Pilot CWS-R-SAP – v. 1 Current CWS, 9. Child Protective Services


Pilot Child Welfare System Redesign

Strategic Action Plan


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9. Child Protective Services


Child Protective Services (CPS) is the name of a governmental agency in many states of the United States responsible for providing child protection, which includes responding to reports of child abuse or neglect. … CPS/DCF is a department under a state’s Health and Human Services organization.[1]


U.S. federal laws that govern CPS agencies include:

  • Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
  • Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
  • Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA)
  • Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)*
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
  • 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, and depending on the circumstances 1985.”[2]


* 1997: Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) guides current practice. Shifting the emphasis towards children’s health and safety concerns and away from a policy of reuniting children with their birth parents without regard to prior abusiveness. This law requires counties to provide “reasonable efforts” to preserve or reunify families, but required that states move to terminate parental rights for children who had been in foster care for 15 out of the last 22 months, with several exceptions. [3]


Some of the worst abuses of power by CPS over families have been conducted under the policies of the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Children are removed from a family home, placed in foster care (for which the state receives federal funding), held there for at least 15 months while little to no action is taken to help the family, then terminate the parental rights of the parents, and adopt the children out to another family (for which the state receives federal funding as well). The Family First Act is trying to remedy that abuse of power by the Child Welfare System, by funding attempts by CWS to retain children in the family home.



Impact of Early Childhood Trauma[4]


Historically, society has overlooked the impact of early childhood trauma, perhaps due to misconceptions that very young children do not fully perceive traumatic events, or that they will always “bounce back” from them. In reality, the first few years of life constitute a period during which children are highly sensitive to trauma—more so than during any other time of life.


Early childhood trauma occurs when a young child experiences an event that causes actual harm or poses a serious threat to the child’s emotional and physical well-being. These events range from experiencing abuse and neglect to having a parent with substance abuse issues or being separated from a parent. Trauma is different from regular life stressors because it causes a sense of intense fear, terror, and helplessness that is beyond the normal range for typical experiences. Trauma has been shown to negatively impact early brain development, cognitive development, learning, social-emotional development, the ability to develop secure attachments to others, and physical health. However, each child’s reaction to trauma is unique and depends on the nature of the trauma, characteristics of the child and family, and the overall balance of risk and protective factors in the child’s life. While almost all children experience distress immediately after a traumatic event, most return to their typical functioning over time with supports from parents and other caregivers. Generally, trauma that begins early in life, takes multiple forms, is severe and pervasive, and involves harmful behavior by primary caregivers has been linked to the most serious symptoms of posttraumatic stress and negative child outcomes.



[1] Child Protective Services, Wikipedia, accessed 8/4/2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Child_Protective_Services&oldid=962874206

[2] Ibid.

[3] Child Protective Services, Wikipedia, accessed 8/4/2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Child_Protective_Services&oldid=962874206

[4] Helping Young Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: Policies and Strategies for Early Care and Education, Authors Jessica Dym Bartlett, MSW, PhD Senior Research Scientist Child Welfare/Early Childhood Development Child Trends Sheila Smith, PhD Director, Early Childhood National Center for Children in Poverty Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University Elizabeth Bringewatt, MSW, PhD Research Scientist Child Welfare Child Trends Acknowledgments We are grateful to our reviewers, Elizabeth Jordan, Jason Lang, Robyn Lipkowitz, David Murphey, Cindy Oser, and Kathryn Tout. We also thank the Alliance for Early Success for its support of this work. Copyright Child Trends 2017 | Publication # 2017-19   https://www.ddcf.org/globalassets/17-0428-helping-young-children-who-have-experienced-trauma.pdf


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To submit questions or comments, please email Jo@Jo-Calk.com. I welcome all input, ideas, and suggestions. Thank you for caring for children.


Jo Calk