Ventura County CFS implemented the following efforts in order to fulfill the above reform objectives.
The Dependency Drug Court
Established during 2000 through a collaborative effort among CFS, the Superior Court, and the County Alcohol and Drug Programs and Public Health Services, the Dependency Drug Court assists women in Ventura County with newborns affected by alcohol and drug abuse. The goal of the Dependency Drug Court is to strengthen a family's ability to care for their children by providing them with early intervention services. In addition to the CFS staff, the Drug Court Team includes a public health nurse, the judge, a treatment home staff person, a behavioral health staff person, and a Cal Works social worker. The Dependency Drug Court provides intensive inpatient treatment and supervision for mothers and their infants while they remain under the jurisdiction of the court system. The benefit of the program is swifter reunification of mothers with their infants, including placement of the babies with them in the treatment home. Mothers who successfully complete the Dependency Drug Court program are able to bypass CPS involvement and achieve reunification with their families while utilizing supportive services.
Interface Children Family Services Contract
Interface is designed as a comprehensive, integrated services agency that provides affordable prevention, intervention, and treatment services on a contractual basis to health and human services agencies in Ventura County. One of the services that Interface provides is the operation of the CPS 24-hour emergency hotline. Interface workers monitor the hotline and provide assistance and referrals to callers seeking CPS services or reporting child abuse or neglect. This makes it possible for screening to be completed with the oversight of a CPS program manager at a lower cost.
Additional CPS services that are provided by Interface include:
- Taking Care of Little Me, which is an interactive school-based personal safety and sexual abuse prevention program for children ages 3-9;
- Child Abuse Intervention and Prevention Services (CAIPS), which is a program developed to assist families in staying together while keeping children safe and free from abuse or neglect;
- Family Life Education, which provides parenting classes, offered in English and Spanish, designed to assist families during conflict and crisis;
- Family Support Workers, who are paraprofessionals trained to provide in-home education and support services to families at risk of, or experiencing, the trauma of abuse and neglect; and
- Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), who are court-appointed volunteers who mentor children involved with the legal system.
Family Decision Making (FDM)
This model is based on the belief that removing children from their homes may at times be as harmful to children as the maltreatment they experienced. A corollary principle underlying FDM is that families can be strengthened and empowered to make the best decision for the safety and protection of children by linking with community and government agency support systems while maintaining the child in the family network. In Ventura County, the development of FDM stemmed from the collaborative efforts of CPS front-line staff and the management team. At the prompting of line staff, FDM was developed as a voluntary process to bring CPS families together with their friends and service providers to make and fulfill decisions about the care and safety of their children.
Interagency Case Management Council (ICMC)
ICMC is a collaborative effort involving CPS and various county agencies that gather weekly to share information and resources and to develop a consensus plan. The goal is to develop alternative plans designed to prevent the removal of children and return children to their families as quickly as possible while also reducing risk factors.
Public Health Nurse Partnership
During the past year, the role of public health nurses was revised in Ventura County CFS. Originally, the county funded them to be onsite in the four CPS regional offices, but did not provide guidance about their roles and functions. Consequently, the nurses functioned as social workers. The new role of the public health nurses is to assist CPS line staff with any medical concerns, interpretation of medical terms, and followup services with children and families.
Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center (MDIC)
Also known as Safe Harbor, MDIC is a coalition of public and private agencies dedicated to serving women and children who have been victims of sexual and physical abuse. MDIC eases the interview processes for victims by providing a nonintimidating, victim friendly environment for forensic medical exams and interviews that meet the requirements of law enforcement, the courts, and CPS. MDIC also provides crisis intervention and referral services to victims to minimize trauma while maximizing criminal prosecution. MDIC is funded through grants, donations, and contracts from participating agencies.
Parent Leadership Task Force
The Parent Leadership Task Force was initiated during September 2002 to improve communication and reduce barriers between parents and CPS staff. Through the Parent Leadership Task Force, parents are able to voice their concerns in a confidential manner as well as share their stories of CPS involvement. Staff and parents are also able to collaborate on issues to allow for the most inclusive resolution possible.
Best Practice Council
The Best Practice Council is composed of CPS supervisors who work together in a proactive manner to develop best practice standards for the field of social work in Ventura County. Members of the council meet once a month to discuss risk assessment, effective services, community input, and measurable outcomes. In addition, members of the council work together to review systemic problems as well as make recommendations for change.
Opportunity For Improvement (OFI)
As an aspect of CFS's Quality Improvement Program, OFI addresses the identification and solution of internal organizational issues. The OFI process, introduced during 1999 by a consulting firm at the request of the previous deputy director, is staffed by members of the line staff and provides a formal mechanism for staff to develop and implement policy. Through OFI, new policies and changes to CPS practice have been identified, including the need for additional child car seats during ER investigations, the introduction of Family Decision Making, and increased avenues for improved communication between management and workers.