National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts: Site Visits Report . Background of Reform Efforts


The impetus behind the development of the Utah Practice Model was a class action lawsuit brought against the State during 1993 that alleged Federal constitutional and statutory violations in the operation of Utah's child welfare system. During 1994, a settlement agreement was reached that gave Utah 4 years to cure the violations, at which time the agreement would terminate.

During May 1999, Utah filed its Performance Milestone Plan in response to the settlement agreement. All DCFS regions, local communities, allied agency partners, and advisors from across the State were given an opportunity to submit recommendations through a series of community forums. The principles that were developed as a result of these meetings included the following:

  • Protection: Children have the right to be safe from abuse, neglect, and unnecessary or needless dependency. Swift intervention is necessary when this right is violated;
  • Development: Children and families need consistent nurturing in a healthy environment to achieve their developmental potential;
  • Permanency: All children need and are entitled to enduring relationships that provide a sense of family, stability, and belonging;
  • Cultural Responsiveness: Children and families have the right to be understood within the context of their own family rules, traditions, history and culture;
  • Family Foundation: Children can be assured a better chance for healthy personal growth and development in a safe, permanent home with enduring relationships that provide them with a sense of family, stability and belonging;
  • Partnerships: The entire community shares the responsibility to create an environment that helps families raise children to their fullest potential;
  • Organizational Competence: Committed, qualified, trained and skilled staff, supported by an effectively structured organization, help ensure positive outcomes for children and families; and
  • Professional Competence: Children and families need a relationship with an accepting, concerned, empathic worker who can confront difficult issues and effectively assist individuals during their process toward positive change.

This collaborative process for developing a new model of practice also resulted in the identification of necessary practice skills. These included the following abilities:

  • To engage: Effectively establish a trusting relationship with children, parents, and others for the purpose of jointly accomplishing needed work;
  • To team: Assemble a team around children and families, with a focus on the family's formal and informal supports, to assess and plan;
  • To assess: Determine, with the family, the strengths and needs that must be addressed to resolve the issues that brought the family to the attention of CPS;
  • To plan: With the child and family, use assessment information to create an individualized plan that addresses the family's strengths and needs and provides support for making changes, while evaluating the consequences of lack of improvement; and
  • To intervene: Pursue actions that will decrease risk, provide safety for the child, promote permanence, and establish well-being.

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