Academic journal article Child Welfare

Risk Management in Child Protective Services: A Balanced Scorecard Approach

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Risk Management in Child Protective Services: A Balanced Scorecard Approach

Article excerpt

Public Child Protective Services (CPS) in the United Sates has been a favorite whipping boy of politicians, child advocacy groups, the media, and many in the general public. Horrific cases of child abduction, rape, starvation, or murder in Florida, New York, or Washington, D.C. appear to fade from media coverage only to be replaced by seemingly even more gruesome cases from New Jersey, Illinois, Utah, or Maryland. Especially upsetting to the public are the children who have been killed or severely harmed while they and their families have been under CPS supervision-such cases are perceived as both scandalous and outrageous (Price, 2005; Gainsborough, 2010).

The social outrage provoked by CPS performance has led to an almost uninterrupted call for reform in policies, case practice, and/or administration (Schorr, 2000; Lindsay, 2004). These reform efforts have taken the form of federal and state legislation (Lindsay, 2004; Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2011) and judicial interventions like consent decrees and injunctions (Lowry, 1998; Noonan et al., 2009). CPS has experimented with a variety of administrative reforms, some of these mandated by legislation, statute, or court order and others instituted voluntarily. It is useful to clarify such reforms at management into three broad categories: (1) improved traditional, (2) limited function, and (3) privatized.

An examination of the class action suits filed against CPS in 35 states and resulting consent decrees indicates that in a majority of these states, calls for restructuring have been tantamount to demands for integrated investigation and services components that function at the highest level possible. In New Jersey, Utah, Alabama, and the District of Columbia, for example, states have been pressed to implement what has been termed variously as the social work practice model, the problemsolving model or the diagnostician approach (Golden, 2009; Jagannathan and Camasso, 2011; Noonan et al., 2009). The emphasis is placed on careful triage backed by a rigorous quality service system (QSS), which, in turn, is based on explicit standards for child status and system performance and continuous case review.

Limited function models come in two forms-one advocates stripping CPS of its service function, the other takes away investigation. Pelton (1989), for example, believes CPS should give up investigation completely so that the agency can concentrate on providing services to poor families on a voluntary basis. For Pelton, "discovery, investigation and judgment of individual culpability and wrongdoing should have provenance in law enforcement and the courts" (p. 158). Lindsay (2004) and Wulczyn and colleagues (2005) also recommend that law enforcement assume responsibility for CPS investigation functions but limit that role to serious abuse cases where intentional harm is alleged or suspected.

Some, but certainly not all, of the impetus for a CPS grounded in social services delivery emanates from legislation like the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (AACWA) of 1980 and from a vibrant Family Preservation movement (Cameron and Vanderwoerd, 1997; Pecora et al., 2000). Family Preservation resonates well with both the American ethos of encouraging strong families and social work ideals of forging effective helping relationships through intensive expenditures of effort.

Instead of discarding investigative functions, Waldfogel (1998) is among a group of reformers who call for discarding family service components. She supports a CPS that works closely with law enforcement on the toughest cases of child maltreatment while referring less severe cases to community and social services agencies. Waldfogel asserts that this approach would solve the five principal problems of the current CPS system, i.e., overinclusion, capacity, underinclusion, inadequate services, and inappropriate services. Another proponent of this investigation or extreme case/safety model is the Vera Institute of Justice. …

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