Division of Family Services

The Division of Family Services (DFS) of the Department becomes involved with families after a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation has been conducted and a determination made that services are needed to address abuse, neglect, or dependency within the family. Many of the families open to DFS are involved with the RI Family Court on a related abuse or neglect petition at the same time. The division also works with families of youth who are involved with the RI Family Court on juvenile justice matters.

Role of the Social Worker

Family Services Staffing


How the Division of Family Services Works

Once a family has been assigned to an DFS worker, they are officially “open to DFS.” They will contact the family and begin the process of assessing the problems which lead the family to become involved with the Department.

This process will involve them obtaining the status and history of the family. They will need to know what, if any, services (medical, mental health, educational, substance abuse, etc.) the parents and children are currently receiving. Parents will be expected to sign a release of confidentiality which will allow the worker to communicate with these providers and obtain relevant information from them.

Depending on the nature of opening reasons associated with a family, a request may be made for family members to receive specialized evaluations. The information obtained in these evaluations will help pinpoint the types of services which will best meet the needs of each family unit.

Children and youth open to DFS may be living with one or both of their parents, a legal guardian, a relative or unrelated foster parent, or in a congregate care setting. The role of the division is to assist families in accessing the services and supports needed to ensure the safety and well- being of children in their own homes or those needed to safely return and maintain children in the family home. When that cannot be accomplished the role of staff in this division is to secure alternative permanency for children such as adoption or legal guardianship.

The development of family goals and the identification of appropriate services and supports is accomplished through collaborative planning between the families, the Department and community partners. They are also responsible to assess child safety in any living arrangement, provide for a child’s well- being through continued connections to family, school and community, and ensure that permanency is achieved in a timely manner in accordance with the Adoption and Safe Families Act.

Many of the services needed by children, youth, and families open to DFS are available through the Department’s Community Services and Behavioral Health Division.

Extended family and kin interested in fostering a family member can be licensed through the Department’s Resource Family Portal.