Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Community Partnership for Protecting Children?

  • Community Partnerships for Protecting Children is an approach that neighborhoods, towns, cities, and states can adopt to improve how children are protected from maltreatment.
  • It aims to blend the work and expertise of professionals and community members to bolster supports for vulnerable families and children.
  • Community partnerships is not a program - rather, it is a way of working with families that helps services be more inviting, needs-based, accessible, and relevant.
  • It incorporates prevention strategies as well as those needed to address maltreatment, once identified.

Why are Community Partnerships Necessary?

This new approach to keeping children safe is needed because:

  • Child safety is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week concern. The Child Protective Services agency can't do it alone.
  • Services that can help strengthen families need to be made available earlier, before a crisis occurs.
  • Families are more likely to turn to people they know for help rather than to the system.

How does the partnership work?

The community partnership approach is based on four fundamental principles:

  • Services for vulnerable families should be individualized to address each child's and each family's specific needs. This is most often accomplished through the Family Team Meeting, during which the family, their own support systems, Child Protective Services and representatives of the more formal systems involved, such as schools, counselors, and family support organizations come together to develop a mutually agreed upon plan of action to keep the children safe.
  • Formal and informal supports and services should be available to families through a neighborhood- and community-based network. The neighborhood network typically involves domestic violence services, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and emergency economic assistance, among others. The network functions as the community?s ?eyes and ears? for early identification and outreach to families who need help. Community residents are enlisted to serve as mentors to new parents, tutors to children and to offer help to neighbors, relatives and friends. Each site has one or more "hubs" or family resource center where families can go and feel welcome, accessing a variety of services and supports.
  • The public Child Protective Services agency should adapt its policies and practices to support the approach-including providing services to families earlier, before crises occur. The Child Protective Services agency differentiates its response in the initial investigation and assessment process. The agency also intensifies its work to prevent repeat occurrence of abuse/neglect and integrates its services with those of mental health, substance abuse treatment and domestic violence response-providers.
  • Community members, especially parents, should be involved in shaping the strategies and the network of services provided for families, based on the community's own resources, needs, and cultures. Each community partnership has a broadly representative group of community members who are responsible for program direction. This group sets the partnership?s course of action, adjusts strategies as needed and ensures that the partnership?s work is linked to other relevant activities in the area.

Who can get involved?

The community partnership is made up of a broad base of individuals and organizations in the community who are willing to devote their time, talent, leadership and resources to preventing child abuse and neglect before it occurs.  These collaborators provide a wide range of family services and supports, responding quickly to instances of child abuse and neglect and reducing the re-occurrence of abuse and neglect through effective family interventions. Participation is open to anyone in the community who wants to help. Typical partners include:

  • Families
  • Child Protective Services workers
  • Faith community leaders
  • Public and private human services providers
  • Concerned community members
  • Business leaders
  • Public health services
  • Law enforcement
  • Teachers and other education professionals

How do we know this approach works?

The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago evaluated the impact of community partnerships. To date, we have received both statistical and anecdotal evidence that it is making a difference:

  • Case Assessment and service planning:
    •  ICA/FTM process when implemented correctly and consistently was tied to declines in parental depression and increases in a families overall sense of progress
    •  FTM helped to alter the decision making environment in the family by developing case plans that adhered with the family?s core concerns, providing a pool of formal and informal supports, providing consistent follow up through repeated FTM
  • CPS agency culture and worker satisfaction
    • Consistent training of front line staff improved workers confidence in implementing the reform and contributed to higher job satisfaction and greater staff stability
    • Child Protective Services workers who came together for a discussion on the approach said it helped them better understand families, made them feel better about their jobs, and that they would recommend it to their peers
  • Shared decision making around child protection
    •  ICA practice created a more collaborative decision making process among families, child welfare workers, and other community service providers around case planning
    • Some evidences of a sense of shared decision making at the community level.
  • Perceptions of Child Welfare agencies
    • CPPC leadership and local agency representatives reported that placing child welfare workers in community settings helped reduce the negative perceptions residents had of child welfare workers and improved the ability of child welfare workers to draw on neighborhood resources.

Is there a practical way to introduce the Community Partnership approach to others who may not understand the strategic implementation?

Yes. At the 2008 Community Partnership Conference, Director Gene Gessow shared a series of scenarios that describe Community Parnerships as practical solutions with simple steps and noticable outcomes. You are encouraged to  use these scenarios in your own communties.

What about families where the abuse is really severe? Will this help them?

Ideally, families that need help will be identified before a crisis occurs. When there is a need to remove a child from the home, the partnership works to identify a foster home within the child?s extended family and/or neighborhood, thus making a removal from the home less traumatic for the child.

Who will be accountable if something goes wrong?

Although the community partnership brings in more individuals to help keep children safe, Child Protective Services remains legally responsible for the children under its protection. The community partnership provides the Child Protective Services agency with support from a team of family members, professionals and concerned community members. This is especially important when a child does need to be removed from the home because a team that includes family members can fill the caseworker in on important details about the child (e.g., is he on a medication? Does she use a pacifier? Does he need a special formula or diet?).

This seems like it would take a lot more time and effort than I have to give.

Child Protective Services workers have reported that the community partnership approach does take more time at the beginning.  However it also saves time in the end with increased cooperation from families, better support from other agencies, and more cases safely closed.

I?m concerned about confidentiality issues for the families I work with. It?s against the law to share private information. I don?t think I can participate in this type of project.

Families that participate in Family Team Meetings agree to work with a variety of formal and informal supporters. Because they choose to participate in the process, the law is not being broken. As a general rule, all participants in a Family Team Meeting or any other community partnership activity are expected to respect the family?s privacy and maintain confidentiality outside of the process.

What can I do to create a community partnership in my community?

Start talking to others in your community about the benefits of a community partnership. Show them The Promise of Community Partnerships video and ask them to join you and agree to help you recruit other key people and organizations. Though the partnership will ultimately involve a variety of partners, the following are essential to get started:

  • Neighborhood leaders
  • Representatives from community organizations (such as schools, faith communities, domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, etc.)
  • Management from state and local Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies
  • Supervisors and frontline workers from Child Protective Services and other key partner agencies

There are a variety of resources and lessons learned from existing community partnerships that are available online from The Center for Community Partnerships in Child Welfare. Visit www.cssp.org/center/publication.html.

 

Images of people and children