Written By Robert Griffith | Mr. Griffith's Class | KHS Personal Finance 2012
Child Protective Services (CPS) is considered a "service agency", and are there purely for the family's well being. It is the court that takes a child into protective custody, the actions that CPS takes are only for information that the court can use. Their secondary role (aside from being an information source) is to work with a family to keep the family together, provide them with services, etc. However, if the family has received assistance and is still unable to protect and take care of their child, they must inform the court, beginning the process that places the child into foster care. Also, CPS must pay for every child that is taken into protective custody. Generally, they are bombarded with comments such as “You took my baby to adopt him out” or “You took my child so that you can get more funding.”, but really, they are spending money to help you and your children.
Before CPS can make any real contact with the family, they must go through somewhat of a diagnosis process. They use a type of software called a "Structured Decision Making (SDM) computer assessment tool", where they input a lot of the client’s information, family history, etc. At the end of the process, the computer tells you what course of action should be taken. However, as with any powerful tool like this, it can easily be influenced by the operator. For example, a social worker could still use his/her own biases of drug addiction, sexual abusers, etc. to make the computer lean more towards a decision of their choice.
To prevent this when using the program, as well as biases when conversing with the family, social workers must learn to trust their gut when interviewing people and determining safety and risk issues (Instincts over opinions). After interviewing a CPS social worker, he stated that (to prevent biases of one individual), "we have staffings wherein several social workers, supervisors, the manager, etc. get together and discuss the case and come to a unilateral decision. This takes the burden and responsibility of decision making off of the shoulders of the individual and places them on the group." Lastly, there are laws and handbooks to help guide their decisions. These laws are typically written in a format such as: "If the parent did [This], then do [This]"
After the diagnosis process has ended, CPS can begin the intervention process. They can choose whether to conduct interventions with with family investigative stage, or those who transition into cases. During the investigation phase, they have a lot of in-home interviews with the family, hire agencies to work one-on-one with them, etc. If the case is taken to court, CPS arranges for a "Family Team Meeting"where they give a final attempt at reinforcing the family. They "assemble the family’s relatives, friends, supporting agencies, etc. to sit down and try to solve the family’s issues and build a support network for the family." Some of these provide services where they take the money that would have been used for foster care, leave the child at home, and put up a lot of services (such as drug therapy, counseling, etc.) to support the family.
When court hearings are being arranged, CPS must maintain the "Fair trial" concept even to the most abusive of families. In an interview, the CPS worker stated: "Oddly enough, court hearings timelines are the same for someone who doesn’t clean their house as they are with a parent who brutally beats their baby. It’s a state mandate that we have an initial detention hearing (like an arraignment in criminal court); a jurisdiction hearing (like a trial); a disposition hearing (like a sentencing hearing); and then hearings a minimum of every six months (like parole hearings)."
There are many different time spans for reunification as well. For a group of siblings when at least one of them is under 3 years old, the family has a “maximum” time of 12 months to reunify. If all of the kids are over 3 years of age, then the parents get up to 18 months to reunify. However, there is no minimum amount of time in the law, so if a parent isn't trying to get their child back, CPS may bring case back to court and cut them off early. However, there are also ways to extend their time in certain circumstances. For example, the parent may have been in a rehabilitation center the day of trial, causing it to be prolonged, etc. However, there are also what is called “bypass” circumstances where the parent isn’t even given the opportunity to get their child back. There are 15 specific legal reasons for this such as severe physical abuse, etc.
Resources (Laws, Policies, Drug Diagnostics Charts, etc.)
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