This resource is designed to help parents and families who are working with the child welfare system understand what voluntary services or in-home services are and what to expect when they are offered voluntary or in-home services.

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What are voluntary services?

Voluntary services, also known as in-home services, are prevention services provided to families who need support and assistance to resolve safety concerns in order to keep children in their home. Practically speaking, some services may actually be provided outside the home; the key is that services are provided while the child(ren) are still with their parents in their home.

What do I need to know when I am offered voluntary services?

Many tribes and states provide voluntary services after a risk assessment is completed and a decision has been made that children are unsafe but can remain safely in the home with adequate family supports. The main goal of voluntary services is to keep children safely in their home with family, to maintain cultural/community connection by strengthening family resilience.  

Once an investigation is complete and there has been a finding that children are unsafe but can remain safely in the home with services provided, a caseworker will meet with you and ask if you would like to participate in voluntary services.
Based on the information provided you can agree or disagree to participate in voluntary services.
If you do agree, a caseworker will work with you to identify your strengths and determine services required to meet your needs.
A caseworker will have you sign a voluntary services agreement, which will include signing release of information forms from community services identified as needed. These services can include behavioral health, probation, housing, medical, dental, cultural, educational, and other services based on need.
A caseworker will meet with you regularly to check in and see how you are doing with your case plan. Meetings can be weekly and are based on the severity of the risk of harm to your child(ren). Your case plan progress will be assessed monthly by your caseworker and their supervisor or Child Protective Services team.
Caseworkers are there to work with you to accomplish goals for yourself and your family. During these meetings you can ask for any assistance or services you need to accomplish goals for yourself and your children.
Voluntary cases are time limited and are meant to be provided for a short period of time; they can last anywhere from 2-6 months depending on the needs of the family.
Once services are provided and sufficient progress has been made toward case plan goals, the case will be closed.

Does this guarantee that my children will not be removed from my home?

No. Voluntary services are clientled, and it will be up to you to do the work outlined in your case plan. Keep in contact with your caseworker, and use this time to take advantage of all the resources you need to strengthen your family.

Will I have to go to court when I receive voluntary services?

Usually not, but some states require court monitoring of voluntary services plans, and if the issues in the home (threat to the safety of the child) worsen, then the case could turn into an involuntary case where the court will be involved.

Additional resources on voluntary services

In-Home Services (Resources from Children’s Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS)

In-Home Services to Strengthen Children and Families (Issue Brief from Children’s Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS)

How the Child Welfare System Works (Factsheet from Children’s Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS)