Academic journal article Family Relations

Veteran Parents in Child Protective Services: Theory and Implementation

Academic journal article Family Relations

Veteran Parents in Child Protective Services: Theory and Implementation

Article excerpt

"Veteran parents" (VPs), or parents who have experienced challenges concerning their children's health and then mentor other families through similar situations, are widely used for parent support. This model has been adopted by Child Protective Services (CPS) to increase parent engagement. Here, we expand the theoretical discussion of VPs in CPS to address the unique challenges and implementation issues associated with maltreating families. We contend that this model, as originally evaluated in pediatrics, is compromised within CPS. VP programs in CPS will require the same rigorous investigation as other new programs.

Key Words: child abuse/neglect, child protective services, family stress, parent advocate, parent education and support programs, veteran parent.

Family engagement is a targeted area of interest in the child welfare system (Children's Bureau, n.d.). For several years, attempts have been made to incorporate family engagement principles into Child Protective Services' (CPS) practice (e.g., Crampton, 2007; Levin, 1992). As part of a federal mandate, the Department of Health and Human Services is charged with conducting Child and Family Service Reviews. These reviews explore states' compliance with the child welfare priority outcomes of permanency, safety, and well-being. Although there have been numerous areas of concern arising from the reviews, they have consistently revealed that systematic efforts to engage families are lacking (Children's Bureau). This focus on engagement arises because, if families are not fully engaged with CPS, it is unlikely that the fit between service plans and the family's need will be optimal, and families will not fully benefit from the range of available services. Further, if those factors that initially attracted CPS intervention are not addressed, it is likely that families will experience subsequent abuse or neglect (DePanfilis & Zuravin, 2002). In fact, DePanfilis and Zuravin found that the chance of subsequent abuse was reduced by a third when families participated in CPS mandated services, even if the level of family engagement or appropriateness of services was not identified.

Recent work by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (2002) recognizes that parents should be involved in all steps of the service planning process and be aware of all decisions affecting their families. Engagement has also been a major focus of the federal Child and Family Service Reviews, because past work has shown that families involved with CPS can be very difficult to engage using conventional casework methods (Matter, Palmer, & Manji, 2006; Palmer, Matter, & Manji, 2006). In fact, 23 states have included a major family engagement component to their Program Improvement Plan (Munson & Fruendlich, 2008). Additionally, recent research in family preservation (Littell, 2001) suggests that families that are engaged in determining their treatment/case plan are more likely to be compliant, which, in turn, is related to reductions in future child maltreatment. Thus, engaging families in CPS may be an effective way to reduce maltreatment.

One emerging method of family engagement that has been implemented across the country is the "veteran parent" (VP) model. In the pediatric literature, a VP is someone who has negotiated a stressful event with their child (e.g., serious illness or injury) and now volunteers to mentor and support a parent whose child has a similar diagnosis or problem (e.g., Ireys, Chernoff, Stein, De Vet, & Silver, 2001). Although relatively novel for child welfare, the VP model pairs parents who have been through a CPS investigation/intervention and assigns them to work with a parent entering the system. VP programs have been implemented throughout the country in both foster care (e.g., New York, NY, Santa Clara County, CA) and CPS (e.g., Monroe County, NY). The question remains, however, to what extent VP programs are applicable in the context of CPS. …

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