State Responses to Allegations of Maltreatment in Out-Of-Home Care
Summary of State Analyses and Key Issues for Consideration
A Project Conducted by the Child Welfare League of America in Partnership with Casey Family Programs National Center For Resource Family Support
- Framework of State Analyses
- Overall Summary of State Analyses
- Other Relevant Materials Received or Located Online
- Key Issues for Consideration
- Appendix I: Individual Analyses of State Policies
- Appendix II: Proceedings for Expert Panel Meeting
- Appendix III: Members of Expert Panel
In partnership with and with funding from Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support (CNC), the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is developing practice guidelines for the response to and investigation of out-of-home maltreatment in resource homes. This project entails developing three "deliverables": (1) surveying the states to assess current policies and practices regarding their responses to these situations, (2) convening an expert panel to provide guidance on this endeavor, and (3) drafting practice guidelines.
This project is timely for several reasons:
On October 4, 2001, members of the National Association of State Foster Care Managers were contacted via e-mail and facsimile (when e-mail was not available) regarding this CNC/CWLA survey. Members were asked to submit the following materials relevant to the development of practice guidelines on out-of-home maltreatment:
- The CWLA Standards of Excellence for Family Foster Care Services, Standards of Excellence for Services to Abused or Neglected Children and Their Families, and Standards of Excellence for Kinship Care Services broadly address the best practice principles in child protection and foster care. In regard to abuse and neglect in foster care, they provide, however, only general guidance to agencies. Practice guidelines would provide additional direction to the field, thus promoting improved practice.
- Recognizing that safety is a paramount consideration in all decisions affecting children in out-of-home care, the National Standards for the Child and Family Services Reviews include the safety-related outcome of reducing the incidence of child abuse and neglect in foster care. These practice guidelines will serve as a resource tool to states in the development and revision of their investigation protocols and the training of child protective services (CPS) and foster care workers.
- This exploration of current practices and policies will facilitate much needed consistency in the practice of investigating allegations of abuse and neglect. At present, no uniform practice guidelines for investigations exist. The process varies from state agency to state agency. Without specific guidelines, families may be unduly stressed and children in care may be unnecessarily traumatized. Furthermore, workers investigating allegations could benefit from clear, consistent guidance on how to proceed with the child and family under investigation.
A second request was sent to State Foster Care managers on October 15, 2001, as a reminder for those states that had not as yet submitted the desired materials.
- State legislation and/or statutory provisions that address the response to and/or investigation of out-of-home maltreatment.
- State and local policies that provide guidance to the agency in its response to and investigation of out-of-home maltreatment.
- Written protocols and agreements that provide guidance to practitioners regarding their roles and responsibilities in their response to and investigation of out-of-home maltreatment.
- Model programs and initiatives that are relevant to the agencies' response to and investigation of out-of-home maltreatment.
After an Expert Panel Meeting on November 16, 2001, a final request was made.
The report that follows summarizes submissions received from the 24 states. The findings are based solely on materials received and, therefore, may not represent a comprehensive portrayal of states' policies and practices in this area. Given the tight time frame, as well as compromised postal service in late 2001, responses of half of the states are represented in the following material. Consequently, these findings are limited in their scope and not necessarily indicative of nationwide practices.
Framework of State Analyses
The goal of this state policy analysis is to report on the degree to which state statutes and agency policies provide clear direction for the investigation of and response to reports of maltreatment of children who are in foster care.
Sixteen states responded with sufficient materials to be included in the full analysis. Less-detailed information was received from eight other states either through e-mail communications or online resources. Although these states are not included in the detailed analysis, a brief report on materials received from these states is included in a separate discussion.
- Foster care is defined as the provision of planned, time-limited, substitute family care for children who cannot be adequately maintained at home, and the simultaneous provision of social services to these children and their families to help resolve the problems that led to the need for placement (Blumenthal, 1983, p.296)
On the whole, very little was found in state statutes to provide specific direction to the investigation of reports on behalf of children in foster care. Most information used in this analysis was provided in state policies. Two States, Texas and Connecticut, included reports from state agency work groups that discussed in greater detail critical issues related to foster home investigations.
This report includes the following information:
An important qualifier is that this report represents an analysis of only those materials received. Other information, not reflected here, may be provided in worker training, supervision, or in other types of documents or resources. Finally, this analysis is not designed to evaluate practice in any state. Rather, this serves as an analysis of the degree to which particular state policies provide guidance for that practice.
- Table 1 documents the types of materials received from reporting states;
- Table 2 rates the degree to which state policies provide clear and detailed guidance for agencies mandated to investigate reports of maltreatment of children in foster care;
- An Overall Summary of State Analyses is an overview of the degree to which information received from all of the reporting states addresses key issues identified as important to the process of investigating reports of maltreatment in foster care;
- A brief report on materials received from other states, either through e-mail response or on-line resources;
- Key Issues for Consideration summarizes important issues raised, either in this analysis or in related literature, that the planning group will consider during the development of guidelines for the investigation of reports of maltreatment on children in foster care.
- Appendix I details the state specific responses to and policies concerning allegations of maltreatment in resource homes.
- Appendix II summarizes the proceedings of the November 16, 2001 Expert Panel Meeting on Out of Home Maltreatment.
- Appendix III is a list of the names and contact information of the members of the Expert Panel who were invited to participate in the November 16, 2001 meeting. Members who were invited but unable to attend are so noted.
Table 1: Summary of Materials Received
Table 2: Degree to Which State Policies Address Key Evaluative Criteria
Overall Summary of State Analyses
This section summarizes the results from the 16 states submitting policy materials or other documents that substantially address the investigation of reports of child abuse and neglect (CAN) in foster homes. Other types of material received from other states or located online are briefly reviewed on page 16.
Does the policy address the investigation of allegations of maltreatment in foster care as a distinct investigatory process?
Eight of the 16 reporting states distinguish investigations in foster homes from other types of out-of-home investigations. In those states, foster care is defined as a separate placement type and not included with other types of out-of-home care, such as facilities or family day care homes. Specific guidance is given for conducting investigations in foster homes. In six states, foster homes are included in a category with other forms of out-of-home care, but language in the policies gives specific guidance for conducting foster home investigations. Two states include foster care as one of the settings covered under an "institutional abuse" policy, and distinct activities related to investigations in foster homes are not identified. Guidance provided for conducting institutional abuse investigations in those states is much more specifically related to investigations in residential facilities. A number of states provide less direction for conducting investigations of reports of maltreatment in foster homes than in residential facilities.
Is kinship care addressed in the policy?
Clear language is lacking in most state policies regarding investigations in kinship/ relative care settings. Of the 16 states reporting, 10 make no mention of placement with kin or relatives as a placement type. Those states that do mention kinship/relative care simply include it as a type of foster home. No direct guidance is given in any state's policy regarding any specific issues or activities that address the unique circumstances of kinship or relative families. Missouri specifically excludes placements with relatives from the policy regarding investigation in out-of-home settings. No reason is given, however, for this exclusion.
What agency/unit is mandated to conduct the investigation?
In all cases, the state CPS agency is mandated to respond to reports of abuse and neglect in foster homes. In Texas, the investigation is completed by the State Residential Child Care Licensing Program, a separate program within the state agency charged with out-of-home licensing responsibilities.
Two important factors in effectively investigating reports of maltreatment in foster care are the objectivity and the specialized competencies of the investigator. To address those important factors, seven of the reporting states have established specialized units (Special Investigations, Institutional Abuse, or Out-of Home Investigations Units) to conduct investigations in out-of-home placements. These units are usually located in regional or state offices rather than in county or local offices. In nine other states, these investigations are the responsibility of protective service units in county/local offices. In Colorado, investigations of foster homes certified or licensed by a county department are assigned either to a "qualified and disinterested party" from a CPS office in another county or to a private agency with a contract to conduct investigations.
Is there a team approach? Who is on the team?
Team approaches to investigations are emphasized in nearly all states. Although the composition of those teams varies, team members tend to include investigators, foster care workers, licensing workers, child or family service workers. The majority of the states include language that emphasizes complementary roles, information sharing, support activities, and collaboration. The language describing the roles of different members of these teams tends to be clear. Examples of clear and complementary roles include the following:
Iowa, Montgomery County in Maryland, and Oregon go further. These jurisdictions define the process as a joint investigation and identify shared investigatory activities, such as joint interviews by investigators and licensing/certification staff.
- Foster care workers or children and family service workers are to provide the investigator with information about the foster family and the child that will be helpful during the investigation.
- Investigators are responsible for initial safety assessments of children who are reported and other children in the home.
- The child's caseworker is responsible for conducting placement activities when removal of children from the foster home is necessary.
- Foster care or licensing/certification workers are responsible for stopping placements into the foster home during the investigation and for notifying foster parents of that decision.
Foster parents are not identified as members of or resources for the team. They are interviewed during the process but are not referred to as team members.
What are the key activities of agency staff?
Most of the reporting states provide direction for the investigation process by referencing standard investigation policies. Some states offer little additional guidance. States that clearly distinguish foster home investigations from other types of out-of-home investigations supplement standard investigation policies with more extensive and clearer directions on how to carry out those investigations. Examples of clear direction include the following:
Jurisdictions that include extensive guidance for conducting foster home investigations in the policies they submitted were Georgia, Iowa, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Montgomery County in Maryland and Virginia.
- Investigators are provided with clear direction regarding tasks such as interviewing the reported child, foster parents, and other children in home.
- Foster family licensing/certification workers are directed to investigate for regulatory violations, to provide the investigator with relevant information regarding the foster parents, and to support the foster parent.
- The child's caseworker is directed to provide relevant information to the investigator, to notify child's parents of the report, and to be responsible for any necessary placements.
Some states' policies are much more focused on conducting investigations in residential facilities and do not provide significant guidance for conducting investigations in foster homes.
What time frames are identified?
As noted above, a number of states regulate out-of-home care investigations through use of standard investigation policy or procedures. Standard investigation policies generally include time frames for response and completion of investigation activities. Most of the materials submitted do not have an extensive discussion of time frames. When specific time frames are discussed, they are related to (1) initial response times for viewing and interviewing children who have been reported and other children in the home, (2) decisionmaking meetings, or (3) notifications of key parties at different points during the process.
What group decisionmaking processes are described?
States use group decisionmaking, at key points in the investigation, to varying degrees. A large majority of the states that reported procedures emphasize the need for effective communication and some degree of collaboration during the investigation process. These policies do not, however, mandate specific formal group decisionmaking meetings. In all states, the assigned investigator (with supervision) is responsible for the investigation decision.
Connecticut, Georgia, Montgomery County, Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon do, however, describe a group conference/hearing that is to be held at the end of a substantiated investigation. Parties involved in these conferences are responsible managers, investigators, licensing/certification workers, and child/family service staff. The primary functions of those conferences are to decide whether children in the home need to be removed, to make determinations regarding the continued use of a foster home, and to identify necessary follow-up or corrective activities when licensing/certification issues exist. Arizona invites foster parents to attend this conference. New Mexico invites the foster parents to attend an exit interview.
What actions are taken to address the safety issues of the reported child(ren) and other child(ren) placed in the foster home during the investigation process?
All but one state include clear language regarding the determination of the safety of the reported child and other children placed in the home. Examples of clear direction include investigators' responsibility for safety assessment as a key part of the process, guidelines for initial response times to the foster home, directives to view and interview reported children and other children in the home, directives to remove children when their safety cannot be assured, and an emphasis on sharing information between the investigator and the unit responsible for the child's care. Only Georgia, Illinois, and Virginia however, identify a specific formal tool to be used in the safety assessment process.
In Texas, where investigations are conducted by a separate program that is charged with licensing responsibilities (RCCL), the RCCL investigator assesses the safety of the reported child, while the CPS worker is responsible for addressing any identified safety needs. RCCL investigators are not required to complete a formal risk-assessment tool, as the assessment of future risk is considered to be beyond the scope of the investigation.
Missouri delegates the responsibility for addressing children's safety needs to the assigned county worker. Investigators are required to share information about the child's safety, but they are not to provide direction or advice about whether children should be removed from the foster home. That responsibility is clearly in the hands of the assigned county CPS worker.
What actions are taken to protect the rights of foster parents throughout the process?
The actions most related to protecting the rights of foster parents are (1) notifying them of the report and the outcome of the investigation and (2) allowing foster parents access to fair hearing or administrative review processes related to the CPS investigation or licensing issues. Policies vary significantly in this area. The materials submitted by eight states address these issues, at least to an adequate degree; the other eight, however, there is minimal or no related language on foster parents' rights. In all 16 states, foster parents are to receive timely notification of the report and the findings. Most states allow foster parents to have access to administrative and fair hearings processes, but this access was not universal. The lack of language does not necessarily indicate that those states do not have mandated procedures regarding notification and fair hearings for people who are the subjects of a report of child maltreatment; rather, these procedures are not included in the materials submitted.
Georgia does not allow foster parents access to fair hearings after a substantiated CPS investigation. Georgia is also the only reporting state that categorically revokes the foster home license and removes children after a substantiated investigation. A process is available, however, for the district director to request a waiver from the Department of Children and Family Services director to allow children to remain in a home when it has been determined that continued placement is safe and important for the child.
What supports are provided to foster parents throughout the process?
This is an area of great concern. In the majority of states, significant language about offering support for foster parents throughout the process is lacking. Nine states have no language regarding foster parent support. In several states, foster care workers are assigned the task of supporting foster parents; however, no clear guidance on how best to offer that support is given in the documents submitted.
Of all the reporting states, Oregon places the greatest emphasis on foster parent support. A statement in the Purpose section of the Oregon policy emphasizes the need to communicate effectively with foster parents and to provide support throughout the investigation process. The family's certification worker is directed to be a "resource person" to the foster parent, while "consulting foster parents" are available to offer support and advocacy. Foster parents are provided with a list of foster parent consultants who have agreed to be available when requested. The Foster Parent Handbook that is provided to foster parents in Oregon includes helpful information about how to minimize the risk of allegations in their homes and a full description of what can be expected during the investigation process.
Is the CPS/licensing interface clear?
The majority of reporting states have clear language regarding the interface between the CPS investigation process and the related licensing process. Examples of strengths are clear guidance on referring a complaint to the licensing unit or agency when a report does not meet the standards of a reportable condition of child abuse or neglect; clearly defined roles for the CPS investigator and the certification/licensing worker; collaboration between those parties; timely notification of reports and investigation outcomes; and clear information regarding appeals/review processes. Those states that specifically addressed the investigation of allegations of maltreatment in foster care as a distinct investigatory process provide clearer guidance in this important area. The language in documents received from a few states is not very clear in this area.
Other Relevant Materials Received or Located Online
A Manual of Policies and Procedures: Community Care Licensing Division-Foster Family Homes was reviewed. The manual addressed licensing standards but did not address the investigation of reports of maltreatment in foster homes.
A communication was received from Idaho, noting that no specific policies, procedures, or laws in that state address reports of CAN in out-of-home placements. CAN in out-of-home placements is addressed within the same framework as all such investigations.
The Massachusetts Family Resource Guide: A Guide to Foster and Adoptive Parents is available online.
- In Massachusetts, investigations of CAN reports in foster homes are the responsibility of the Special Investigations Unit in the Central Office.
- This document thoroughly explains the investigation process to interested foster and adoptive parents. The guide has supportive language about the difficulty of being investigated, the stresses of fostering that sometimes lead to maltreatment, and the possibility of false allegations. It includes "helpful strategies" for families during the investigation, including receiving support.
Materials received include the Mississippi Department of Human Services Policy Manual: Section B (pp. 2052-2067), Child Protective Services Procedure for Service Activity. This policy section outlines the responsibilities of the Department of Human Services (DHS) when a report of maltreatment is filed concerning a child living in agency group homes, emergency shelters, and foster homes of private child-placing agencies. An earlier section of the policy manual, that was not submitted, addresses investigations of children in DHS foster homes. This policy outlines some standard investigation procedures, but primarily addresses the types of communications and cooperation that need to occur between DHS and the management staff in these different settings. The policy is more focused on investigations in facilities.
Materials received include an institutional abuse statute and another communication. On the basis of the portion of the statute received, it appears that:
On the basis of the communication:
- CPS staff in the local offices complete the investigation of all reports, including those on out-of-home care.
- Foster homes are included in the broader definition of "residential institutions."
- Nevada is currently reviewing its out-of-home investigations procedures through the Nevada Children's Justice Act Task Force.
- This work group is addressing:
- Concerns about the agency's investigating itself;
- Lack of staff from other agencies involved in the investigations;
- High rates of decisions overturned in fair hearings; and
- The need for CPS staff to receive specialized training in out-of-home investigations.
- The primary focus of the task force seems to be on investigations in facilities.
Three sections of the Pennsylvania Code related to protective services were received and reviewed. No information was provided regarding the investigation of allegations of maltreatment in foster care.
A communication received from Utah noted that, by statute, the public child welfare agency cannot investigate alleged maltreatment of children in its custody. These investigations are contracted to a private agency, with good results. For a period of time, criminal investigators in a division of the Attorney General's Office conducted those investigations. That proved to be an alienating experience for foster parents and the provider community and led to the decision to contract with the private agency.
A communication from Washington State noted that all allegations of CAN in Washington are investigated by CPS units within the Division of Licensed Resources. "These units are separate from those that investigate neglect and abuse in biological families and are under the same umbrella as the foster home licensors."
Building a Future for Washington's Children: Foster Care Improvement Plan, was also received. This document describes the agency's strategic plan to improve the foster care system, but it does not specifically address investigations of maltreatment in foster care.
Key Issues for Consideration
This section highlights a number of key issues that should be considered during the initial development of practice guidelines for the response to and investigation of reports of maltreatment in out-of-home care. These issues have been identified both in the analysis of materials submitted and through a selected review of relevant professional literature.
A Difficult Balancing Act
The investigation of allegations of child maltreatment in foster homes is a very delicate balancing act. Standards of care and elements of accountability for that care are articulated in state regulation for children who are in foster care. Accountability for adhering to these regulatory standards and keeping children safe is a shared responsibility of the foster parents, the placing agency and the professionals involved. The responsible agency investigating the suspected abuse or neglect needs to assure the safety of children in those homes while maintaining supportive and cooperative relationships among foster parents, foster care workers, and the agencies that place children in foster families.
This balancing act is complicated by two conflicting factors. First, certain circumstances related to providing foster care can create stressors that may lead to some caregivers becoming vulnerable to maltreating children in their care. Second, other circumstances can increase the risk that a report will be filed when no maltreatment has actually occurred.
Factors that increase caregiver vulnerability include:
Factors that influence the reporting of maltreatment of children in out-of-home care include:
- Caring for children with histories of maltreatment and serious emotional needs can be a stressful and daunting task. Inadequate training on how to best meet the complicated needs of these children can lead to limited understanding and skill, and, consequently, inappropriate responses to difficult behavior of the child.
- Shortage of foster homes may lead to overcrowding of foster families or to making ill-advised placements where the match between the child's needs and the foster parents' capacities and resources are poor.
- Foster care workers who may be experiencing high caseloads may have less frequent contact with foster caregivers, thus leaving those caregivers isolated and without the support, partnership, monitoring, and guidance they may need to cope effectively with difficult behavior of the child. This lack of contact can increase stress on foster caregivers and increase their vulnerability to maltreat the children in their care (McFadden & Ryan, 1991).
- Foster parents may have limited information about the child's medical, social, or emotional needs as well as insufficient information about potential safety issues such as fire setting, histories of sexual victimization, aggression, and violence.
Characteristics of children in out-of-home care that increase self-reports include:
- Children in foster care may be very visible to people in the community who, in good faith, may misjudge a situation and make a report in situations where no maltreatment has occurred.
- Because children in foster care may be seen as an especially vulnerable group, reporters may be especially vigilant and prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions on whether to report concerns of possible maltreatment of children in foster care.
- Agencies with responsibilities for the care or custody of children in foster care may be more likely to file complaints on borderline situations out of concern for liability and the risk of negative public perception if they do not report.
Responsible agencies must carry out highly skilled and thorough investigations to identify those children who have been maltreated, while conducting these investigations in such a way that foster parents feel supported throughout the process. Being the subject of an investigation can be an extremely difficult experience. The nature of the interaction with the agency can make the difference between whether a much-needed and capable foster parent will feel respected throughout the investigatory process and will continue to care for children in foster care or will withdraw from the experience hurt, frustrated, and disillusioned.
- Some children who have suffered maltreatment may file a false report for various reasons.
- Some children may want to return home and see filing a report of maltreatment in the foster home as a possible avenue for reunification.
- Some children may be angry at disciplinary measures and, in retaliation, report maltreatment.
- Others, because of past abuse, may feel threatened by, uncomfortable with, or misinterpret well-intended or benign foster parent behavior. For example, a child who has been sexually abused may be very uncomfortable with "normal" expressions of affection or intimacy within the foster family and may misinterpret these behaviors as threatening.
- Young children with limited verbal skills may have difficulties distinguishing, to others, the caregivers who may have abused them. An effort to talk about past abuse may be interpreted as abuse that is occurring in the present with the foster caregivers (Carbino, 1991).
The Need for Objectivity
A cornerstone of an effective evaluation is the objectivity of the investigator. The appearance of a conflict of interest between the parties that investigate the allegation and the parties that supervised the care and custody of the child must be kept at a minimum (Nunno and Motz, 1988).
Materials received from Texas indicate that foster parents groups advocated for outside investigators (rather than local CPS investigators), because they felt that local workers who know the child may not be objective because of their connections to those children. The foster parents also were concerned that rumors could go through the office and the foster parent networks, and the rumors could be damaging to the working relationships and reputations of foster parents who were the subject of reports. This perspective is also reflected in other materials representing the vantage of foster parent advocacy groups. Another perspective is that familiarity with the foster parents might cause a local investigator to discount a child's allegations, thus making it more likely that an at-risk child may not be identified.
A number of the reporting states address the need for objectivity by assigning noninvolved CPS staff to complete the investigation. Seven states assign these investigations to special units (within a county, a region, or at the state level) partly to assure objectivity and partly to ensure that investigators have specialized training.
To help prevent incidents of maltreatment, foster parents must receive training about the special needs of children placed with them and about effective behavior-management (and risk-management) strategies. Workers who make placement decisions and provide monitoring and support to foster parents need to receive quality training regarding the provision of effective support to foster parents who are experiencing stressful placements. A report of a working group in Connecticut advocates for expanded training of all child welfare workers to help them understand more fully the issues that foster families and children experience during the placement process. States may well need to examine their current training programs to assure that they fully address the unique needs of foster parents throughout this process. The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (2001) indicates that 60% of all local child welfare agencies tended to require less than one day of pre-service training for foster parents and 95% of these agencies required less than one-day of in-service training for foster parents. Specialized training on investigation issues particular to out-of-home care is recommended for investigators of out-of home care. Finally, the group advocates for expanded preservice and in-service training for foster parents to help them prevent allegations and to manage the often challenging placement situations that they may confront. All of these recommendations are well founded.
The Need for Support
Being the subject of a CAN report can be a threatening and painful process. Documents received and articles reviewed strongly emphasize the need to provide strong support to foster parents during this process. The lack of specific guidance regarding foster parent support through the process was significant.
On the whole, the state policies reviewed show awareness of the need do accurate safety assessment both for reported children and for other children in the foster home. All but one state addresses safety assessment and clearly assigns responsibility for that assessment to the investigator. Those states that include specific time frames mandate initial response times that are based on an assessment of safety. Other important safety practices include closing foster homes to new placements, viewing and interviewing the reported child and other children in the home, and removing children when safety assessment indicated that they are unsafe. Those states that employ group decisionmaking forums after a substantiated investigation make child safety and decisions regarding the continued placement of all children in the home a central focus of that process.
For the most part, the decisionmaking process about removal is described as a collaborative process. In most states, investigators are directed to remove children when they are found to be in unsafe settings. The policies reviewed indicate that the decisions to remove children from foster homes followed the assessment of safety and do not appear to be arbitrary. As noted above, Texas and Missouri separate these responsibilities, leaving decisions regarding removal and placement clearly in the hands of the county office responsible for placement.
Generally lacking are references to specific safety assessment protocols or tools. Georgia, Illinois, and Virginia are the only states that refer to using a particular formal safety assessment tool.
One further comment about safety assessment seems worth noting. Effective protocols for safety assessment, at all decision points throughout the life of a case, will clearly support safety assessment during the investigation process. Formal safety assessment can affect the process of investigating allegations of maltreatment in foster homes in three important ways:
Unique and Common Needs of Kin Caregivers
- At the time of placement, it can help to prevent inappropriate placements and thus prevent incidents of maltreatment.
- During the investigation, it can inform decisions regarding the need to remove children.
- After the investigation, it can inform the decision whether to return a child to the foster home from which that child had been removed.
The lack of language regarding investigation of CAN reports in kinship/relative homes is significant and quite interesting. This language is especially important, given the potential confusion in the field regarding how to address kinship care within the child welfare service delivery system. How states answer the following questions may well shape how they provide services and respond to allegations of maltreatment in kinship homes:
Obviously, those questions have implications well beyond how maltreatment investigations should be conducted in kinship settings. The answers to these questions affect how ongoing support and monitoring is provided and who will provide it. The answers also affect what support services are made available to kinship families on an ongoing basis or during a time of crisis. In some states, funding and service delivery patterns allow for the provision of certain kinds of supports and services to "intact families" that would not be available to "foster families."
- Is kinship care a family preservation service or is it an out-of-home placement service?
- Do kin caregivers have the same needs as unrelated foster parents, or do they have unique needs?
Those questions also have important implications for the investigation process. Many kin caregivers experience the placement process in very different ways than unrelated foster parents do. The motivation to provide care, the training received, the relationship with the birthparent and extended family, the sense of identification and loyalty, and the connection to the child may all be significantly different and create very different dynamics that should shape unique approaches to the investigation process.
Clarity Regarding the CPS/Licensing Interface
Providing clear direction for these parallel processes is extremely important. It is important to underline the finding, noted above, that those states that more clearly addressed the investigation of allegations of maltreatment in foster care as a distinct investigatory process provided clearer guidance for agencies conducting these related but distinct processes. There was no discussion of the licensing issues as it relates to kinship homes.
Foster Parents' Rights
The discussion regarding foster parent rights in the Overall Summary of State Analyses should be supplemented here by including the issue of foster parents' privacy during and after the investigation process. This is a concern expressed clearly by foster parent advocacy organizations. An example of serious concern in this area is, for example, the public listing in Michigan of names of foster parents whose licenses to provide foster care have been revoked. The Michigan state Division of Child Care Licensing lists the names of these foster parents, their addresses, and the reasons for the licensing actions. This information is available to the public and can be located on the agency website. In this area, the public's "right to know" could negatively affect the reputation, well-being, and perhaps the safety of foster parents who are publicly identified. Further research is needed to discover how widespread this practice is in other states.
Other Areas for Attention
Three other areas that merit attention were not sufficiently addressed in the materials reviewed:
References for This Discussion
- Addressing the impact of the allegations and investigation process on the reported child. What actions should be taken during and after the investigation process to minimize the potential trauma related to the allegation and any potential placement disruption? How does the child's need for support shape the investigation process?
- Identifying effective placement strategies when a child needs to be removed. What action will best prepare the child and the new placement resource for the new placement when it is deemed necessary?
- Providing greater guidance when reports occur in preadoptive homes. The strong emotional investment and potentially different relationship that both child and preadoptive parents may have in these placements may make the investigation of an allegation of maltreatment even more complex and difficult. Members of the investigation team may need specific guidance to address the unique needs of these children and their preadoptive parents during and after the investigation process.
- Blumenthal, K. (1983) Making foster family care responsive. In B. McGowan & W. Meezan (Eds), Child welfare: Current dilemmas - future directions. Itasca, IL: Peacock.
- Carbino, R. (1991) Child abuse and neglect reports in foster care: The issue for foster families of "false" allegations. In M. Robin (Ed.), Assessing maltreatment reports. New York: Haworth.
- McFadden, E. J., & Ryan, P. (1991). Maltreatment in family foster homes: Dynamics and dimensions. In M. Robin (Ed.), Assessing maltreatment reports. New York: Haworth.
- Nunno, M. & Motz, J. (1988) The development of an effective response to the abuse of children in out-of-home care. Child Abuse and Neglect, 12, 521-528.
- Process profile: RCCL abuse/neglect investigations in CPS-verified foster homes. (State of Texas, Protective and Regulatory Services)
- Report on the OFAS/Regional workgroup on CPS vs. Regulatory issues in foster care settings. (Connecticut Department of Children and Families)
Appendix I: Individual Analyses of State Policies
Appendix II: Proceedings of Expert Panel Meeting (11/16/01)
Appendix III: Contact Information
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