CWS-R Major Changes

 

Child Welfare System Redesign Major Changes

 

Research and Analysis by Jo Calk (jclk123@outlook..com)

 

“A call to a child abuse hotline is as much a request for help as a call to 911.”[1]

 

Mission:

To redesign the current Child Welfare System to be: (1) child-centered, family-focused, and equitable to all children and families throughout the United States; (2) free from corruption and further child endangerment; and (3) proactive through a data-driven approach toward the prevention of child assault/battery, rape/incest, criminal neglect, and other crimes against children.

 

Program Problem Statement

“Child abuse is a profound social problem that is first and foremost a criminal one.”

– Randy Burton, Esq.

The redefinition of child abuse and neglect as crimes (assault/battery, rape/incest, sexual assault/battery, criminal neglect, etc.) is the foundational change that allows the total redesign of the Child Welfare System from the potentially corrupt silo of one single, absolute authority (CPS) over all children’s rights, welfare, and lives – to the Law Enforcement, Criminal Court, and Hospital alliance that has long been established for crimes outside the home.

One agency should NOT have unilateral authority over children’s rights, welfare, and lives. With child abuse considered less than a crime, CPS has created a silo where they have become police, social worker, family counselor, Family Court and Juvenile Court “expert,” and sole arbitrator over the life (or death) of a child within the family. In most states, CPS has become answerable and accountable to no one.

When child abuse is properly designated as crimes, Law Enforcement and Criminal Courts have the appropriate jurisdiction over alleged perpetrators, child crime victims, domestic violence crime victims, and children without a parent or caretaker at home. This leaves CPS (renamed Family Outreach Services) to address the welfare and support of the remaining family members in the home. The Hospitals have jurisdiction over the medical and mental healthcare of the child crime victim, leaving CPS (FOS) out of all contact with the child crime victim until, and if, there is reunification of the recovering child crime victim back into the family – this time with CASA and Criminal Court oversight to ensure he safe reentry of the recovering child crime victim back into the home.

To put the “welfare of the child” back into the Child Welfare System, we must first understand that violence toward and criminal neglect of a child doesn’t “go away” like bruises or broken bones. Child trauma of all types rewires the child crime victim’s brain, self-view, and worldview. Focus on the child. Do not just remove the child crime victim from a violent situation, but ensure the child crime victim receives Hospital-advised therapy and other services before the violence and trauma make physical changes in the child crime victim’s brain and sense of self.

 

Major Changes

 

  1. Redefine Child Abuse Terms to Criminal Justice Terms Subject to Stiffer Penalties

Redefine “child abuse and neglect” as assault/battery, rape/incest, sexual assault/battery, criminal neglect, aggravated assault and battery, etc., which are under the purview of Law Enforcement and the Criminal Courts.

Randy Burton, Esq., continues, “Further, CPS has been compromised by an internal conflict of interest: on the one hand they are charged with protecting the child (e.g., removing a child from a dangerous home) and on the other hand with preserving the family and rehabilitating the offender.  I have referred to this in testimony before Congress as ‘professional schizophrenia.’  You cannot do both within the same agency because it creates an irreconcilable conflict of interest.  This problem can be dated to the early 20th century when CPS literature stated that ‘it is more important to save the home for the child than to save the child from the home.’  While we all might agree that this is a valid proposition when we are talking about poverty and neglect or when we are talking about protecting the residual family once the perpetrator has been removed, leaving a child in a home where they have been sexually abused or chronically physically abused or where one child has already been murdered or where there is evidence of criminal neglect (starvation; scapegoating of a child; putting a child in a cage or locking them in a closet) is unacceptable. And, yet it happens every day with CPS organizations around the country.”

 

  1. Redefine Child Protective Services (CPS) as Family Outreach Services (FOS)

  • CPS Caseworkers are overworked and expected to take on, and skillfully employ, multiple different roles: law enforcement, childcare, family peacemaker, family supporter, drug and alcohol abuse intervenor, remover of children from their homes, finder of foster care families, determiner when/if a child can be reunited with their family, handler of adoption/guardianship and other avenues for children released from foster care, etc., and still expected to frequently visit families where child crime victims still live because the CPS Caseworker was told to keep the family together.
  • Fewer than 10% of all calls to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline are handled by CPS; the other 90+% are dropped at various points along the CPS process. Very few regular family visitations are made, allowing violence and criminal neglect of children to continue. (Oregon statistics)
  • CPS can no longer remain in a silo, trying to be all things to children and families. It is time to spread the responsibilities for the care and treatment of assaulted and criminally neglected children by a synergy of three separate agencies: Law Enforcement, Criminal Courts, and Hospitals.
  • Remove all law enforcement functions from CPS – CPS no longer removes children from their home, no longer coerces low-income parents to sign over all parental rights, no longer sends unharmed poor children to foster care, no longer sends child crime victims to foster care without appropriate medical and mental health care, and no longer places children in adoptions or guardianships when their parents want and deserve to have their children back – with support services to help the family get out of poverty.
  • Redefine CPS’s name and function as Family Outreach Services (FOS) and move FOS to Family Services as the outreach arm in the Oregon Health and Human Services Family Services department.
  • In-Home Services for families (formerly applied by CPS) are added to the Health and Human Services Family Services department, in addition to their existing family services (such as TANF, food stamps, housing support, and other services), to build the family up to become an independent and safe family for their children
  • Community alliances are maintained to help with the family support functions

 

  1. Calls Regarding Suspected Child Assault and/or Criminal Neglect Route to 911

  • All calls of a suspected crime are routed to 911
  • No longer will reports of violence within the family call into the Child Welfare Hotline and violence outside the family call 911
  • ALL calls involving reported child crime victims result in action being taken by Law Enforcement (not merely 10% or fewer of the calls)

 

  1. Law Enforcement’s Role in Child Assault and Criminal Neglect

  • All criminal actions towards children are treated the same whether perpetrated by family or by a non-relative
  • In counties of 100,000 or greater, Law Enforcement shall create a Child and Family Investigation Unit (CFU), similar to SVU (Special/Sexual Victims Unit), fully trained in identifying child assault and criminal neglect as well as the need for immediate and appropriate trauma-informed care
  • Law Enforcement responds to ALL calls of violence toward, or criminal neglect of, a child
  • In cases of child crime victims and/or domestic violence crime victims, Law Enforcement will arrest the alleged perpetrator, ensure all child and adult crime victims are transported to the Hospital by ambulance, and the non-offending family members remain in the home
    • no longer is the domestic violence crime victim revictimized by having to leave the home with their children to avoid the alleged perpetrator
    • the alleged perpetrator is removed and arrested by Law Enforcement to face a Criminal Court trial where they may be required to give up all rights to the family home (similar to a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) conviction resulting in surrendering their car)
  • Family Outreach Services (formerly CPS) waits until Law Enforcement has completed its investigation and has secured the site, to start their assessment and offer support services to the family; Law Enforcement remains at the site briefly to ensure the safety of the family and FOS, and leaves when the family discussion appears to be proceeding smoothly.

 

  1. When a Child Can Be Removed from the Home by Law Enforcement

  • If the child is severely injured, sexually assaulted, or criminally neglected
  • If the child is of sufficient age to decide AND asks to be removed from the home
  • Following removal of alleged perpetrator(s) and other crime victims, if there are no adult parents/caretakers remaining in the home
  • Law Enforcement assumes responsibility for the safety of the child crime victim(s) and/or unattended child(ren) and ensures each child is taken, by ambulance, to the local child-trauma-informed Hospital for a full medical examination, evaluation, and treatment, as well as a full mental health evaluation and treatment.

 

  1. When Others Can Be Removed from the Home by Law Enforcement

  • Law Enforcement assumes safety responsibility for and removes any domestic violence crime victim(s) from the home to be taken, by ambulance, to the same Hospital as the original child crime victim for a full medical examination, evaluation, and treatment, as well as a full mental health evaluation and treatment
  • Following removal of an alleged perpetrator and/or domestic violence crime victim, if there are no adult parents/caretakers remaining in the home, Law Enforcement assumes safety responsibility for and removes other siblings of the original child crime victim from the home to be taken, by ambulance, to the same Hospital for a full medical examination, evaluation, and treatment, as well as a full mental health evaluation and treatment
  • All crime victims and unattended siblings of the original child crime victim are reported under the same Law Enforcement Case Number, as all are a part of the criminal investigation
  • While the crime victims and unattended siblings reported under the same LE Case No. are being treated in the Hospital, Law Enforcement transmits an initial investigative report to the Criminal District Attorney, including the names and contact information of all crime victims and unattended siblings under the specified LE Case No. who have been sent to the Hospital by ambulance; the Criminal District Attorney applies to the Criminal Court for the assignment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for the original child crime victim and all other child crime victims under the same LE Case No.

 

  1. Family Outreach Services (formerly CPS)

  • Family Outreach Services (FOS) is notified, by the 911 Operator, of a Law Enforcement criminal investigation involving a possible child crime victim
  • FOS arrives at the crime investigation site and waits until directed by Law Enforcement it is safe to enter the home to start their assessment
  • If Law Enforcement determines that no crimes against children were committed (for example, the 911 report of “neglect” is part of the family’s poverty or low socioeconomic status), Law Enforcement notifies FOS of their findings, FOS begins their assessment and identification of Family Services supports for the family
  • Law Enforcement remains at the site briefly to ensure the safety of the family and FOS, and leaves when the family discussion appears to be proceeding smoothly
  • FOS assesses the family’s strengths, kinships, and networking connections, not just problems
  • FOS immediately brings in all relevant current and new Family Services programs and services to support the family
  • Community alliances are maintained and utilized to help FOS and Family Services.

 

  1. Hospital’s Role in Child Assault and Criminal Neglect

  • Pediatricians became strong advocates for the elimination of child abuse and neglect in Texas when they created a child abuse unit in Texas Children’s Hospital because they found that the vast majority of children who died in the hospital had died from child abuse and neglect. This is a model for all Hospitals to follow, to become trauma-informed specialists in the treatment of child crime victims
  • Hospitals are trained in “trauma as expressed by children” to step up and take a more active role in the identification and treatment of mental health traumas as well as physical traumas to the child crime victim
  • Each trauma-informed Hospital to which child and adult sexual assault crime victims are sent via ambulance has a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) present in the Emergency Room to collect the forensic evidence without further traumatizing the child or adult sexual assault crime victim.
  • As the Hospital receives, by ambulance, each crime victim and unattended sibling reported on the same Law Enforcement Case Number, the Hospital takes responsibility for the safety and recovery of the original child crime victim, other crime victims, and unattended siblings; financial support is provided to the ambulance and the Hospital by the state plus federal funding which has been placed in the original child crime victim’s account for necessary health services and treatments for all crime victims and unattended siblings under the same LE Case No. (see details below)
  • While the crime victims and unattended siblings reported under the same LE Case No. are being treated, Law Enforcement transmits an initial investigative report to the Criminal District Attorney, including the names and contact information of all crime victims and unattended siblings under the specified LE Case No. who have been sent to the Hospital by ambulance; the Criminal District Attorney applies to the Criminal Court for the assignment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for the original child crime victim and all other child crime victims under the same LE Case No.
  • The CASA arrives at the Hospital and is introduced to the assigned original child crime victim and all other child crime victims under the same LE Case No.; the CASA volunteer speaks for the child crime victims, as appropriate, while the Hospital maintains the responsibility for the safety of the child crime victims under the same LE Case No.
  • The CASA provides regular reports to the Hospital, the Criminal District Attorney, and the Criminal Court of the status of all crime victims under the same LE Case No. while in the Hospital
  • While the crime victims and unattended siblings reported under the same LE Case No. are being treated in the Hospital, Hospital Staff research and contact relatives and kin who can take in the original child crime victim, and other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., as Temporary Therapeutic Respite Caretakers
  • Following medical and mental health care treatment, adult crime victims (e.g., domestic violence crime victims) can return home, with supportive family, friends, and/or volunteer organizations accompanying them to continue the rehabilitation and begin the Family Support Services; unattended siblings who are not crime victims and do not need further Hospital treatment can return home with the treated adult crime victim and supportive volunteers.

 

  1. Criminal District Attorney and Criminal Court Involvement

  • While the crime victims and unattended siblings reported under the same LE Case No. are being treated in the Hospital, Law Enforcement transmits an initial investigative report to the Criminal District Attorney, including the names and contact information of all crime victims and unattended siblings under the specified LE Case No. that have been sent to the Hospital by ambulance; the Criminal District Attorney applies to the Criminal Court for the assignment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for the original child crime victim and all child crime victims under the same LE Case No.
  • The CASA arrives at the Hospital and is introduced to the assigned original child crime victim and all other child crime victims under the same LE Case No.; the CASA volunteer speaks for the child crime victims, as appropriate, while the Hospital maintains the responsibility for the safety of the child crime victims under the same LE Case No.
  • The CASA provides regular reports to the Hospital, the Criminal DA, and the Criminal Court of the status of all child crime victims under the same LE Case No. while in the Hospital
  • The CASA visits the child crime victim(s) at the Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home (TTRCH) frequently (perhaps daily at first) to assure the child(ren) they are safe and being cared for and to listen to the child(ren) about what they want to happen after they recover (age-dependent); the CASA provides regular reports to the Hospital, the Criminal DA, and the Criminal Court of the status and wishes of all child crime victims under the same LE Case No. while in the TTRCH.

 

  1. Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes

  • Hospital aligns with the fully vetted and trained Caretaker(s) at the selected Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home (no more foster homes), providing the full instructions and prescriptions from the Hospital, doctor, and psychiatrist/therapist for therapeutic care and rehabilitation of the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No.; financial support is provided to the Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home (TTRCH) by the state plus federal funding which has been placed in the original child crime victim’s account for necessary health services and treatments for all crime victims and unattended siblings under the same LE Case No.; all child crime victims under the same LE Case No. remain under the Hospital’s safety responsibility while the child crime victims are in the TTRCH
  • The Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home Caretaker and the CASA visit the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., in the Hospital before transfer to the TTRCH
  • When the Hospital determines that the original child crime victim, and other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., are stable enough to transfer from the Hospital for continued therapeutic care, the Hospital sends the child crime victim(s), by ambulance, to the selected Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home, where the TTRCH Caretaker and the CASA await to welcome the child(ren)
  • The TTRCH Caretaker ensures that all child crime victims in the TTRCH are provided the appropriate medications, food, safety, and care; are taken to the Hospital for doctor visits, exams, and other procedures; and are given loving support as the child crime victims heal physically, mentally, and emotionally from their trauma
  • The TTRCH Caretaker reports on the status of the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., daily; the Caretaker informs the CASA of the status of each child crime victim upon the CASA’s visit to the TTRCH
  • The CASA visits the child crime victim(s) at the TTRCH frequently (perhaps daily at first) to assure the child(ren) they are safe and being cared for and to listen to the child(ren) about what they want to happen after they recover (age-dependent); the CASA provides regular reports to the Hospital, the Criminal DA, and the Criminal Court of the status and wishes of all child crime victims under the same LE Case No. while in the TTRCH
  • Other kin and friends of the original child crime victim, plus community alliances are notified and asked to help with the recovery of all child crime victims under the same LE Case No.

 

  1. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

  • The CASA is a non-attorney volunteer with the “eyes and ears” of the original child crime victim, and other child crime victims under the same LE Case No., for the Criminal Court; although the CASA is under the auspices of the Criminal Court, it is a volunteer position and is thus not financially funded
  • While the crime victims and unattended siblings reported under the same LE Case No. are being treated, Law Enforcement transmits an initial investigative report to the Criminal District Attorney, including the names and contact information of all crime victims and unattended siblings under the specified LE Case No. who have been sent to the Hospital by ambulance; the Criminal District Attorney applies to the Criminal Court for the assignment of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for the original child crime victim and all other child crime victims under the same LE Case No.
  • The CASA arrives at the Hospital and is introduced to the assigned original child crime victim and all other child crime victims under the same LE Case No.; the CASA volunteer speaks for the child crime victims, as appropriate, while the Hospital maintains the responsibility for the safety of the child crime victims
  • The CASA provides regular reports to the Hospital, the Criminal DA, and the Criminal Court of the status of all child crime victims while in the Hospital
  • Hospital then aligns with the fully vetted and trained Caretaker(s) at the Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home, providing the full instructions and prescriptions from the Hospital, doctor, and psychiatrist/therapist for therapeutic care and rehabilitation of the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No.
  • The Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home Caretaker and the CASA visit the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., in the Hospital
  • When the Hospital determines that the original child crime victim, and other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., are stable enough to leave the Hospital for continued therapeutic care, the Hospital sends the child crime victim(s), by ambulance, to the selected Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home, where the TTRCH Caretaker and the CASA await to welcome the child(ren)
  • The TTRCH Caretaker reports on the status of the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., daily; the Caretaker informs the CASA of the status of each child crime victim upon the CASA’s visit to the TTRCH
  • The CASA visits the child crime victim(s) at the TTRCH frequently (perhaps daily at first) to assure the child(ren) they are safe and being cared for and to listen to the child(ren) about what they want to happen after they recover (age-dependent); the CASA provides reports to the Hospital, the Criminal DA, and the Criminal Court of the status and wishes of all child crime victims under the same LE Case No. while in the TTRCH.

 

  1. Child-Focused

  • For any child crime victim able to understand their options (e.g., when/if to return home, go to a different family, choice of adoptive family, etc.), include the child crime victim in ALL decisions made “for” the child; the child remains at the center
  • If the child crime victim identifies a relative with whom the child feels safe, every effort is made to contact the relative as a possible provider of a Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home for that child crime victim.

 

  1. Proactive Prevention of Child Assault and Criminal Neglect

  • Federal and states data-mine historical child abuse and neglect data, including all child fatality statistics, to create proactive programs and media campaigns to reduce and eliminate all violence against, and criminal neglect of children
  • Oregon DHS and the federal agencies become proactive, not merely reactive
  • A proactive unit (usually outside the Child and Family Support Services System) addresses prevention of child violence through social media and print campaigns, brochures, flyers, TV and radio ads, in the schools, everywhere, to change the family dynamics and stop child assault and criminal neglect before it starts
  • Oregon Secretary of State provides a thorough external audit of all of CPS’s previous case files to determine whether cases that are inactive or closed should be activated for the safety of the child (e.g., a case that was closed because the alleged perpetrator would not allow CPS into the home can now be reinvestigated by Law Enforcement, which does not need permission to enter the home under exigent circumstances such as a child crime victim inside the home).

 

  1. Form Alliances with the Community

  • In every city and county throughout Oregon, involve the local community, nonprofits, and individual volunteers in alliances to support assaulted children and their families
  • Ensure appropriate vetting of all alliance members, plus checks and balances are in place to eliminate fraud and corruption
  • “It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb.

 

  1. Federal Level Changes

  • Replace “foster home” and “foster care home” with “Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home” and redefine as a temporary recovery care home or day center for the child victims of violence or criminal neglect
  • Change the structure from a “Child Welfare System” to a comprehensive “Child and Family Support System” that is no longer a silo
  • Change legislation, laws, regulations, etc. to form alliances with the communities and other agencies
  • Change legislation, laws, regulations, etc. to improve procedures and communication within all parts of the comprehensive federal-state-community “Child and Family Support System”

 

  1. Identify and Correct Bad Decisions

  • Distinguish between “neglect” and socioeconomic family pressures such as poverty, homelessness, lack of employment, lack of food, etc. Provide support services to the family, which then can provide more support to the child.
  • Perform an external audit and review of prior CPS determinations of “neglect” resulting in the removal of the child from the home and placement in foster care, by cross-checking with the child’s family’s race and socioeconomic status. Use the findings as tools to (1) remedy existing cases of children improperly placed in foster care (e.g., if the child is in foster care and the family is racially or socioeconomically disadvantaged, ask the child (age appropriate) and the family about reunification with the family and appropriate physical and mental health services for the child’s trauma from the removal and foster care placement); and (2) as examples of bad practice to be avoided, starting NOW and carrying forward into all future documentation and procedures. Individual civil cases against former CPS or ODHS personnel may result from the audit, but are outside the scope of this review.
  • Perform an additional external audit and review of the physical and mental health of ALL children in foster care at this time, plus children who have “graduated” out of foster care without a permanent home in the previous 5 years. Provide complete physical and mental healthcare to all current children in foster care and all foster care graduates to start to heal the bad decision of the past.
  • Provide wraparound services from a network of extended family members, multiple agencies (some outside of ODHS), nonprofits, friends, neighbors, other kin, and volunteers to serve the family in need
  • Use Best Practices, such as “Signs of Safety” and other programs, that have been proven to be effective
  • Include the child and family in all discussions and decisions dealing with the approach, programs, services, and actions being taken by Child and Family Support (CFS) in support of the family
  • Form and maintain community alliances to help with the family support areas
  • Remove the stigma and fear around the old Child Protective Services with the redesign of the Child and Family Support System approach.

 

  1. Direct Federal Grant Funding for the State Child and Family Support System

  • Law Enforcement’s Child and Family Investigation Unit (or equivalent percentage of officers in jurisdictions less than 100,000 residents)
  • Criminal Courts that hear child assault/battery, rape/incest, and criminal neglect cases
  • 1/2 FTE in the state’s data analysis section dedicated to data-driven analysis of child assault and criminal neglect reports plus recommendations for preventive action
  • 1/2 FTE in the state’s media section dedicated to developing statewide media campaigns, as a proactive approach to addressing the recommendations for preventive action based on the data-driven analysis
  • Note: Family Services funding is from a different federal agency and applies to all families with low socioeconomic status, regardless of the presence of violence or criminal neglect of a child
  • Federal funding is no longer considered “free money.” Federal funding is a grant, with required reporting and “proof of progress” through submitted work products with required metrics, proof of appropriate state spending of the grant funds, and progress in actions taken by the state toward improvements to the Child and Family Support System.

 

  1. Remove Racial Bias from Child Assault and Criminal Neglect Reports and Investigations

  • Mandatory reporters are the “eyes on the child” who can identify signs of child assault and criminal neglect; their well-informed, unbiased reports are critical to providing any necessary physical and mental health injury treatment for a child, as well as supportive services for the family
  • There is no place in the new Child and Family Support (CFS) system for racial or social bias, personal agendas, or preferential treatment by mandatory reporters
  • Remove the racial and social bias of mandatory reporters through training and through analysis of their reports to identify biases, to correct them or no longer allow the reporter to report.

 

Prepared by JoFrances Calk, MLS

jclk123@outlook.com

 

[1] Dan Scott, retired sergeant in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office and a leader in the effort to improve cross reporting between child protective services (CPS) and law enforcement.