CWS-R Business Plan – Part 2

Child Welfare System Redesign Business Plan

Part 2

 

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

 

March 2021

 

Child Welfare System Redesign State Pilot Business Plan

 

3.2. Proposed Redesigned Child and Family Services System

 

List of Major Child Welfare System Redesign Changes

 

“Child abuse is a profound social problem that is first and foremost a criminal one.” – Randy Burton, Esq.

 

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

Redefine “soft” definitions of “child abuse and neglect” to criminal terms, such 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. Child abuse is a crime not only because it is a crime if perpetrated against adults or children by non-family members, but also because of the long-term impact of physical violence, sexual violence, criminal neglect, and other forms of trauma on a young child whose brain and worldview are just being formed – and can be permanently altered by such trauma.

Children are unable to defend themselves and laws must be stricter for those who inflict violence or criminal neglect on a child.

Texas child abuse attorney 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.”

 

2. 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 requiring different approaches and skillsets: 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.
  • Currently, extremely few calls to each state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline are handled by CPS; the other calls are dropped at various points along the CPS process. Due to overburdened CPS staff, there is not always time for regular family visitations, allowing violence and criminal neglect of children to continue.
  • 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 four separate agencies: Law Enforcement, Criminal Courts, Hospitals, and Human Services.
  • Remove all law enforcement functions from CPS.
  • Redefine CPS’s name and function as Family Outreach Services (FOS) and move FOS to become the outreach arm in the Human Services/Family Services department.
  • Add In-Home Services for families (formerly applied by CPS) to the Human Services/Family Services department, which currently includes 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.
  • Maintain community alliances to help with the family support functions and care and support of the child crime victim.

 

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Child Welfare System Redesign State Pilot Business Plan

 

  • Concern: “… if there are enough staff to implement.” Response: The Redesign proposes a reassignment of certain tasks from CPS to Law Enforcement, where crimes against children outside the home are currently being handled, and where ALL crimes against children should be handled. The intent is to remove “inappropriate” tasks, such as law enforcement, from the CPS Caseworker’s workload, thus providing a cohesive set of tasks for which the Caseworker is specifically and uniquely trained and skilled: family support, family services, consulting support, frequent visitations supporting and encouraging the family, etc.

 

3. Calls Regarding Suspected Child Crime Victims Route to 911

  • All calls of a suspected crime, including suspected child crime victims at home, 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. Only reports of families with children in need of support services, without child crime victims, will be reported to the Child Welfare Hotline, renamed the Family Services Hotline.
  • ALL 911 calls involving reported child crime victims result in investigation and appropriate action being taken by Law Enforcement.
  • Concern: “This occurs now in Oregon, and cross reporting is the process.” Response: In Oregon, mandatory reporters have the option to call the Child Abuse Hotline (ORCAH) or 911. Child abuse calls to 911 are copied to CPS, and child abuse calls to ORCAH are copied to Law Enforcement. With the redefinition change of child abuse terminology from a civil matter to a crime in criminal statutes, Law Enforcement will respond to ALL calls of criminal violence or neglect of a child.
  • Concern: Law Enforcement has “two different standards to meet jurisdictional needs, safety thresholds, and resources available.” Response: Although it is agreed that this Redesign shifts the major burden of investigation from CPS to Law Enforcement, Law Enforcement’s intent on safety is preferred over CPS’s intent and mandate to keep the family together. A realignment of federal funding resources from CPS to other agencies, particularly Law Enforcement, is part of the Redesign.
  • Concern: Although mandatory reporters and others who suspect violence or criminal neglect of a child can report to 911 anonymously, they may be hesitant to go to 911 because it is an emergency line – if the person only suspects there is a child crime victim, is that considered an “emergency”? Response: As part of the Child Welfare System Redesign, all mandatory reporters and the public will be trained to call 911 instead of the Child Abuse Hotline for all suspected cases of child crime victims. That training must include differentiating cases of suspected child crime victims where the reporter should call directly to 911, and cases of families with children under low socioeconomic or underrepresented situations (but with no child crime victims) where the reporter should call the Family Services Hotline. Until more research is conducted, and recommendations made by a team of subject-matter experts, the preliminary recommendation is that ALL calls, including calls where the reporter only suspects that there is a child crime victim, should be reported to 911.

 

4. 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. Law Enforcement responds to all calls of criminal violence toward, or criminal neglect of, a child.

 

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Child Welfare System Redesign State Pilot Business Plan

 

  • • Law Enforcement takes the lead in all investigations involving a child crime victim, including accepting responsibility for the safe removal of a child crime victim from the scene and transport by ambulance to the nearest child-trauma-informed Hospital.
  • In cases of child crime victims and/or domestic violence crime victims, Law Enforcement can arrest the alleged perpetrator(s), ensure all child and adult crime victims are transported to the Hospital by ambulance, and allow the nonoffending family members to remain in the home, if another parent or caregiver is present, or transport any unattended children within the family to the Hospital by CPS. 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, if found guilty, 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).
  • In counties of 100,000 or greater, Law Enforcement shall create a Child Crime Victims Unit (CVU), similar to SVU (Special/Sexual Victims Unit), fully trained in identifying child assault and criminal neglect, the safe way to approach a traumatized child, and the need for immediate and appropriate trauma-informed hospital care.
  • Concern: “This is the current situation [in Oregon]. Having said that there are semantics at hand. Child Abuse is not defined criminally as such. Perhaps it is Rape, Sodomy, Assault, kidnapping…. Whereas Child Welfare files specifically as well with the parent has abused the child by physically striking them causing an injury.” Response: Agree that there are differences in definitions of terms in Oregon and other states. However, child abuse is a crime and should be defined as such in all cases and only in the criminal statutes – not with a corresponding civil statute for cases where the perpetrator of a crime against a child is the child’s parent or caregiver. For example, in the Oregon Civil Statutes, “Sexual misconduct” as a civil offense is defined as “A person commits the crime of sexual misconduct if the person engages in sexual intercourse or oral or anal sexual intercourse with an unmarried person under 18 years of age” and is given the same sentence as “Theft of property worth less than $100.”
  • Concern: Escalating Family Violence: All 911 calls of suspected child crime victims result in a Law Enforcement investigation. Law Enforcement officers with responsibility for investigating potential cases of child crime victims should be fully trained that, if a child is interviewed in front of the alleged assailant, that question makes the family environment more dangerous for child violence and domestic violence. This scenario results in reservations about LE being in the front line for family violence cases. Response: It is currently highly likely that CPS questioning a child in front of their assailant has already led to escalating violence when the CPS Caseworker leaves the family, with the child remaining at home. Any question of a parent’s “authority” over their children as “property or chattel” will likely result in increased anger and violence toward the child. With fully trained plainclothes Law Enforcement (LE) officers investigating, there is a lower probability of escalating violence for two reasons: (1) the LE officer knows to NOT interview a suspected child crime victim in front of the alleged perpetrator; and (2) if the situation warrants, the LE officer can arrest and remove the alleged perpetrator thus negating any further escalation of violence.

 

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  • Concern: Strong-Armed Tactics by Law Enforcement: In cases of alleged child crime victims or adult crime victims (domestic violence), there are concerns that Law Enforcement (LE) will immediately strong-arm and arrest one of the parents as the alleged perpetrator without evidence or proof if the parent argues for their constitutional rights or tells the LE officer to leave or not enter the home. Response: It is highly likely that Law Enforcement is more aware of the Constitutional rights and the Bill of Rights than CPS Caseworkers. CPS Caseworkers have a goal to keep the family together; LE has a goal to investigate whether a crime has been committed, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build the strongest criminal case before arresting anyone as the alleged perpetrator. LE’s goal applies to ALL cases LE officers investigate – there is no reason to believe that LE officers investigating a potential child crime victim will suddenly become heavy-handed, ignore Constitutional rights, and possibly destroy a criminal case due to taking immediate action on a hunch or gut feeling. LE knows they must create a report to the Criminal District Attorney for every criminal case, and that LE must have all evidence available when making the report. Expanding LE’s criminal investigations into potential cases of family violence will be treated the same as every other criminal investigation. This is one of the major benefits of having LE conduct the initial investigation – this is what they are trained to do, and this is what they do every day.
  • Concern: Overreacting to Minor Parental Punishments: There has been concern expressed that Law Enforcement will overreact to a minor parental punishment (such as putting hot sauce in a child’s mouth as punishment) and arrest the parent on trumped-up charges of criminal violence toward a child. Response: There is sufficient data stating that CPS has removed extensive numbers of children from their homes under the abuse code “neglect” (when federal funding paid based on the number of children removed from their home, children placed in foster care, and children adopted from foster care) – when the child is uninjured, but the family is in poverty and does not have sufficient food or housing. Law Enforcement has conducted extensive investigations of criminal cases and, due to the need to provide a concrete case to the Criminal District Attorney including statements from witnesses, etc., is unlikely to fabricate a case just to remove a child from a home, because there is no financial incentive to do so.
  • Concern: Native Americans and Alaska Natives are disproportionally represented in Child Welfare System cases: In most states, children removed from their homes and placed in foster care include a significantly higher proportion of People of Color and American Indian and Alaska Native children. Response: This concern is legitimate and is one of the major reasons for the need to Redesign the Child Welfare System. Having CPS as a silo for all actions affecting children in families is one of the major causes of the current disproportionality. The Redesigned Child Welfare System has Law Enforcement conducting the initial investigation and taking full responsibility and authority for the alleged perpetrators and reported child crime victims. Tribal Law Enforcement is one of many LE jurisdictions in the state (e.g., state, county, city, and tribal law enforcement agencies). As a sovereign entity within the state, tribal lands are under Tribal Law Enforcement for all crimes perpetrated on tribal lands. This includes investigations into child crime victims on tribal lands.

 

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Child Welfare System Redesign State Pilot Business Plan

 

  • Concern: Alleged Racially Motivated Murders of Black People by White Police Officers: As with any group of people, we must be careful not to label ALL members of a group as having the bad behavior of a FEW members. Yes, there are too many reports of blatant disregard for human life by a few apparently bigoted members of Law Enforcement (LE). However, if the many LE members who believe that ALL Lives Matter broke off support of and alignment with the few LE members who exhibited criminal behavior, people could better see that we have made judgments about the whole of Law Enforcement based on the crimes of the few members of Law Enforcement. Response: The initial investigation by LE is appropriate because child abuse and neglect are crimes, not family matters. In addition, a social service agency should not be burdened with law enforcement functions for which they are minimally trained and often alone during their assessments. This is an opportunity to see the many members of Law Enforcement who became officers to help people – and who better to help than child crime victims?
  • Concern: Defunding of Police: Again, the criminal actions of a few members of Law Enforcement have resulted in a knee-jerk reaction to defund ALL Law Enforcement, which only limits the ability of the many decent LE members to protect the children, families, and citizens. Response: Rather than defund entire Law Enforcement departments and agencies, allocate the current LE funding into protective measures rather than combative actions. This Child Welfare System Redesign proposes placing a greater emphasis on the crimes of child violence, child sexual assault, child criminal neglect, and spousal assault and battery (formerly called domestic violence) through federal funding directed specifically to LE resources tasked with those investigations.
  • Concern: Uniformed Police Frighten Children and Families: Years ago, the neighborhood cop was a hero to local children and a safety net for concerned parents. Although there are still small towns where that remains the case, in most instances uniformed Law Enforcement officers are now feared by children and families alike. Response: Child assault and violence, child rape/incest and sexual assault, child criminal neglect, and spousal assault and battery are crimes and should be investigated as such by Law Enforcement – using the SVU (Special/Sexual Victims Unit) model with specially- trained plainclothes officers conducting the initial investigation into reported cases of child crime victims. These Child Crime Victims Unit (CVU) officers are specially selected and trained as child-trauma-informed and thoroughly understanding of the fears and needs of the child crime victim and the violent family dynamic that envelops the child crime victim. A combination of compassion, strength, and child-trauma-informed training will help that LE officer conduct a thorough investigation, interviews, and evidence gathering while adding little further trauma to the child crime victim or family.
  • Concern: Possible Violation of Family Rights: Changing initial investigations into a reported child crime victim from CPS to Law Enforcement raises fears about LE overstepping its authority over the family. With limited exceptions for exigent cases, neither CPS nor Law Enforcement can violate the constitution nor the Bill of Rights, specifically the following Amendments:
    • 14th Amendment due process of law protects parental rights to live together without government interference; specifically, all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Currently, children are considered “property” under this amendment; hopefully soon children will be defined as “persons” under this amendment.

 

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Child Welfare System Redesign State Pilot Business Plan

 

    • 4th amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure including taking of a child from the family; specifically, the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. This amendment at least includes “persons or things” as “seizures,” so children don’t have to be considered “property.”
    • The 5th Amendment creates a number of rights relevant to both criminal and civil legal proceedings. In criminal cases, the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury, forbids “double jeopardy,” and protects against self-incrimination. It also requires that “due process of law” be part of any proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property” and requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use. Once again, children are considered “private property” rather than “persons.”
    • The 6th Amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you.

Response: Plainclothes Law Enforcement officers, with specific training in child and family trauma, approach each suspected case of a child crime victim with a cautious open mind and a focus on the child and any signs of violence or trauma toward the child. Experienced LE officers understand that domestic violence (a type of child assault) is one of the most dangerous types of cases officers face, often resulting in death of or injury to the officer, and perhaps others. LE officers must consider investigations of violence against the child with the same caution as domestic violence cases, because often the perpetrator of child violence is also the perpetrator of domestic violence. Clear distinctions must be made for the majority of typical scenarios LE officers will face, so the officers clearly understand their duty to the child crime victim in the framework of the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the family. CPS does not have authority to remove a parent who has assaulted their child and may (or may not) call in Law Enforcement to help. With the CPS goal of keeping children in the family, too often CPS does NOT contact Law Enforcement and the child crime victim is left at home with their assailant. With Law Enforcement conducting the initial investigation in cases of reported child crime victims, and dependent on the circumstances, LE can arrest an alleged perpetrator in exigent circumstances of child or adult crime victims. This saves many more children from ongoing assault and battery as well as rape/incest.

  • Concern: “I think it could be traumatizing to the child to be transported by ambulance.” Response: A child, any child, sees victims taken away in an ambulance to be helped and saved; it is important to get the victim medical help as soon as possible. When a child crime victim is taken away in an ambulance, they start to realize they are “victims” – it was not their fault, they are not “bad,” they are not “being punished,” they need help The ambulance reassures them that they have value, they are important enough to be taken quickly to get help and be saved. The child starts to recognize that their pain and trauma is not a “part of life.” This is the first indication to the child that they have worth, they are being helped, and there are others who are helping them and saving them from their pain and trauma.

 

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Child Welfare System Redesign State Pilot Business Plan

 

  • Concern: “Also, ambulances are expensive and should not be used unless absolutely necessary. I think that is an unnecessary expense that can be used for better purposes.” Response: With the previous explanation, the ambulance is the first validation that the child is a victim, not the cause, of their pain and trauma. Ambulances are expensive, so is healthcare. This Redesign proposes that a child crime victim deserves the same treatment and consideration as any other crime victim, including an ambulance transport to the hospital. In the Redesigned Child Welfare System, the ambulance and the hospital are federally reimbursed for expenses, within a federal limit (like Medicare limits). It is hoped and expected that ambulance services will be partners in the Redesigned Child Welfare System and become part of the solution rather than considered an unnecessary expense.
  • Concern: “I think a CASA or CPS worker should transport them” [rather than an ambulance]. Response: The person making the statement also provided a good argument against having CASA transport the child crime victim to the hospital: “I am not sure you realize that not every city/county in every state has a CASA chapter or that there would be enough CASAs to fill the role you are proposing.” In addition, currently a CASA is assigned to a child crime victim through a Court process AFTER the victim has been placed into foster care. The Redesigned Child Welfare System has the child crime victim taken first to the hospital, before being sent to the Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home (replacement for foster care), so the CASA has not yet been assigned. The CPS worker is often overburdened and is given the federal mandate to “keep the family together.” It would be a conflict of interest, as well as an abandonment of their responsibility to the family, if the CPS worker first took the child crime victim to the hospital and then returned to the family for assessment and support. This conflict of interest is one of the aspects of the current Child Welfare System that is often not in the best interests of the child. In the Redesigned Child Welfare System, CPS will have an internally-consistent set of principles to follow.
  • To avoid contamination of evidence for cases involving a child crime victim, Family Outreach Services (formerly CPS) waits until Law Enforcement has completed its investigation of the crime scene and has secured the site. The Family Outreach Services (FOS) Caseworker then starts their assessment and offers support services to the family. Law Enforcement remains at the site briefly to ensure the safety of the family and the Caseworker, and leaves when the family discussion appears to be proceeding smoothly.

 

5. 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 ensures each child crime victim 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.

 

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  • Law Enforcement transfers responsibility for the safety of unattended child(ren) to FOS, who ensure the unattended child(ren) are taken to the same Hospital as the child crime victim(s); there is no “family” remaining for the FOS Caseworker to assess in this case.

 

6. 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(s) 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/caregivers remaining in the home, Law Enforcement transfers safety responsibility for and removes other children from the home to be taken, by FOS, 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 children of the original child crime victim are reported under the same Law Enforcement Case Number (LE Case No.), as all are a part of the same criminal investigation.
  • While the crime victims and unattended children 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 children 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.
  • Following the observation of interviews with the child crime victims and others under the same LE Case No. by a forensic therapist in a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) within the Hospital or near the Hospital, Law Enforcement provides a detailed case report to the Criminal District Attorney including all aspects of the criminal investigation.
  • If an alleged perpetrator has been arrested by LE, the Criminal District Attorney builds a case, presents evidence to the Grand Jury, and presents the prosecution’s case in the alleged perpetrator’s trial in Criminal Court.

 

7. Family Outreach Services (formerly CPS)

  • Family Outreach Services (FOS) is notified, by a report to the Child Welfare Hotline (renamed Family Services Hotline) of a low socioeconomic or underrepresented family with one or more children needing family support services. If no child or adult crime victims are identified during the FOS Caseworker’s assessment, FOS and Family Services help the family with support services.
  • If a child or adult crime victim is identified during the FOS Caseworker’s assessment, or a violent adult is preventing the FOS Caseworker from ascertaining whether a child or adult crime victim is in the home, the FOS Caseworker calls for Law Enforcement (LE) support and waits outside the home until LE arrives. In most cases, Law Enforcement takes the lead at that point until the criminal investigation and actions have been completed, as described below for the cases where Law Enforcement was initially involved from a 911 call of a child crime victim.

 

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  • For cases involving a reported child crime victim, Family Outreach Services (FOS) is notified, by the 911 Operator, of a Law Enforcement criminal investigation involving a possible child crime victim.
  • A FOS Caseworker arrives at the crime investigation site (usually after Law Enforcement) and waits until directed by Law Enforcement that 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 and not of criminal acts toward a child), Law Enforcement notifies the FOS Caseworker of their findings, and the FOS Caseworker takes the lead and 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 the Caseworker, and leaves when the family discussion appears to be proceeding smoothly.
  • The FOS Caseworker assesses the family’s strengths, kinships, and networking connections, not just problems.
  • The FOS Caseworker immediately brings in all relevant current and new Family Services programs and services to support the family.
  • Abusive/violent parents will NOT make use of services offered to them unless mandated. FOS needs to balance between not coming down too hard on families while providing programs and services to families to protect the child crime victim when later reunited with the family. If the parents are not willing to use the services, the child crime victim should not be returned to the family.
  • Community alliances are maintained and utilized to help FOS and Family Services.

 

8. Hospital’s Role in Child Crime Victim Cases

  • 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 step up to provide comprehensive child-trauma-informed physical and mental healthcare for the original child crime victim and all other crime victims and unattended children under the same LE Case No., as well as taking on responsibility for the safety of all related crime victims and unattended children while under their care and in a Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home.
  • 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 and other crime victims and unattended children under the same LE Case No.
  • When practical, services provided by a separate Child Advocacy Center (CAC) may be incorporated within the trauma-informed Hospitals or separately nearby, to reduce further trauma of the child crime victim during forensic interviewing, which is discretely observed by Law Enforcement, the Criminal District Attorney, and others involved in the child crime victim’s case.

 

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  • As the Hospital receives each crime victim and unattended child reported on the same LE Case No., the Hospital takes responsibility for the safety and recovery of the original child crime victim, other crime victims, and unattended children. Financial reimbursement 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 federal account for necessary health services and treatments for all crime victims and unattended children under the same LE Case No. (see details below).
  • While the crime victims (including not only child crime victims but also adult crime victims (e.g., domestic violence)) and unattended children 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 children 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 victim(s), as appropriate, while the Hospital maintains responsibility for the child crime victim(s) safety 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 child crime victims under the same LE Case No. while in the Hospital.
  • While the crime victims and unattended children 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 Caregivers.
  • 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 their rehabilitation and begin the Family Support Services Unattended children who are not crime victims and do not need further Hospital treatment can return home with the treated adult crime victim and supportive volunteers.
  • Concern: “Sounds good in theory, but hospitals are currently not trained to address mental health stemming from victimization per se. I would hope that DOJ’s Crime Victim’s Unit is involved with this conversation.” Response: Although hospitals are currently not trained, significant child-trauma-informed training will be provided to hospitals to deliver quality physical and mental health examination, care, and treatment, as well as incorporating within the hospital the functions normally performed by a separate Child Advocacy Center (CAC), to avoid moving the child around as much as possible. One “best practice” for the Hospital model is: Rady Children’s Hospital Chadwick Center, San Diego; Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego – https://www.rchsd.org/ and Child Abuse Pediatrics/Chadwick Center – https://www.rchsd.org/programs-services/chadwick-center/. One Oregon “best practice” example is: CARES Northwest at Legacy Emanuel Hospital; CARES NW – http://www.caresnw.org/. In addition, Oregon Child Abuse Solutions (www.OregonCas.Org) is a nonprofit organization which is an excellent contact source to learn about placing CAC resources in hospitals. They set up child abuse assessment centers with medical exams, law enforcement, CPS, and referrals for care.

 

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Child Welfare System Redesign State Pilot Business Plan

 

9. Criminal District Attorney, Criminal Court, and CASA Involvement

  • • While the crime victims and unattended children 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 children 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.
  • Concern: “This is the current process [in Oregon].” Response: Oregon has strong ties between CPS and Law Enforcement and could be a model of Best Practice in that area. However, not all states have such a close working relationship. One Texas attorney stated that although a perpetrator such as a father can be arrested now for assault or other crimes against his child and be sent through the Grand Jury and Criminal Court and result in a restraining order against the father getting near the child, the child and their family are sent through Family Court or Juvenile Court (depending on whether there is a previous Family Court case or not) and the father is often given visiting rights or sole custody of the child. The attorney has faced this situation many times per year over his 30-years of battling the Texas Child Welfare System. The Criminal Court does not confer with the Family or Juvenile Court and vice versa. The Family Court can mandate that the child is to be put back under the supervision of the father in spite of (more likely without knowledge of) the restraining order against the father in the Criminal Court. By removing the jurisdiction of the Family Court and the Juvenile Court from child crime victim investigations, the Criminal Court maintains authority over the perpetrator and the outcome for the child crime victim(s) following hospital and recovery care.
  • 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 nor reimbursed.
  • 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 they are in the Hospital.
  • The CASA visits the child crime victim(s) at the Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home (TTRC) frequently (perhaps daily at first) to reassure 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 they are in the TTRC.
  • Following the observation of interviews with the child crime victims and others under the same LE Case No. by a forensic therapist in a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) within the Hospital or near the Hospital, Law Enforcement provides a detailed case report to the Criminal District Attorney including all aspects of the criminal investigation.

 

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  • If an alleged perpetrator has been arrested by LE, the Criminal District Attorney builds a case, presents evidence to the Grand Jury for an indictment, and presents the prosecution’s case in the alleged perpetrator’s trial in Criminal Court.
  • If the alleged perpetrator is found guilty of one or more crimes against a child or an adult, depending on the sentencing of the perpetrator, 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). The nonoffending parent and children are able to remain in the family home, rather than become revictimized with homelessness.

 

10. Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes

  • Replace “foster home” and “foster care home” with “Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home” and redefine as temporary comprehensive child-trauma- informed physical and mental health recovery care for the child crime victim, with oversight by the Hospital.
  • Concern: “Disagree. My understanding is that research does not support the use of congregate care and that a family foster home is best for a child. A baby that is born at a hospital who has been removed from their parent due to drug use (occurs daily in Oregon) would go to a TTRC?” Response: The description of a TTRC appears to have been incomplete and misleading. This Redesign does NOT propose congregate nor institutional care, which has been used for overflows in the foster care system. A TTRC is a family home where the caregiver has been vetted, trained, and certified for the care of either kin only (a family member or close friend) or an unrelated child crime victim. This is similar to the 24/7 caregiver training for those who will only care for their relatives or kin vs. those who will care for any unrelated person. The TTRC takes in one child crime victim (or multiple child crime victims from the same family), is closely aligned with hospital outreach staff, and provides physical, emotional, and mental health care to the child crime victim(s). To answer your question: A baby who is born at a hospital and has been removed from their parent due to drug use will be taken by ambulance to a relief nursery, such as through the Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries, as is done currently. Relief nurseries are a type of TTRC for infants, and vary only in the number of infants who can be accommodated in one home. A TTRC is a compassionate, health-supporting, safe, and caring home where the child crime victim learns their own personal value and worth and gains a healthier worldview than what they experienced at home, so the child becomes stronger and builds their self-esteem and self-confidence. Some TTRC caregivers may choose to adopt or become a guardian to the recovering child crime victim, if returning the child to the family is not advised.
  • Whenever possible, kin of the original child crime victim(s) are asked to become Temporary Therapeutic Respite Caregivers, and are provided with Hospital staff support as needed to ensure the safety and recovery of the child crime victim(s) from the same LE Case No.
  • The TTRC Caregiver and the CASA visit the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., in the Hospital.
  • Hospital aligns with the fully vetted and trained Caregiver(s) at the selected Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home (TTRC), 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 reimbursement is provided to the TTRC Caregivers by the state plus federal funding, which has been placed in the original child crime victim’s federal account for necessary health services and treatments for all crime victims and unattended children 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 TTRC.

 

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  • The TTRC Caregiver ensures that the original child crime victim, and other child crime victims from the same LE Case No. in the TTRC 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 victim(s) continue to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally from their trauma.
  • 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 (medical transport), to the selected Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home, where the TTRC Caregiver and the CASA await to welcome the child(ren).
  • The TTRC Caregiver reports on the status of the original child crime victim, and any other child crime victims from the same LE Case No., daily. The Caregiver informs the CASA of the status of each child crime victim regularly.
  • Concern: “I am not sure you realize that not every city/county in every state has a CASA chapter or that there would be enough CASAs to fill the role you are proposing.” Response: There are currently not enough CASAs for every child in foster care to have a CASA. An important part of the Redesigned Child Welfare System is the involvement of the community as partners, including volunteering as CASAs, becoming TTRC caregivers, and many other support services that provide the assistance needed in every aspect of the Redesigned Child Welfare System. It is hoped and expected that, with the redesign of the Child Welfare System to remove the bias, accusations of fraud and corruption, and stigma associated with the current CWS, more people would be willing to volunteer to help support the children, who have become lost amid the negative press about the System.
  • 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.
  • Concern: “1) Again, I do not think transporting by ambulance is a good idea, 2) Perhaps you could call them Safe Homes instead of TTRC.” Response: Hopefully, most of the ambulance transportation concerns have been addressed in previous responses above. One additional note: The intent of “ambulance transportation” in this situation is the medical transport of a hospital patient to a rehabilitation facility; the patient is not expected to get to the rehab facility on their own. “Safe Homes” is a great term – it has a warm, comforting, friendly, and safe feel about it. However, the term can also apply to the child’s own home once it is “made safe,” a relative’s home without CPS involvement, or a day-center type home where the child can receive support and love as they build their own self-esteem and self-value. However, the emphasis of the TTRC concept is on “therapeutic respite care,” which is envisioned as an extension of the hospital in an individualized setting for the rehabilitation and recovery of a traumatized child crime victim. The hospital is the place where people heal from wounds and injuries; it is also the place where the mental health aspects of the child’s trauma are identified, recognized, and started being treated. A child crime victim has been hurt and traumatized by people who are supposed to protect them. That hurt and trauma affects not only the child’s physical body injuries but also the child’s mind and brain, particularly in children up to 7 years old when the brain is formulating its worldview and sense of self. It has been argued that the primary reason so many children in foster care have behavioral and mental health issues is because the initial trauma they received was never fully addressed both physically and mentally. A young child’s worldview and lack of self-value continue throughout their life, with one self-fulfilling prophecy after another merely providing fuel to the hard-wired belief that they have no value and/or were born bad. The Redesigned Child Welfare System has at its core, the intent to heal the whole child crime victim as soon as possible and as thoroughly as possible – to give the child crime victim a chance to break free of their violent worldview. Continuation of mental healthcare and physical healthcare following the hospital is critical to the healing of the whole child. The post-hospital respite care place must provide therapeutic care for the recovering child crime victim. Looking for a shorter name for that place – a place of safety and health, love and nurturing, and physical and mental healing.

 

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  • Concern: “3) I’m not sure what you mean by hospital personnel visiting the TTRC. Would they be the same hospital personnel they saw at the hospital or different personnel? Are these trauma-informed doctors? Nurses? ETC.? Please specify.” Response: Caregivers operating a TTRC, particularly family or kin caregivers which are preferred, often do not have all the medical skills needed for the recovering child crime victim. Most of the “hospital personnel” in this case would be visiting nurses and child-trauma-informed therapists. Consistency in the nurses and therapists is critical to the recovering child crime victim’s sense of safety and a consistent worldview while in the TTRC. The caregiver provides a loving home, food, shelter, learning and other activities, and nurturing. The caregiver also provides transportation to doctor, dental, physical therapy, and other appointments the child needs. The TTRC caregiver is federally reimbursed for their expenses (to a federal limit) on behalf of the child crime victim.

 

11. 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 – and possibly may adopt or become a guardian for the child crime victim if the child is unable to return home.

 

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12. Federal Direct Funding Disbursement Changes

The “Child and Family Services System” agencies which receive regular grant funding are:

  • Law Enforcement’s Child Crime Victims Unit (or equivalent percentage of officers investigating child crime victims in jurisdictions less than 100,000 residents)
  • 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 implementing preventive action to stop child assault and criminal neglect based on the data analysis.

 

13. Federal Disbursements to Child Crime Victim’s Federal Account

The following reimbursement federal funding applies to child crime victims of assault/battery, rape/incest, criminal neglect, etc. whom Law Enforcement removed from the home, transported via ambulance to a Hospital for evaluation and treatment, and then, as appropriate, transferred to a Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home for rehabilitation and recovery.

  • All federal grant funding for a child crime victim of assault/battery, rape/incest, criminal neglect, etc. is applied to the child crime victim’s federal account, not the state’s account.
  • Hospitals, ambulance services, and Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes are reimbursed from the child crime victim’s federal account for the child crime victim’s care, plus the care and treatment of other child crime victims, adult crime victims, and unattended children reported under the same Law Enforcement Case Number.

 

14. Adoptions, Guardianships, etc.

  • Much more research, analysis, and proposals are needed to recommend what the post-Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home options are for child crime victims who are not being reunited with the family.
  • One of the “Subject Matter Expert Teams” being assigned for each aspect of the proposed Redesigned Child Welfare System will provide Best Practices and recommendations for the redesign and reassignment of adoption, guardianship, and other options.

 

15. Proactive Prevention of Child Assault, Rape/Incest, and Criminal Neglect

  • Federal agencies and states data-mine historical child crime victim 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.
  • Each state’s Human Services department and the corresponding federal agencies become proactive to prevent crimes against children, and no longer merely reactive to rescue and heal child crime victims.
  • A proactive unit (usually outside the Child and Family Services System) addresses prevention of crimes against children through social media and print campaigns, brochures, flyers, TV and radio ads, flyers and talks in the schools, everywhere, to change the family dynamics and stop crimes against child before it starts.
  • Each state’s 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).

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16. Federal Level Changes

  • Replace “foster home” and “foster care home” with “Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home” and redefine as a temporary rehabilitation and recovery care home or day center for the child victims of violence or criminal neglect, with trained and vetted Caregivers providing additional nurturing and support for the recovering child crime victim.
  • Change the structure from a “Child Welfare System” to a comprehensive “Child and Family Support System” that is no longer a single-agency silo, but a cooperative of state agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and volunteers providing healthcare services for the child crime victims plus services and support for the families.
  • Change legislation, laws, regulations, etc. to set guidelines and encourage the formation of alliances with the communities and other agencies.
  • Change legislation, laws, regulations, etc. to remove “bounties” on specific action taken by Human Services staff (e.g., remove funding based solely on the completion of a single federally-mandated task – such as funding for every child removed from the home, placed in foster care, and adopted; or funding for those children that are considered being removed from the home but are kept at home with a “family plan”).
  • Provide guidelines for states, such as recommended procedures, programs, etc., but do not withhold or reduce child crime victim rehabilitation funding if a state chooses an implementation that is a Best Practice for the children and families within that state. Every state is unique. Allow every state to determine what works best for the children and families in that state – while maintaining federal oversight to ensure that fraud, corruption, and/or increase in child crime victims or child murders are not introduced.
  • Change legislation, laws, regulations, etc. to improve procedures and communication within all parts of the comprehensive federal-state-community “Child and Family Support System.”
  • Concern: “How are you reconciling this proposal with that of the Family First Prevention Services Act?” Response: The conflict of interest introduced by the Family First Prevention Services Act and other federal Acts before and after it is one of the major drivers for the Redesigned Child Welfare System. Family First says that CPS should keep the family together, with the primary focus on “Prevention Services: In-Home Parenting Skills, Mental Health, Substance Abuse,” etc. The Family First philosophy reflects a: “Growing belief and evidence that children do best when living safely with their family or with close friends or relatives; and the realization that far too many children are unnecessarily placed in non-family settings.” After decades of federal funding based solely on the number of children placed in foster care, the number of children adopted, and extra funding for adopting children with mental or behavioral issues, federal policy through the Family First and other Federal Acts has swung the pendulum in the opposite direction: “keep the family together.” Thus, the conflict of interest for CPS Caseworkers is: do I remove a child crime victim from the home, or do I provide family services in the hope that the child is not hurt further? This conflict of interest is placing an enormous weight on CPS Caseworkers who care about the children as well as the family – what if they make a wrong decision? What if they can’t provide the evidence the feds need to prove that the child was properly removed from the home, so CPS is not funded for that child? What if they leave the child with the family and provide family services which are federally funded, but the child dies at the hands of their parent(s)? Perhaps these life-or-death decisions are related to the massive turnover among CPS Caseworkers. Perhaps some CPS Caseworkers become numb to the children and families and do what will bring in federal funding to keep everything going. By accepting the funding provided by the Family First Act, CPS is bound by the rules of the Family First Act. The Redesigned Child Welfare System specifically addresses this conflict of interest by declaring child abuse as a crime investigated by Law Enforcement, which is not under the purview of the Children’s Bureau and the Family First Act. The CPS Caseworker, freed from the decision about whether to keep the child in the family or not, is able to provide the family services as directed by the Family First Act and paid for by the federal funding from the Children’s Bureau.

 

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17. 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 2019/2020 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.
  • 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 decisions of the past.
  • Perform another external audit and review whether CPS has always contacted Law Enforcement when CPS is going to remove a child from the family. The rule in Yamhill County is for CPS to ALWAYS take Law Enforcement with them for removal of a child from the family. An audit of every 2019/2020 case where a child has been removed from the family is needed to determine if Law Enforcement was involved in every child removal throughout Oregon.
  • 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 Services (CFS) in support of the family.
  • Form and maintain community alliances to help with the family support areas.

 

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  • Remove the stigma and fear around the old Child Protective Services with the redesign of the Child and Family Services System approach.

 

18. 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 Services System (CFSS) for racial or social bias, personal agendas, or preferential or prejudiced 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.

 

19. Form Alliances with the Community

  • In every city and county throughout the Pilot State, 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

 

Impacts of Implementation of the Child Welfare System Redesign

Concerns have been expressed about the consequences and impact of the Child Welfare System Redesign placement of additional responsibility and burden on law enforcement, hospitals, criminal courts, CASAs, and changes to legislation, rules, and regulations. Some, but by no means all, of the concerns arise from the impact of the COVID epidemic on hospitals and the impact of recent racially-biased criminal acts by law enforcement.

Response: CPS: First, the Child Welfare System Redesign addresses the current burden and impact of violence against children on CPS (Child Protective Services) Caseworkers, who are often assigned twice the caseload that is expected to be handled by the Caseworker, given opposing goals of retaining the family structure and protecting the child from assault, and expected to assume all aspects of “child welfare” within the single agency. CPS increases staff due to the caseloads and replacements for caseworkers who are burned out or frustrated by the system. The Child Welfare System Redesign reduces the amount and type of work expected of the Family Outreach Services (FOS) Caseworker, by sharing the workload with other agencies that have the expertise, training, and experience to handle their particular aspect of the “child welfare” sequence. Current federal funding to the single CPS agency, foster care families, and adoption services will be distributed to Law Enforcement, Hospitals, Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes and Day Centers (foster care replacement), Family Services, and adoptions/guardianships, etc.

 

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Law Enforcement: CPS, a social services agency, was given law enforcement responsibility as part of the separate, isolated Child Welfare System that is housed in the Department of Human Services. This has resulted in unequal treatment of child crime victims, depending on whether the alleged perpetrator is a parent/caretaker or a non-family member. Rather than punish the child crime victim of parental/caretaker assault or criminal neglect by leaving the child in the family to receive additional violence, Law Enforcement is the defined agency to handle reports of criminal assault, rape/incest, and criminal neglect. Yes, this increases the workload and the responsibility on Law Enforcement, and federal funding is provided to Law Enforcement according to the percentage of LE personnel assigned to cases which involve child crime victims, regardless of the relation of the alleged perpetrator to the victim.

Hospitals: In this time of COVID epidemics crowding and overflowing all hospitals throughout the U.S., it is hard to remember what the impact of non-epidemic times had on hospitals. Child crime victims need immediate physical and mental healthcare to reduce the life-long impacts of malfunctioning brains and terrifying worldviews. The Hospital should always be the first stop for a child crime victim after removal from the home. Although it could be rationalized that these child crime victims are part of the total number of patients that should be entering hospitals every day, the increased workload and responsibility of Hospitals for the care and treatment of child crime victims receives federal reimbursement for every child crime victim (and all other crime victims and unattended children under the same Law Enforcement Case Number) Law Enforcement sent to the Hospital.

Criminal Courts: It has been argued that Criminal Courts are overburdened already with huge caseloads, all requiring “due process of law.” Adding potentially hundreds of thousands of child crime victim cases to the Criminal Courts may require creation of specialized Child Criminal Courts. Continued discussions with judges, lawyers, federal and state agencies, and others are needed to formalize the Criminal Courts and additional funding under the Child Welfare System Redesign. Child abuse is a crime and should be heard in Criminal Court, not Family or Juvenile Courts which hear only civil cases.

CASAs: There are currently not enough CASAs (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) to provide one CASA for every child in foster care, leaving most foster care children without an advocate or a voice. The expectation is that there will be less of an impact on CASAs because fewer children will be unnecessarily removed from their family and placed in foster care for the federal payment CPS receives. Law Enforcement sends child crime victims, via ambulance, to the nearest child-trauma-informed Hospital for immediate medical and mental healthcare. From a preliminary report by LE to the Criminal District Attorney, a CASA is assigned to the child crime victim while the victim is being treated at the Hospital. It is expected that a redesigned Child Welfare System will encourage more people to volunteer as CASAs and as Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home caregivers. Discussions with CASAs will expand on the important role of CASA in the Redesigned Child Welfare System.

 

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Legislation: The Child Welfare System has been broken for decades. Although there have been attempts to “fix” the Child Welfare System with band-aids, no real change can take place in the Child Welfare System until child abuse/neglect and domestic violence are treated as the horrendous crimes they are. Laws still have the attitude that the child is the property of their parent(s), and only in the most egregious cases will the law step in and override the rights of the family. This archaic “feudal” concept must be removed from all laws, statutes, etc. Yes, a significant number of laws, statutes, rules, etc. need to be changed to provide the platform for the redesigned Child Welfare System proposed in this Business Plan. The children currently suffering alone in violent homes deserve nothing less than the full effort of all State Legislators and all U.S. Congressional members to create the legislation, statutes, laws, rules, etc. needed to redesign the Child Welfare System.

 

3.3. Best Practices Identification

Best Practice Model: Tennessee
Tennessee has a comprehensive CDR [child death review] program based in their state health department, with multidisciplinary county teams reviewing all preventable deaths. They also have a review system called Children’s Services Systems Analysis, administered by the Department of Children’s Services (DCS). This model has four regional teams conducting analyses of deaths of children in state custody or with a DCS case within 3 years from the death, or whose death is substantiated for abuse or neglect. They also review some serious injuries from abuse or neglect. The process uses systems analysts to construct a case file and conduct the reviews. They are assisted when necessary by a team of nurse consultants. Following the systems analysis, a state Safety Action group discusses findings with leadership and does a formal hand-over to the state quality improvement office. Tennessee uses a Safe Systems Improvement Tool to summarize findings. This SSIT is now in use in other states as well.” ¹⁹ [bolding added for emphasis – NOTE: recommend the addition of children with “child abuse or neglect” reports but were excluded from assessment]

“In addition to maltreatment review models, many states conduct reviews of other types of deaths. These include fetal and infant mortality reviews, maternal mortality reviews, overdose, suicide and domestic violence reviews, and reviews of deaths of vulnerable adults. It can be helpful to work to improve coordination and collaboration across these systems in your state or community.”²⁰ [bolding added for emphasis]

¹⁹ “Critical Incident Review Team Final Report, May 13, 2020,” Oregon Dept. of Human Services, PDF
²⁰ Ibid.

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Recommendations:

Action Step 3.3.1: Assign a half-time business systems analyst to data-mine every monthly and annual report from the state’s Child Welfare System and every post-mortem for indicators and recommendations for proactive steps to reduce – and eventually eliminate – child physical and sexual violence, criminal neglect, and fatalities. Federal funding for 1/2 FTE would be allocated from Child and Family Services Grants.

Action Step 3.3.2: Assign a half-time media specialist to review the business system analyst’s recommendations for proactive steps to reduce – and eventually eliminate – child physical and sexual violence, criminal neglect, and fatalities through effective proactive media campaigns, PSAs (public service announcements), and other methods. Federal funding for 1/2 FTE would be allocated from Child and Family Services Grants.

Action Step 3.3.3: Explore implementing – or recommending implementation of – an enhanced version of the Safe Systems Improvement Tool (SSIT) developed by Tennessee – or a similar Best Practice tool.

 

Best Practice: Fatality Reviews

“A number of criteria, when present, ensure a quality team discussion as well as ensure that the reviews move from discussion to action. These criteria were generated by the national thought leaders based on practices from the field. [Bolding added for emphasis and for comments]
• Reviews should be family-centered and child-focused, while at the same time presenting learning opportunities for agencies. [Recommend reverse “child-focused and family-centered”; never lose focus on the child crime victim]
• Reviews should include the telling of the child’s life story—not just the death event—and include information from a broad ecological perspective.
• Reviews should be objective, forward-thinking, and not punitive towards agencies. [However, reviews can be used to improve agency practices, manuals, and training]
• When possible, the facilitator of reviews should be independent from an involved agency.
• Reviews should have a multi-systems focus, including broad team membership, case information from many sources, and findings and recommendations that address a broad array of systems.
• Case selection should encompass a broad definition of maltreatment. [Crimes. Also include all types of deaths, including homicide, suicide, accidents, undetermined, etc.]
• Case discussions should be systematic and standardized. [and publicized and result in changes to procedures, documentation, and training]
• The focus of the reviews should be on risk and protective factors, systems issues, recommendations, and plans of action.

 

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