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Home > Practice Areas > Family Foster Care > Other Links and Resources

 
 

Appendix II: Proceedings of Expert Panel Meeting

11/16/2001

Purpose of the Meeting

In partnership with and funding from Casey Family Programs (CFP), 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 Expert Panel Meeting brought together a group of national child welfare experts with strong expertise in issues related to out-of-home care to provide guidance to this process.

Along with the Expert Panel, the process of developing these guidelines has been informed by materials submitted from a number of states that provided information on state policies and practices for conducting investigations of maltreatment in resource homes. An analysis of materials received from contributing states was provided to the expert panelists in preparation for the meeting and discussed during the meeting.

Structure of the Meeting

The work of the panel was conducted through a series of focused discussion groups. Based on their specific areas of expertise and interests, panelists were assigned to one of four discussion groups. The issues considered by each group were as follows:

Group One: Prevention Of Abuse In Out-Of-Home Care

This group addressed how maltreatment in foster, kinship, and pre-adoptive homes could be prevented through practices such as screening prospective foster parents, adequate caregiver preparation and training, and the provision of support services.

Group Two: Investigation Of Out-Of-Home Maltreatment

This group addressed how to best involve agency personnel, the alleged child victim, and other children in the home in the investigation process. Examples of issues to be considered included the roles and responsibilities of responders, assuring child safety, minimizing child trauma, and worker training.

Group Three: Investigation of Out-Of-Home Maltreatment

This group also addressed the investigation process with a special focus on how to involve the foster, kinship, or pre-adoptive family. Also discussed were issues related to the perceptions and concerns of the general public regarding maltreatment in out-of-home care.

Group Four: Post-Investigation-Response

The group addressed key activities that need to occur following the completion of the investigation. Key issues to consider included placement decisions, needed services and supports for children, caregivers, and birth families, decisions related to the interface with licensing and the future use of the home.

The groups were to consider the optimal roles, responsibilities and practices of the responsible agency in delivering quality service as it pertains to the following stakeholders:
  1. Agency personnel;
  2. Alleged child victim;
  3. Other children in the home;
  4. Foster, kinship, and pre-adoptive caregivers including the alleged perpetrator and non-offending caregivers;
  5. Birth family; and
  6. The general public.

Summary of State Policies and Practices

The panel was provided with a brief overview of findings of an analysis of statutes, policies, practice guidelines and other supporting materials submitted to the Child Welfare League of America by thirteen states. The process of the analysis was reviewed. A number of key issues arising from the analysis to be considered by the panel during the guidelines development process were suggested. The key issues were as follows:

A Difficult Balancing Act

The investigation of allegations of child maltreatment in foster homes can be a very delicate balancing act. The responsible agency needs to assure the safety of children in those homes while maintaining supportive and cooperative relationships with foster parents.

This is complicated by two conflicting factors. First, certain circumstances related to providing foster care (such as providing care for children with serious behavioral or emotional needs) can create stressors that may make some caregivers vulnerable to maltreating children in their care. Second, other circumstances (such as youth who see an allegation of maltreatment in the foster home as a possible route to a return home) can increase the risk that a report will be filed when no maltreatment has actually occurred. For example an adolescent in care may see an allegation of maltreatment as a possible route to a return home.

The Need For Objectivity

A cornerstone of an effective investigation is the objectivity of the investigator. While states may employ different models for investigating allegations of maltreatment in resource families, these models should assure that the person responsible for the investigation be unbiased by previous involvement in the case.

Enhanced Training

To help prevent incidents of maltreatment, foster parents need to receive training about the special needs of children placed with them and 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 experiencing stressful behavior of children placed in their care.

The Need For Support

Being the subject of a child abuse and neglect (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. It is likely that along with providing clearer guidance in policies and regulations, States may well need to examine their current training programs to assure that they fully address the unique needs of foster parents through this process.

Safety Assessment

On the whole, the policies reviewed showed awareness of the need to do accurate safety assessments both for reported children and other children in the foster home. All but one state addressed safety assessment and clearly assigned responsibility for that assessment to the investigator. Important practices included closing foster homes to new placements, viewing and interviewing the reported child and other children in the home, and removing children when safety assessment indicates that they are unsafe. Those states that employ group decision-making forums following a substantiated investigation make child safety and decisions regarding the continued care of all children in the home a central focus of that process. Generally lacking are references to specific safety assessment protocols or tools. Effective protocols for safety assessment at all decision points throughout the life a case will clearly support safety assessment during the investigation process.

Unique Needs of Kin Caregivers

The lack of language regarding investigation of reports in kinship/relative homes in materials submitted was significant. It was suggested that the panel consider whether the different dynamics related to kinship caregiving should lead to unique approaches to the investigation process.

Clarity Regarding the CPS/Licensing Interface

Providing clear direction for these parallel processes is extremely important. Those states that more clearly addressed the investigation of allegations of maltreatment in foster care as a distinct investigatory process - differing from a licensing investigation -- provided clearer guidance for agencies conducting these related but distinct processes.

Foster Parent Rights

States must pay careful attention to the rights of foster parents during and after the investigation process. Issues related to notification, inclusion in the process, access to fair hearings and foster parent privacy are all important to consider when preparing investigation guidelines.

Group Feedback

Following discussion group deliberations, each group provided a summary of key issues raised and important recommendations. These presentations were followed by large group discussion and response. Group responses and related large group discussions are summarized below. Along with a summary of each group's formal feedback session, the group's written discussion notes were reviewed and comments included in those notes (when not addressed in the feedback session) are also detailed in this summary. Finally, question and comments from the large group that followed each feedback session will be discussed.

Group One: Prevention Of Abuse In Out-Of-Home Care

This group's discussion was organized around six important areas related to preventing incidents of maltreatment. Those areas included:
  1. Training for caregivers, caseworkers and youth in care:

    There was strong consensus about the important role that training for caregivers, caseworker and youth in care could play in preventing incidents of maltreatment. Joint training with caregivers and caseworkers (and when appropriate, youth) that emphasized a team approach to placement was recommended.

    Training for caregivers should focus on the following areas:

    • Providing clear information (verbally and in writing) regarding the investigation process when allegations of maltreatment have occurred including investigation policies and procedures as they related to allegations in foster, kinship or pre-adoptive homes

    • Providing clear definitions and examples of behaviors or situations that would be considered to be abusive or neglectful

    • Utilizing foster parents who have experienced investigations in their homes to provide information and guidance

    • Identifying practices within the home that can help to prevent false allegations and protect families when they may occur

    • Providing information regarding methods of discipline (behavior management) that are most effective with children who may have been exposed to maltreatment, trauma, and separation from their families.

    It was noted that kinship caregivers may best benefit from a training approach that is focused more on information and support (rather than formal training) provided by facilitators rather than trainers.

    Caregivers and caseworkers should be provided with information regarding how and where to talk to children and youth in care about maltreatment in out-of-home care and the investigation process.

    The group identified, The Child Abuse Assessment: A Guide For Foster Parents published by the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association as an excellent resource for providing foster, kinship, and pre-adoptive parents with important information regarding what they can expect during an investigation in those settings.

  2. Assessment

    A second theme involved the role of enhanced assessment in preventing maltreatment in foster, kinship, or pre-adoptive homes. Recommendations focused on two areas.

    First, a careful assessment of a family's history, dynamics, caregiving skills and the family's motivation to become foster parents will help agencies make appropriate decisions regarding initial approval and licensing and will facilitate a more effective assessment of the match between an approved caregiver and the needs of a particular child.

    It was noted that the shortage of resource homes and/or caseload pressures can lead to less than adequate screening that increases the likelihood of poor placement matches and the risk for maltreatment. Pressures to place children should not cause the agency to inadequately address concerns regarding caregiving skills or inadequacies in other areas of the home assessment that may lead to less than adequate caregiving and increase the risk of maltreatment. The importance of honest disclosure with the foster/kinship family regarding potential concerns about the family's ability to provide adequate care is extremely important. It was recommended that standards for approving unrelated foster, kinship, and adoptive homes should be the same.

    Second, the importance of the matching process was emphasized. Very careful assessments of the match between a child's unique needs and a family's characteristics, skills, and potential vulnerabilities should be conducted. These assessments should include careful consideration of the level of demand that will be placed on the family due to the unique needs of the child. Caregivers should be included in these discussions and should be provided with sufficient information about the needs of children being considered for placement to help them assess their ability to meet those needs.

    Also included in the matching process should be the numbers of children placed in the home and the match between the child being placed and other children currently living in the home. Again, it was emphasized that pressures related to limited resource homes might lead to placements where there is a poor match, thus increasing the risk of maltreatment.

  3. Support

    Support for resource families are critical to the prevention of out-of-home maltreatment. The group identified the following types of necessary supports:

    • Honest disclosure regarding any concerns about the family's ability to provide care for a particular child

    • Up-front information about the investigation process and about the needs of children being considered for care

    • Concrete supports such as respite care

    • Reinforcement of the need for foster parents to be assertive when dealing with placement agencies, particularly regarding setting limits on the numbers or types (ages and needs) of children placed in their homes

    • Information regarding the rights of children, youth, birth parents, and foster caregivers should be provided to all parties.

  4. Confidentiality

    While not directly related to prevention, the group emphasized the need to carefully guard the confidentiality of resource families during an investigation process while still completing a thorough investigation of an allegation of maltreatment. The important distinction between those who have a "need to know" about an allegation (such as service workers with other children placed in the home) and those who do not was emphasized as a very important one to make.

  5. Worker consistency

    The group emphasized the importance of a positive, supportive and ongoing relationship between a caseworker and the family or child in care. In the context of this type of relationship, families are more likely to seek assistance and support when they need it. Workers are more able to recognize when families are under stress. Children or youth in care are more likely to express concerns with workers with whom they have positive and ongoing relationships. Enabling workers to build relationships with children, youth and families is the best prevention.

    Providing families with consistent workers and addressing high rates of worker turnover where they exist are important issues to address.

    Also addressed in this part of the discussion was the need for workers to facilitate open communication and relationships between birth parents and resource families. Open communication and positive relationships may be helpful in preventing possible false allegations from birth parents and children and may generally lessen stress for resource families and children.

  6. Mutual respect

    The group emphasized the need for all parties involved in the process to treat each other with respect despite the pressures that can be related to an investigation. They noted a concern that investigations in resource homes may lead to fractures in relationships where agency staff may distance themselves from the family as a result of the allegation. While this particular discussion was not directly related to prevention, it demonstrates the group's overall concern regarding the need to maintain respectful and positive working relationships even during what can be a very difficult time.

    The following issues were identified in a review of the group's discussion notes:

    • Training for resource families and agency staff should address the impact of maltreatment allegations and the investigation on the child, the resource parent and the birth family.

    • Agency staff should make periodic, infrequent unannounced visits to foster homes to monitor and document both strengths and needs. Foster parents should be informed, at the outset, that such unannounced visits might occur. Both licensing workers and caseworkers should conduct these visits.

    • Caseworkers should develop ongoing relationships with children in care and should talk to them alone giving them the opportunity to express concerns.

    • The benefits of a joint training model with caseworkers and resource parents being trained together was emphasized.

    • An array of post-adoption services to assist families in dealing with expected stresses is an important part of prevention efforts.

    • States need to continue to develop training models for kinship caregivers. There is a lack of consistency in the type and quality of training provided to kinship caregivers.

    • Questions were raised regarding the quality and consistency of how "family resource" workers in each state are trained. It was emphasized that specialized training for these workers is important.

    • Support groups for resource parents can play an important preventive role.

    The large group responded to Group One's presentation with the following comments:

    • Agency expectations should be that workers conducting visits to resource homes should always spend some time talking with children alone.

    • Training for workers and resource parents should address abuse by other children/youth who may be placed in the home.

    • Resource parents need training regarding the effects of psychotropic drugs as many children placed with them are treated with these drugs.

    • States must provide the range of supportive services to resource families that can lower stress and help prevent maltreatment.

Group Two: Investigation Of Out-Of-Home Maltreatment

As noted above, this group addressed how to best involve agency personnel, the alleged child victim, and other children in the home in the investigation process in such a way as to assure child safety while minimizing child trauma. The group's report was organized around the following topics:
  1. Intake and initial assessment of the report:

    The group emphasized the need for special training for anyone responsible for receiving and screening reports of maltreatment in resource homes. While states may assign these responsibilities differently, it is essential that staff persons have specialized training. One important area of training for staff that receive and screen these reports involves the ability to distinguish situations that may reflect neglect or abuse from those that do not reach the level of reportable incidents, but do reflect licensing violations.

    It was noted that some states require a 24-hour response to allegations of maltreatment in resource homes. The decision to respond immediately (or within 24-hours) to reports of maltreatment of children in out-of-home care reflects a sense of added responsibility that a state has toward a child who is believed to be maltreated in an out-of-home setting approved and licensed by the state. The question was raised, however, as to whether there should be flexibility involved in making that decision. Could a more planful response in cases where there are no apparent immediate safety threats allow for a more comprehensive assessment process?

    The need for consistent screening standards and practices across jurisdictions in a state was also emphasized as different jurisdictions may currently respond differently.

    The need to carefully assess the source of the report and the possible motivations of the reporter is an important part of the screening process. It is also important for the screening person to be aware of the resource family's history of providing care. This provides a context in which the report can be examined.

  2. Parties who should be involved in the investigation process:

    The agencies or units determined to be responsible for investigating allegations of maltreatment in resource homes vary across states. Whether those investigations are the responsibility of specialized institutional abuse units, licensing units, or local investigative units, the group made the following recommendations.
    • A team approach should be emphasized.

    • The lead staff person who has primary responsibility for the investigation decision should be impartial and objective.

    • The lead investigator should draw heavily on the knowledge of staff who have ongoing relationships with the resource family and the child during the investigation process.

    • The lead investigator should have training in the competencies related to the investigation of reports of child maltreatment as well as specialized training around the special issues related to conducting these investigations in resource homes.

    • Some concern was expressed that investigation decisions could be inappropriately influenced by the potential outcome of the family's licensing status. For example, a legitimate allegation may not be substantiated out of concern that a home would be closed when resources are scarce. To protect against that possibility, the group argues that the investigation decision should be the sole responsibility of the unbiased and objective lead investigator.

  3. Allegation criteria in resource families vs. birth families:

    The group raised the question as to whether states may apply a higher screening and support criteria to resource families than to birth families. Specifically, in some states, allegations that would not reach the level of abuse and neglect in birth families may be screened in and substantiated in resource families. Or, situations or behaviors that reflect lack of compliance with licensing standards but not reach the level of abuse and neglect may be screened in and a determination of abuse and/or neglect substantiated. Again, this may reflect a greater sense of responsibility felt by the state for children who are placed outside of their own homes in settings approved or licensed by the states. The fairness, appropriateness, or effectiveness of this practice was questioned.

  4. Safety issues:

    Safety and safety assessment were addressed in the group discussion in a number of ways. First, the point was made that the assessment of current safety as distinct from an assessment of future risk is an important one. A concern was expressed that children may experience traumatic removals when they are in fact currently safe in the home. In those situations a more planful process could occur that could minimize the trauma of unnecessary removal.

    The importance of ongoing safety assessment was also emphasized. Formal safety assessment prior to placement and ongoing is essential. Safety assessments should not just be conducted at a time of crisis, but periodically throughout the life of a case.

    Finally, the group reinforced the notion that all children living in the home (including birth children) should be interviewed during the investigation process.

  5. The need for consistency in practice across states:

    The group emphasized the need to develop consistent standards of practice in this important area. It is a very important aspect of child welfare practice that needs to be further addressed nationally.

  6. The role of supervision in the investigation process:

    The group reinforced the important role that supervisors play in assuring quality practice. As a result, it was strongly recommended that supervisors receive training in all aspects of investigation of allegations in resource homes. Also emphasized was the importance of ongoing quality assurance activities such as periodic focused record review by supervisory staff with the specific purpose of assuring quality and consistency in this important type of out-of-home investigation.

  7. Other issues:

    Other needs identified as important for consideration were the following:

    • A formal and consistent "alert" process so that all parties who need to be involved to assure the safety of children placed in the resource home are notified immediately of investigation.

    • Very clear role definition among the different parties who become involved in the investigation process.

    • Clear direction for child welfare agencies regarding whether investigation findings or licensing actions should be made available to the general public. (Through listing on the Central Registry or publication of licensing actions.)

    The large group responded to Group Two's presentation with the following comments:

    • In regards to safety, a comment was made that when children make allegations they should not be "second guessed" and the investigation should be conducted.

    • The expansion of multidisciplinary assessment centers used in a number of states to coordinate investigations of child sexual abuse was recommended. Examples of these models include the National Children's Alliance and Children's Advocacy Centers.

    • The need for support of the resource family before, during, and after the investigation was emphasized. They need to "have someone they can always call."

Group Three: Investigation of Out-Of-Home Maltreatment

As noted above, this group also addressed the investigation process with a special focus on how to involve the foster, kinship, or pre-adoptive family in the investigation process. A major focus of the discussion revolved around providing support and minimizing potential trauma to all parties involved in the process. Another major focus of the discussion was on issues related to investigations in kinship care situations.

This group identified a number of key issues in the feedback session and supplemented that discussion with detailed notes of the group discussion. Those two sources of feedback are synthesized below.

The group feedback will be organized around activities necessary to effectively support foster families, kinship families, children in foster care, and birth parents during the investigation process.
  1. Foster families:

    In order to provide support to foster families while conducting sound investigations the following recommendations were made:

    • Investigators must be well trained and objective. They must be fair and have a "listening ear" for the family, the child, and the birth parents.

    • Training for investigators should include the skills of crosschecking information from multiple sources and questioning skills.

    • Investigators must be unbiased and have no previous involvement in the case.

    • A particular staff person should be assigned to specifically provide support to the foster parents and their biological children during this process. Again, listening was defined as a key skill. This person should also provide resource families with clear information on what they can expect to occur during the investigation process.

    • Investigators should receive sensitivity training to help them understand the potential trauma of the allegation and investigation process on the foster parents and their biological children.

    • It was noted that providing support for the caregivers could not be at the expense of honestly addressing concerns raised in the allegation and investigation with the resource family.

    • Foster parents must receive "preventive training" that prepares them to fully understand and be able to meet standards of care. They should be provided with a "checklist" that outlines standards of care.

  2. Kinship families:

    There was significant discussion focusing on questions related to how the unique aspects of kinship care should influence the investigation process. Issues addressed included:

    • Whether service delivery in kinship care should reflect a view of kinship care as a form of family preservation work or as an out of home care service.

    • The need for specialized training for workers conducting investigations in kinship settings. This training should focus on cultural issues and the development of cultural competence. It should also focus on the unique aspects of the placement and investigation experience that derive from the existing relationships that many kin caregivers have with birth parents and other members of the extended kinship network.

    • The need to establish clear definitions of the type of placements that would be considered to be "kinship placements."

    Further discussion focused on the need to address important issues during the transition period following the completion of the investigation. Issues included sharing information that may affect the well being of children who continue to live in the family with key agency staff involved with the family, addressing feelings about the investigation and its aftermath and providing support to children living in the home (including the reported child) after the investigation is completed. (Those activities were also identified as important when children are placed in unrelated foster care.)

  3. Birth families:

    Outreach to birth parents was identified as a critical part of the investigation process.
    Recommendations include:

    • Notifying birth parents of the investigation, of investigation times frames and of any decision to move children.

    • Providing training to investigators and children's service workers regarding how to talk with birth parents when there are allegations that their children in care may have been maltreated.

    • Continually assessing the birth family's readiness for reunification, particularly at the time of a substantiated investigation.

    • Meeting with the birth family at the conclusion of the investigation to provide support and to share information regarding the disposition of the investigation and of decisions regarding the care of their child.

    • Exploring the possibility of placement with kin when removal of the child is deemed necessary even when this may have been explored at an earlier time in the case process.

    • Considering the types of interventions that might be necessary to provide support when the foster parents and birth parents have an existing relationship.

  4. The general public:

    The important role of public relations and information sharing with the general public was discussed. The public is exposed to significant misinformation and efforts must be made to provide accurate information regarding the needs of families involved with the child welfare system and the types of resources necessary to meet those needs. It was agreed that there is a need for child welfare agencies across the country to develop a "common language" when discussing child welfare issues. There is also a need to identify the very positive and important contributions made by the large majority of foster parents.

    The large group responded to Group Three's presentation with the following comments:

    • There is a need to reach consensus regarding how best to support kinship care.

    • There is a need for significant public relations efforts. A common language is needed for sharing information with the public and there should be consistency state-to-state.

Group Four: Post-Investigation-Response

As noted above, this group addressed key activities that need to occur following the completion of the investigation. Key discussion points are as follows:
  1. Decisions regarding continued placement or removal after a substantiated investigation:

    The group emphasized the importance of developing criteria that would help responsible agencies distinguish situations that would lead to a decision to remove a child from situations where continued placement would not be in the child's best interests.

    Some situations clearly warrant the removal of children in care, the closing of the foster home, and at times, even involvement of the criminal justice system. In other situations children who are not considered to be at risk of future harm may be better served by continued placement with the resource family.

    This decision must be informed by a sharply focused risk assessment process that addresses risk and protective factors within the child, the family, and the "placing system."

    When careful assessment leads to a determination that a child can safely remain in the home, a corrective action plan should be developed with the family that addresses any ongoing risk factors and provides the child and family with necessary supports and services to assure the safety and well being of any child placed in the home. The development of the plan should be a collaborative process with involvement by the child, the family, the agency and the community.

    Systems factors such as overcrowding a foster home or making inappropriate placements could contribute to the risk of maltreatment. When these types of factors have been determined to be involved in creating a situation of risk, then they must be addressed in any plan to continue the child's placement in the home.

    It was recommended that when a decision has been made to continue the child's placement in a home where there has been a substantiated investigation (or to return the child to the home following removal) an external monitor be assigned for a period of time to assure that identified issues have been addressed and the child's ongoing safety is assured. The external monitor would be an independent outside agency that has no responsibility for the case.

  2. Expectation of resource parents:

    The group recommended that placement agencies view resource families (non-kin and kin) as professional caregivers who should be held to high standards of care and accountability. As in earlier discussions, this recommendation reflects the heightened responsibility of the placement agency when children have been removed from the homes of their birth parents and placed in approved and licensed settings.

  3. The general public:

    The group identified the need to increase the general public's understanding, sensitivity, and support of children in care and their resource families.

    They also identified the need to explain to the public and the media the process by which children may remain in care after a substantiated investigation. Being able to document a thorough risk assessment and decision-making process will help to justify these decisions.

  4. Birth family involvement:

    Birth parents who maintain parental rights should be kept informed of all decisions made regarding the placement of their children after a substantiated investigation.

    Agencies should develop practice guidelines that guide workers in this important area. Guidelines should address issues such as how and when to inform birth parents and the degree to which birth parents may have a role in the placement decision-making process.

  5. Central Registry notification:

    It was recommended that when a resource parent's license is revoked due to a substantiated child abuse and neglect investigation, the name of the alleged perpetrator should be listed on the state's Central Registry. Other placement agencies may need this information if the family were to apply elsewhere to be a placement resource.

    The group discussed differences between listing the names of alleged perpetrators or licensing actions on a "limited access" directory as compared to a directory or web site easily accessible by the public.

  6. Unsubstantiated allegations:

    It was suggested that even in situations where a child abuse and neglect allegation is unsubstantiated, family, child or systems issues could be identified in the investigation process. Licensing violations could also be present which do not reach the standard of child abuse and neglect. In these situations, it is important for the investigator to share concerns with appropriate foster care or licensing staff, as well as with children's service workers when appropriate.

    The large group responded to Group Four's presentation with the following comments:

    • In response to the suggestion for outside monitoring when children remain in placement in the home following a substantiated investigation, it was noted that the process of monitoring these situations must be well defined. It must include well-chosen clinical standards and protocols.

    • It was noted that at times false allegations might be a sign that something is not right within the broader agency system. For example, while the care of the child may be very appropriate, the false allegation may point out the need to address a sense of isolation or lack of trust experienced by a birth parent who files a false allegation. The investigation process may be an important opportunity to address issues such as this.

    • This led to a comment that effective placement decisions may well prevent false allegations later in the process.

    • The point was made that in some situations foster parents may not receive prompt written notice that an investigation was unsubstantiated. There was agreement that foster parents should receive prompt written notice. Unsubstantiated reports should also be expunged within a reasonable time period.

    • A question was raised about whether it is appropriate to notify professionals and others who "know the family" and who were contacted during the investigation of an unsubstantiated decision. Notifying these people would "close a loop" and would help dispel negative perceptions of the family.

Discussion of the Continuing Process of Guidelines Development

Pam Day, the Director of Child Welfare Services and Standards for the Child Welfare League of America provided the panel with a description of the continuing process of guidelines development. Practice guidelines are a relatively new development. They are meant to elaborate on and operationalize practice standards by providing more specific and detailed guidance for agencies and practitioners. As with practice standards, guidelines are informed by experts and are user-friendly and detailed. The guidance of the expert panel is extremely important in developing the content of these guidelines. It is expected that these guidelines will include appendices that contain best practice tools that can be used by agencies involved in the investigation and service delivery process.

Expert Panel's Recommendations for the Guidelines Format

The expert panel recommended the following format suggestions:
  • The guidelines should be simple and focus on the most important practice areas.

  • They should include checklists and practice tools.

  • They should be sharply focused on the tasks of the front-line worker and should clearly guide practice.

  • The format of the guidelines should be "user-friendly" and succinct. Information should be "boiled down" to the essentials.

  • Activity checklists should be included so that workers could organize and self monitor the completion of important activities.

  • Structured decision-making models should be incorporated as much as possible.

  • Key definitions should be included in a glossary.

Next Steps

A summary of these proceedings and a draft outline for the practice guidelines will be completed and disseminated to the expert panel in January 2002.


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