list of approved professionals to contact for an appointment. Policies may vary by agency, foster parents are encouraged to communicate with their agency case manager after this call.

It is important to note that this requirement only effects children new to care starting 9/1/16.  Sometimes children move from one placement to another.  These children who were in care before 9/1/2016 and are now moving may not be required to participate.  In these situations foster parents should ask their agency for guidance. Foster parents should work closely with their agency to eliminate confusion and ensure each child is assessed timely.

CANS 2.0 and OCOK

Our Community Our Kids (OCOK), through their contract with DFPS, modified the rules slightly for foster homes caring for children from one of their seven counties (Tarrant, Johnson, Hood, Somervell, Parker, Palo Pinto, and Erath). Those already caring for OCOK children are likely familiar with a previous version of the CANS tool which has been being used by foster care agency case managers since late 2014. Please note that OCOK has adopted the new CANS 2.0 so starting September 1, 2016 their children will transition from the previous CANS to the new CANS 2.0, as their previous assessment expires.

OCOK has decided to allow CANS certified professionals (like foster care agency case managers) who are not on the STAR Health list to perform the CANS 2.0 assessment on their kids. OCOK has also decided that this assessment must be performed prior to a child’s 21st day in foster care instead of the 30th day as mentioned previously for the rest of the State. Finally, OCOK kids who are 3 through 17 years will participate in a CANS 2.0 assessment that corresponds with service plan revisions on an ongoing basis.

STAR Health Service Coordinators will not be calling foster parents who accept placement of OCOK kids to help arrange this assessment. Foster parents caring for OCOK kids can expect their CK case manager to perform this CANS 2.0 assessment themselves or make a referral to an approved assessor for OCOK kids.

How Will CANS 2.0 Impact the Kids

The CANS 2.0 assessment is primarily interview based. The assessor should contact the current foster parent(s), the child, and perhaps others who are knowledgeable about the child’s needs. The assessment may also include information from documentation made available to the assessor by DFPS or other professional assessments. The assessor will use this information to complete the CANS 2.0 tool and to formulate their clinical impressions.

So what will we do with all of this new assessment data? DFPS and OCOK are both using a new database, developed and managed by Chapin Hall named eCANS. The CANS 2.0 assessment is entered into eCANS by the assessor. Algorithms within eCANS will evaluate the assessment and produce recommendations specific to the needs of the child. These recommendations are uploaded from eCANS to the child’s Health Passport (the database managed by Superior Health). Medical consenters will then have access to the assessment and resulting recommendations.

The recommendations from CANS 2.0 (as shown in Health Passport) are included in the child’s service plan. DFPS is adding contractual requirements for foster care agencies to include CANS 2.0 recommendations in service plans and ensure that efforts are made to act on those recommendations.

The hope in all of this is that children who were previously already having their needs met will continue to have their needs met while children who were not having their needs met (due to lack of comprehensive developmentally appropriate assessment) will now also have their needs met.

Communication is Key

Good communication between foster parents and their agency foster care case managers is essential to ensure these new requirements are implemented. Foster parents will pass along information they receive from STAR Health Service Coordinators and foster care case managers will keep their foster parents informed of assessments they are preforming or have scheduled. We ensure children in foster care receive timely assessments and that the recommendations are incorporated into the child’s service plan when we work as a team.

As with all new things, information regarding this new requirement is subject to change.  Texas foster parents, double check with your agency to learn the most current information.  You can also send us an email at communications@ckfamilyservices.org and we’ll do our best to help.