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


Results from the La Crosse County reform efforts, as identified by the interviewed staff, are described in the paragraphs that follow.

Better-Trained Staff

Core training and risk assessment training resulted in a better equipped CPS staff who use the same terminology and concepts. The training has also fostered a strengths-based family focus.

Improved Case Review

Directors and supervisors have observed a better review of cases by caseworkers and their colleagues. The change was attributed to the reorganization of the unit as well as training. The reorganization has allowed most cases to stay within a single unit from intake through case management.

Reduced Use of Expensive Placements

The directors and supervisors attributed the reduction of placements to the reorganization of Family and Children's Services and the CPS unit. Prior to 1999, the Alternate Care Resource Unit was created to reduce the use of high-cost institutional placements and to keep the children in the community. The unit has been successful in reducing the number of out-of-State placements and has resulted in the county being under budget for the first time in more than

20 years. In addition, the Integrated Services Unit, through voluntary and court-ordered services, has developed expertise in giving wraparound services to families of special needs children.

Decisionmaking by Workers

The directors and supervisors reported that the core training and the use of the risk assessment model have resulted in better decisionmaking. These activities have improved opportunities for interaction among supervisors. The family focus has changed the adversarial role for workers, resulting in improved relationships with foster parents. Foster parents have become vital team members who help birth parents prepare for reunification.

Mediation of Complex Cases

The court administrator identified the Unified Family Court as the most significant court improvement during the past year. Through the Unified Family Court, if a family is identified as having multiple issues — CPS, custody, criminal, or domestic violence — one judge leads and mediates all issues concurrently. Three of the five judges originally participated in the project. Within the prior 6 months of this interview, all judges had joined.

Faster Case Transfer

The State initiative to respond to the Adoption and Safe Family Act (ASFA) has helped to create more efficient and faster decisions for children and families. The changes have been primarily for case management workers. Once assigned, the workers have 10 days to make the first contact and 60 days to complete a plan.

Intake has been affected by the change in the transfer policy for cases. Ongoing cases are assigned before the disposition of the investigation. While the timeline for the case management worker does not begin until the disposition, advance assignment enables the intake and case management worker to collaborate on service planning.

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