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Policy Analysis Child Protective Service Include Abuse, Foster Care and Adoption
Child physical abuse did not receive widespread attention in this country until a 1962 medical journal article discussed patterns of suspicious injuries in children. Within four years, all 50 states had passed laws requiring certain professionals to report cases of suspected child maltreatment. These laws were intended to protect children because they are a particularly vulnerable portion of the population. As reporting increased, states developed systems to support their child protection responsibilities, and a number of federal laws were enacted that have guided the development of states' child protection systems. The primary responsibility for responding to cases of child maltreatment rests with state agencies. States must comply with federal child abuse and neglect guidelines to receive federal funds and have some independence of how the services are provided.
The policies of Child Protective Services (CPS) and the Department of Family Services (DFS) are to protect the best interest of the child; to further offer protective services when necessary in order to prevent any harm to the child or any other children living in the home; to protect children from abuse or neglect which jeopardize their health or welfare, to stabilize the home environment and to preserve family life whenever possible. (1996) DFS is in charge of administering laws enacted to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect and to provide protective services when necessary. CPS within DFS is organized as a state-administered system with field offices implementing the processes necessary to protect children from abuse and neglect and provide them with services. When field offices receive reports of Child Abuse / Neglect (CA/N), caseworkers must verify that the reports meet legal definitions for investigation, investigate reports meeting statutory definitions of CA/N, and provide case management and services when abuse or neglect is substantiated.
Problems arise when people do not properly take care of a child in their custody. A person who can be responsible for a child's welfare" includes the child's parent, non-custodial parent, guardian, custodian, stepparent, foster parent or other person, institution or agency having the physical custody or control of the child. Children are abused in many ways, listed are the following: "Abuse" with respect to a child means inflicting purposely causing physical (by means of death or any harm to a child including but not limited to disfigurement, impairment of any bodily organ, skin bruising, bleeding, burns, fracture of any bone, or substantial malnutrition), or mental injury (destroying the psychological capacity or emotional stability of a child by substantial impairment in his ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior). Also included in abuse are abandonment, excessive or unreasonable corporal punishment, malnutrition, sexual offense and neglect.
When a DFS field office receives a report of CA/N, they must verify whether the report meets the legal definition of CA/N. The process of screening reports at this stage is known as intake. If the report meets the definition of CA/N, DFS will accept the report for further investigation within 24 hours or less. If the report does not fall within the definition, the report is rejected and not investigated. The investigation is conducted to determine if there is credible evidence that abuse or neglect occurred, and if the child is at risk. If these two conditions are met, a caseworker then takes action to protect the child from further abuse or neglect, by having the child removed from the premises by a law enforcement officer or a physician. The caseworker has 60 days to investigate a report of CA/N, and upon completion of the investigation, DFS staff must make a determination as to whether the child was abused or neglected. The information gathered during the investigation constitutes credible evidence to validate the report. If the investigation did not reveal that child abuse and neglect occurred, the report is null and unless the family request services, the case will be closed. Information from substantiated reports where DFS finds there is moderate or high risk of the maltreatment recurring are placed in foster care or group homes and maintained indefinitely. Once the investigation is completed, the case may be closed by DFS unless the family voluntarily accepts services or if services are ordered by the court
CPS services offer five goals, family preservation, family reunification, adoption, independent living, or other permanent living arrangement. A caseworker provides ongoing services by assessing the family's strengths and weaknesses and, with client input, formulating a case plan with specific goals and tasks designed to help the child and family. Case management services are the primary responsibility of caseworkers, to help correct the problems that caused the abuse or neglect. Case management entails the caseworker developing a case plan, keeping all involved in service provision apprised of relevant information, filing mandated reports, and calling case conferences. In addition, caseworkers can provide other services to children and families to help correct the problems at the root of child maltreatment. "Caseworkers determine the mixture of direct and contracted services based on their own strengths, workload, availability of services in the community, and availability of funds." (Daro, 1988). Examples of services are: parenting classes, home-monitoring visits, transportation, supervised parent/child visits, mental health counseling or foster care placement, Contract services are paid for through a combination of client resources, DFS resources, and community or federal funding.
A large portion of CPS costs are contracted services arranged for by the agency as treatment for victims and perpetrators of CA/N. Approximately 35% of CPS costs will go for contracted services such as out-of-home placements in foster care, residential treatment, and other settings, as well as the costs of community-based services such as counseling. Child welfare is financed by almost 40 separate federal programs; however, titles IV-B, IV-E and Inter-Ethnic Placement Act (IEPA) of the Social Security Act are the principal sources of federal funds dedicated to child welfare activities.
According to Bess Urbel and Green (1996), title IV-E, the largest funding stream, consists of both Foster Care and Adoption Assistance programs, which are open-ended entitlements, and the Independent Living program, which is a capped entitlement. "The IV-E Foster Care program reimburses states at different match rates for maintenance payments provided to cover the cost of shelter, food, and clothing for eligible children in care; placement and administrative costs; and training for staff and foster and adoptive parents." The IV-E Adoption Assistance program also reimburses the states at different rates for adoption assistance payments made to adoptive parents of eligible special needs children; administrative costs; training for staff and adoptive parents; and for nonrecurring expenses, such as court costs and attorney fees, associated with the adoption of special needs children. The IV-E Independent Living program provides funds that can be used for a range of activities, including vocational and educational training, basic life skills training (e.g., housekeeping and money management), and employment initiatives, for youth (age 16 to 21) in care or released from care regardless of IV-E eligibility.
Title IV-B is a capped allocation to the states that consists of two parts -- Child Welfare Services and Promoting Safe and Stable Families. IV-B Child Welfare Services provides grants to the states to prevent placement and reunify families, prevent abuse and neglect, and provide services to children in foster care or adoptive homes. A limited amount of these funds may be used for foster care maintenance payments, adoption assistance payments, and child day care. Family preservation programs serve families at risk of having their children placed in foster care, while family support programs serve families who are not yet in crisis and attempt to prevent abuse and neglect from occurring.
IEPA prohibits any consideration of a child's race or ethnicity as a factor in deciding which permanent placement will be in a child's best interest. This means that a caseworker is absolutely prohibited from considering a child's race or ethnicity in any way, shape or form in his/her decision-making related to which permanent placement is in a child's best interest.
National child protection experts and standards stress the importance of evaluating CPS program and administrative effectiveness. According to Costin, Karger, and Stoesz, (1996). "Child protection agencies should develop policies that make legal and regulatory requirements operational, while still recognizing the need for professional judgment and flexibility. Policies should reflect good social work practice and assist staff in the delivery of services and decision making. Further, policies should be based on desired outcomes for families and children, and reflect the realities of the resources available to the agency and the community." Policies which are broad and general enable local field offices to develop their own standards of practice, either formally or informally due to the caseworkers' flexibility. This can hinder the process of children and families receiving services along with high turnovers when a caseworker leaves, inadequate amount of caseworker to handle the amount of intakes and many caseworkers do not have a social work background. Well-defined expectations would provide staff with a clear statement of their roles and responsibilities…[continue]
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