Performance Improvement 2010. Provide Quality, Effective Protective Services for Children

01/01/2010

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 requires the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a feasibility study regarding implementation issues that would need to be addressed in establishing a national registry of child maltreatment perpetrators.  Approximately 40 to 45 states currently operate child abuse registries which enable local child protective services agencies within a state to share information with each other about past maltreatment investigations on families currently under investigation.  There is no system that would enable national checks of child abuse histories, and inquiries from one state to another are often time consuming and cumbersome.  The initial feasibility assessment, conducted internally by HHS staff, concluded that  (1) Potential benefits of a national child abuse registry are largely unknown; (2) A lack of incentives for participation could result in a database that includes little information and fails to fulfill its intent; (3) Before implementation could begin, legislative change would be needed to permit the collection of sufficient information to accurately identify perpetrators; and (4) Clarification is required on several key issues that are ambiguous in the authorizing statute. (9195)

A study of local child protective services practices identified a variety of changes between 2002 and 2005-2006.  In 2005-2006 as compared with 2002: fewer agencies conducted alternative child protective service responses or expressed concern over excessive investigation workloads; more agencies used schools and law enforcement as their most common referral source and relied on state hotlines to screen referrals during non-business hours.  Agencies reported that an increased number of activities that are required in every investigation and more often reported a range of obstacles to the timely completion of investigations.  Agencies more frequently offered parenting classes and substance abuse treatment services.  Availability of many services declined substantially.  Agencies were less likely to bear sole responsibility for investigating severe maltreatment.  (9196)

A descriptive analysis identified the processes that local and state child welfare agencies use to ensure quality in contracted child welfare services.  There is no single path to strong quality assurance.  Many states have significantly expanded their oversight efforts of contracted services, collecting additional information and collecting it from more sources.  While it is important to set expectations, it can be challenging to know what to do when expectations are not met, especially in this new atmosphere of enhanced collaboration in service provision between public and private agencies. (9197

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