Pilot Child Welfare System Redesign
Strategic Action Plan
These webpages are a work in progress. They are open to the public to encourage comments, ideas, and improvements.
“A call to a child abuse hotline is as much a request for help as a call to 911.”
That one sentence defines the intent of this Strategic Action Plan. The intent is neither punitive nor accusatory. The intent is a call to action.
The intent is not to criticize, but to provide alternatives, ideas, and recommendations that could make a difference in the child’s life.
Focus on the Child:
Inadequate or incorrect mental health treatment of children who have been abused or neglected results in adults facing life-long mental health issues and increased life challenges through no fault of their own. Early child trauma treatment must become a standard part of CWS. Focus on the Child.
It is time for action. It is time to redesign the Child Welfare System.
That is the purpose of this Strategic Action Plan.
Outline of Major Changes to the Child Welfare System
Major Drivers for Change:
- Why do children abused out of the home get law enforcement intervention and arrests of the perpetrators, while children abused at home are either left there with the case closed, or removed to an often abusive foster care system, with no penalties for the perpetrators?
- Why are only 10% of all suspected child abuse reports acted upon?
- Why are abused or neglected children removed from their family (or are left with the family) but not given appropriate medical and mental health treatment for their trauma?
- Why do domestic violence victims and children need to leave their home, further victimizing them with homelessness? Why isn’t the perpetrator arrested for assault and battery?
- Why is there no “prevention” of child abuse and neglect, only “reaction”?
List of Major Child Welfare System Redesign Changes
in Every State and at the Federal Level:
Child Protective Services (CPS)
- Redefine CPS’s function as Family Services
- In-Home Services for families becomes part of the Health and Human Services department to provide existing services (like TANF, food stamps, housing support, and other services) as well as new services to build the family up to become an independent and safe family for their children
- Community alliances are formed to help with the family support functions
Redefine Child Abuse Terms
- Definitions of child abuse terms are converted to criminal justice terms and subject to the same penalties as the criminal justice terms:
- child abuse à assault of a minor, battery of a minor, assault and battery of a minor; investigate whether “of a minor” is needed in the definitions
- child sex abuse à rape, incest, sexual assault of a minor; investigate whether “of a minor” is needed in the definitions
- child maltreatment à assault of a minor, battery of a minor, assault and battery of a minor, rape, incest, sexual assault of a minor; investigate whether “of a minor” is needed in the definitions
- neglect à criminal neglect, starvation, medical neglect
- domestic violence à aggravated assault and battery and child endangerment
- These are Crimes not Family Matters
Calls Regarding Suspected Child Abuse and/or Neglect
- All calls go 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 assault, battery, rape/incest, sexual assault, criminal neglect of a child go to 911
Law Enforcement’s Role in Child Abuse and Neglect
- All criminal actions towards children are treated the same whether perpetrated by family or by a stranger
- Law enforcement may choose to create a child and family investigation unit similar to SVU (Special/Sexual Victims Unit)
- Law enforcement responds to ALL calls of violence toward, or neglect of, a child
- Family Services (formerly CPS) arrives immediately afterwards to support the family
- Family abuser:
- according to the severity of the violence, law enforcement can arrest the perpetrator and the family stays at home
- no longer is the victim revictimized by having to leave the home with their children to avoid the perpetrator
- the perpetrator is removed, arrested, and gives up all rights to the family home (similar to DUI resulting in surrendering their car)
- Family Services immediately brings in all current and new DHS programs and services to support the family of a battered child
- Community alliances are formed to help Family Services
Federal Grant Funding
- All federal grant funding goes to the child victim’s account, not the state’s account
- Funds are reviewed, approved, and allocated for medical and mental health help for the child (which may include family services to make the home safe for the child) from the child’s account
When a Child Can Be Removed From the Home
- If the child is severely injured or neglected
- If the child is of sufficient age to decide AND asks to be removed from the home
- Following law enforcement action, if there are no adult parents/caretakers remaining in the home
- Law enforcement ensures the child is taken, by ambulance if necessary, to the local hospital for a full medical examination and evaluation as well as a full mental health evaluation
Hospital’s Role in Child Abuse and Neglect
- Hospitals are trained to step up and take a more active role in the identification of mental health as well as physical injuries to the child
- Hospitals take responsibility for the full recovery of the child
- The child is no longer left in the family for “care” nor removed to a foster home
Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes
- Hospital then aligns with a Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home (no more foster homes), with the full instructions and prescriptions from the hospital, doctor, and psychiatrist/therapist for therapeutic care of the child
- Community alliances are formed to help with the child’s recovery
- Who decides when/if it is safe for a child to return home? Combination:
- (1) Child’s interest/intent to return home (age-based); and
- (2) Family’s success in changing behaviors and having new tools to provide a safe home for the child to return; and
- (3) Hospitals conduct a complete medical and mental health evaluation to ensure the child has recovered from physical injuries and has received mental health therapy that strengthens the child’s ability to identify unwanted behavior plus the tools to report that unwanted behavior to the police
- For any child 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 in ALL decisions made “for” the child; the child remains at the center
- If the child 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
Proactive Prevention of Child Abuse and 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 children
- DHS and the federal agencies become proactive, not merely reactive
- Proactive unit takes prevention of child abuse through social media and print campaigns, brochures, flyers, TV and radio ads, in the schools, everywhere, to change the family dynamic
Form an Alliance with the Community
- In every city, county, and state, involve the local community, nonprofits, and individual volunteers in an alliance to support battered children and their families
- Ensure checks and balances are in place to eliminate fraud and corruption
- “It takes a village to raise a child.” – African proverb.
- Change “soft” definitions pf child abuse to criminal terms of assault and battery
- Replace “foster home” and “foster care home” with “Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home” and redefine as a temporary recovery care for the child victim of violence
- Change funding pattern to pay child’s account, not the state, with appropriate checks and balances to avoid fraud and corruption
- Change structure from a “Child Welfare System” to a comprehensive “Child and Family Support System” that is no longer a silo ripe for fraud and corruption
- Change legislation, laws, regulations, etc. to form alliances with the communities and 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”
- Is there state-level oversight for hospitals or is it only for the licensing? How will states encourage and/or enforce training and compliance of hospitals with their increased role in child safety and recovery from violence?
- Is there state-level oversight for law enforcement? Are there connected databases and reporting systems within the state? Among states? How will states encourage and/or enforce training and compliance of multi-levels of law enforcement agencies with their increased role in child safety and recovery from violence?
- What state agency provides certification and compliance for the new Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes throughout the state? What agency provides training of Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home staff and owners?
Need for a Redesigned Child Welfare System
As an entity, the current Child Welfare System is no longer a viable single approach to child safety. Its isolation from oversight by other agencies, such as law enforcement and even other departments within Human Services, provides the opportunity for the alleged fraud and corruption charged against the CWS in most, if not all, states. In addition, CWS is in the “Human Services” departments in most states. “Human Services” include TANF, food stamps, vouchers, etc. to help families in need. CWS has taken on a law enforcement role, which is very much outside the Human Services programs. CWS has allegedly demonstrated that the families in need are punished for their low socioeconomic status by the removal of their child(ren) and the forced, or government-sanctioned, termination of their parental rights, reportedly to benefit from the federal funding for foster care and adoptions.
The redesigned Child and Family Support System is a partnership among multiple connected systems, each coming from their strengths. Chapter 5 displays a sample flow through the new Child and Family Support System.
Chapter 6 defines the new role provided by Federal oversight and funding of Child and Family Services. Federal Agencies will no longer offer “bounties” on foster care or adoptions; there will be no incentives to remove children from their families.
Chapter 7 defines the expanded role for Law Enforcement in the Child and Family Protection portion of the Child and Family Services System. Law Enforcement now responds not only to cases of child assault and battery, rape, sexual assault, and criminal neglect by perpetrators outside the family home, but Law Enforcement also responds to cases of child abuse and neglect within the home.
Chapter 8 defines the new, reduced and greatly limited redesign of the former “Child Protective Services” into “Family Services.” Family Services has no law enforcement capability, does not determine the fate of children in the family home, and only provides programs and services to support families in need as well as physical and mental health services to battered and criminally neglected children.
Chapter 9 defines the expanded role of hospitals for the severely battered and neglected children removed from their families due to their need for medical and mental health care. Hospitals partner with Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes to provide temporary care to the child for their recovery from their injuries and trauma. In effect, Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes become a reverse Ronald McDonald House, where the child stays in the Respite Care Home and the family has supervised visits.
Chapter 10 outlines the replacement of the broken foster care system with the cooperative effort between Hospitals and Therapeutic Respite Care Homes to provide the healing the child needs in all areas: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This chapter is necessarily brief and in outline form, because Former Fosters, Foster Graduates, and others who have been through the foster care system are best able to design the details of the Therapeutic Respite Care Homes and the after-respite options (e.g., reunification with their family, adoption, guardianship, emancipation, etc.). New options following Respite Care may be created by those who have experienced the foster care system.
 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.
To submit questions or comments, please email Jo@Jo-Calk.com. I welcome all input, ideas, and suggestions. Thank you for caring for children.