4261. Out-of-Home Placement Priorities

Approval: Jennifer Strus, Assistant Secretary

Original Date: October 31, 2010

Revised Date: October 31, 2016

Policy Review: October 31, 2020


To provide a safe, stable and least restrictive placement in close proximity to the family home for children in out-of-home care.


This policy applies to Division of Children and Family Services staff.


RCW 13.34.030  Definitions

RCW 13.38.040 Definitions

RCW 13.34.130 Order of disposition for a dependent child and placement with relatives, foster family home, group care facility or other suitable person, placement of and Indian child in out-of-home care, and contact with siblings

RCW 13.38.180 Placement preferences

RCW 13.34.200  Order terminating parent and child relationship

RCW 13.34.260 Foster home placement, parental preferences and foster parent contact with birth parents encouraged

RCW 74.14A.020 Services for emotionally disturbed and mentally ill children, potentially dependent children and families in conflict

RCW 74.15.020 Definitions

PL 113-183  Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act       

42 USC 671a State plan for foster care and adoption assistance


  1. Placement in out-of-home care:
    1. The following placement priority order will be used:
      1. Parent’s placement preference, unless good cause is indicated to not use that placement.
      2. Child's relative or tribe according to the 4527 Relative Placement policy, RCW 74.15.020 and RCW 13.38.180. Relatives include individuals who are related by blood, marriage (i.e. step-family members), and adoption.
      3. Suitable person. A suitable person is appropriate under RCW 13.34.130(1)(b)(ii)(B) if the child or family has a pre-existing relationship with the suitable person and that person has completed all required background checks and appears suitable and competent to care for the child.
      4. Previous caregiver if a child returns to out-of-home care and:
        1. The caregiver is available, willing and able to meet the child's needs.
        2. Placement with that caregiver is in the best interest of the child.
      5. Licensed out-of-home setting, which includes:
        1. Family foster home
        2. Group care facilities
    2. The placement will be:
      1. In the least restrictive setting available;
      2. In close proximity to the family home and school the child was attending prior out-of-home removal; and
      3. Consistent with the child’s best interest, including special needs, safety, permanency and well-being.
  2. All siblings must be placed together whenever possible, unless an exception applies. Siblings are defined in RCW 13.34.030.
  3. If the child is Native American, the caseworker must follow the placement preference outlined in RCW 13.38.180. The child's tribe(s) if known, must be contacted as soon as possible to request placement preference.
  4. Placements with unlicensed relatives and suitable persons must meet the requirements in the 45274 Placement with Unlicensed or Suitable Persons policy.
  5. A Family Team Decision Making meeting will be conducted in accordance with 1710 Shared Planning policy when placement is being considered, after a child has been placed in out-of-home care or a change in placement occurs to discuss placement resources and options.


  1. Every effort will be made to place siblings together. Any decision to separate siblings initially, during, or after placement requires approval by the caseworker's supervisor and area administrator. Siblings may be placed separately under the following exceptions which must be approved and documented in FamLink:
    1. As a result of an admission of a sibling into detention, a psychiatric hospital or a residential treatment setting to meet the unique and individual needs of one of the siblings;
    2. A sibling becomes a significant safety threat to the safety of another sibling or cannot be controlled if the siblings are placed together;
    3. A sibling becomes a significant threat to the safety of another person in the placement, and a risk to that person's safety cannot be controlled if the sibling remains in the placement. If movement of the entire sibling group is determined not to be in their overall best interest, the sibling presenting the threat will be moved;
    4. A sibling with a physical, emotional or mental condition requires specialized services in order to accomplish specific therapeutic goals. The sibling may be placed apart from other siblings for the length of time necessary to meet the need requiring separate placement;
    5. An abusive relationship between siblings exists where therapy, with a safety plan in place, is not effective or not the appropriate intervention;
    6. To permit placement with relatives who live near the home of a sibling;
    7. A court order prohibits the Department from placing siblings together; or
    8. Other extraordinary circumstances that are documented and approved by the assigned supervisor and Area Administrator under these procedures.
  2. Documentation for Sibling Placement Exceptions
    1. The caseworker will:
      1. Document exceptions or other reasons siblings are being placed apart as it applies to each child on the Siblings/Incarcerated Parent tab in the FamLink Visit Page.
      2. Obtain supervisor and area administrator approval in FamLink.


Visit Plan DSHS 15-209C