If you’ve ever dealt with DHR regarding #ChildCustody, you may have wondered, “WTH is an ISP?!?!”
The term “ISP” is an initialism short for Individualized Service Plan. What is an ISP? Who’s involved? Is it “binding” on parents? On DHR? Or, is it what one lawyer called a “sham proceeding” according to a dissenting opinion from the Supreme Court of Alabama released just released on 01-31-2020? If any of you are old enough to remember a certain, cheeky relationship status on Facebook, let’s just say “it’s complicated.”
F͟i͟r͟s͟t͟,͟ ͟w͟h͟a͟t͟ ͟i͟s͟ ͟a͟n͟ ͟I͟S͟P͟?͟ DHR’s own Administrative Code (which is not “the law” and is only legally binding on DHR) creates the very concept of an ISP and defines it as follows, “[t]he case plan that is created in partnership with the members of the child and family planning team. It includes identification of the child(ren) and family’s strengths and needs; goals the child(ren) and family work toward to reach the desired case outcome; and steps to be taken by individual child and family planning team members to authorize and deliver services, and to measure progress toward goals.” Ala. Admin. Code 660-5-47-.02
S͟e͟c͟o͟n͟d͟,͟ ͟w͟h͟o͟ ͟p͟a͟r͟t͟i͟c͟i͟p͟a͟t͟e͟s͟ ͟i͟n͟ ͟a͟n͟ ͟I͟S͟P͟ ͟m͟e͟e͟t͟i͟n͟g͟?͟ Again and according to DHR’s own regulations, a “child and family planning team,” which is, in turn, defined as “[t]he individuals involved in planning and/or delivery of services for a child and family. The team shall include the age-appropriate child, the parent(s), others requested by the child or family, the DHR worker(s), the foster care provider and other service providers if any. Their work product is known as the individualized service plan (ISP).” Ala. Admin. Code 660-5-47-.02
T͟h͟i͟r͟d͟,͟ ͟u͟n͟d͟e͟r͟s͟t͟a͟n͟d͟ ͟t͟h͟e͟ ͟k͟e͟y͟ ͟t͟a͟k͟e͟a͟w͟a͟y͟s͟ ͟h͟e͟r͟e͟.͟ — DHR’s own regs define an ISP as “created in partnership” by a “team” whose members include parents and family on equal footing with DHR. If there’s not a meeting of the minds between parents and DHR on what the ISP should be, then we contend there isn’t one. What we’re confident of is that it’s not is some unilateral “take or leave it” offer from DHR that allows them to do as they please whether or not a parent “agrees” to it or not. Guys, this is complicated, grave stuff and walking into a conference room at DHR, much less a courtroom, is not something you should or have to do alone and without a #ChildCustody lawyer. Even if not binding, per se, your good faith participation in ISP meetings or otherwise is going to be brought up by DHR in court. Showing respect to the process and the Court while at the same time standing up for your rights as a parent or caring relative is a high-wire act you simply can’t and shouldn’t perform by yourself.