Supervisors and workers believe that the reform efforts resulted in significant changes. The reported changes follow.
Separate Screening Function
Supervisors and workers reported that there is more consistency in the intake function, which is positive for the community. In addition, the dedicated intake worker enables the investigator to focus on the investigation rather than determining whether or not the case should be investigated. Staff members also felt that the dedicated intake worker is better able to understand what investigations are underway and tie calls together for a consistent response. Supervisors and workers felt that the dedicated intake worker also reduced inappropriate investigations.
Dedicated Sexual Abuse Investigator
Staff members stated that specialization has been critical because of the intricacies of sexual abuse cases. The District Attorney reported that specialization in the area of abuse has been a great benefit in court. Investigators often came under heavy scrutiny on the stand, and having a dedicated sexual abuse investigator made it easier to defend the investigative techniques and strategies. This investigator also works as a member of the joint police and CPS investigative team.
Community Service Review Team
The Community Service Review Team is comprised of approximately 25 people and includes service providers, school personnel, physicians, Guardians Ad Litem, and others. Staff members have support from the Guardians Ad Litem, who can offer legal advice on procedural issues or historical precedence to assist the staff when they need to make difficult decisions. The team meets monthly and supervisors decide which cases should be presented for discussion. Usually the cases presented are the most problematic. This team complements other teams, such as the Multidisciplinary Team, which reviews abuse investigations, and the Child Death Review Team, which is convened when a child dies from possible abuse or neglect.
Joint Police and CPS Investigations
Workers indicated that new protocols make it clear that CPS will take the lead in conducting investigations with the child and that the police will take the lead in investigating the perpetrator. The specialized sexual abuse investigator also mentioned that the relationships have grown to the point that they have no trouble switching roles on occasion, when the circumstances dictate.
Hiring Guardians Ad Litem
In the past, attorneys would be appointed on a case-by-case basis to act as Guardians Ad Litem and would often not see the child until it was time to be in court. The county felt that the children were not being adequately served and hired two part-time attorneys. The Guardians Ad Litem act in the best interest of the child, not necessarily pursuing what the child wants. With the changes, the Guardians Ad Litem meet the children for whom they are advocating and better understand the circumstances of their situation. Both workers and Guardians Ad Litem felt that the new situation is working well and is beneficial to the children being served by the agency. The new relationship means that the agency worker and Guardians Ad Litem meet on a regular basis to discuss their cases and, although they do not always agree on what should be recommended in court, they are developing a trusting relationship.