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State Responses to Allegations of Maltreatment in Out-Of-Home Care

Table 2: Degree to Which State Policies Address Key Evaluative Criteria

Table 2 evaluates the degree to which materials received from the 16 reporting states provide clear direction for investigation of maltreatment reports filed on behalf of children in foster care. Ratings are assigned for each state according to the degree to which the material reviewed (primarily state policies) gives clear, detailed guidance for investigating these reports. Ratings are assigned on a four-point ordinal scale as follows:
  • 0 indicates that an evaluative criterion was not addressed at all in the submitted materials.
  • 1 indicates that an evaluative criterion was addressed minimally.
  • 2 indicates that an evaluative criterion was addressed adequately.
  • 3 indicates that an evaluative criterion was addressed at a high level.
The assigned ratings are intended to help guide a discussion, not to be a formal evaluation of the practice in any state. This rating scheme will be helpful in identifying effective practices as well as important gaps that may exist in some states.

Evaluative criteria were developed from "best practices" identified in state policies, a review of relevant literature, and the practice experience of the consultant and of the CWLA project staff. They are not listed in any hierarchical order nor are they assigned weighted value across categories. Rather, these elements describe the agency's role as both "enforcer" and "helper" and should be viewed as "suggested criteria" for evaluation. They include the following:
  • Foster care is distinguished: This criterion represents the degree to which state policies address the investigation of allegations of maltreatment in foster care as a distinct investigatory process. Higher ratings were given to states that distinguished this process from investigations in birth families and other forms of out-of-home care.

  • Kinship/relative care is addressed: Just as investigations in foster homes present challenges that are distinct from those in other out-of-home settings, the unique dynamics in kinship relationships require clear guidance for agencies investigating reports in kinship/relative care settings. A major finding of this analysis is the scarcity of language regarding investigations of children who are in kinship/relative care.

  • A team approach is emphasized: This criterion represents the degree to which state policies emphasize the use of coordinated teams during the investigation process and the degree to which the activities of team members are clearly defined and complementary.

  • Investigation activities are described: This criterion represents the degree to which state policies provide detailed direction for workers who are involved in conducting investigations, specifically in foster care settings. Higher ratings are assigned to those states that distinguish foster home investigations from investigations in other out-of-home settings and provide significant guidance for workers involved in those investigations.

  • Clear time frames are described: This criterion addresses whether state policies provide specific time frames for investigation activities, including initial response and the completion of the investigation. Some state materials identify specific time frames, whereas others refer to the use of standard investigation procedures. An assumption made in this analysis is that standard investigation procedures include investigation time frames. Higher ratings are assigned to states that include time frames in their discussion of investigations specific to foster homes.

  • Group decisionmaking is addressed: This criterion reflects the degree to which state policies identify decisionmaking processes specific to investigations in foster homes. The criterion includes the level of specific guidance for decisionmaking as well as the use of decisionmaking groups. Group decisionmaking allows for consultation and guidance and protects against potential bias in the process.

  • Safety issues are addressed: This criterion addresses the degree to which state policies define clear activities that focus on assessment of the safety of the reported child and other children who are living in the foster home. Higher ratings are given to states that identify safety assessment as an important part of the investigation process. The highest rating was reserved for the states that identify particular safety assessment tools to be used during this process. Information used to assess this criterion is drawn from the specific actions taken to protect the reported children and other children in the home from harm, as described in individual state analyses.

  • Foster parents' rights are considered: This criterion addresses the degree to which state policies identify specific actions, during and after the investigation process, that protect the rights of foster parents. These rights are oftentimes mandated in statute, promulgated in policies, and assured through good practice. Such activities include timely notification of foster parents of the allegation and investigation, as well as the foster parents' access to administrative review and fair hearings processes. As with other criteria, the evaluation was based only on material received. The absence of language regarding these issues in the submitted materials does not necessarily mean that foster parents' rights during the process are not protected in various ways. For example, it is reasonable to expect that, even when those rights are not clearly spelled out in the submitted policies related to out-of-home care, foster parents may have access to the same administrative review and fair hearings processes as any other caregiver who is the subject of a report of child maltreatment.

  • Foster parent support is described: Being the subject of an allegation of child maltreatment can be a threatening and painful process. Providing support to foster parents throughout this process is an important part of the investigation process. This criterion addresses the degree to which the submitted materials emphasize the importance of providing support, the importance of assigning the "supportive" responsibilities to particular staff persons, and provide detailed guidance on how to provide that support most effectively.

  • The licensing/CPS interface is clear: This criterion addresses the degree to which submitted materials clearly differentiate processes related to the investigation of maltreatment reports (from CPS) from investigations of licensing concerns or violations. Making these distinctions can be difficult. The separation of the two processes is more complicated when there are concerns of both maltreatment and possible licensing violations. Thus, policies that make clear distinctions between those investigative processes and provide detailed guidance for conducting these different, yet sometimes parallel, processes received higher ratings.
Clear Time
Arizona 2 0 2 2 3
Colorado 1 0 1 0 3
Connecticut 3 1 2 2 2
Delaware 2 0 2 2 2
Georgia 3 1 2 3 2
Illinois 3 1 2 1 3
Iowa 2 0 3 3 0
Maryland 3 1 3 3 3
Missouri 3 0 2 2 3
New Hampshire 3 0 2 2 1
New Mexico 2 1 2 2 3
Oklahoma 3 1 2 3 3
Oregon 2 0 3 3 2
Rhode Island 1 0 2 1 0
Texas 3 0 2 3 3
Virginia 2 0 2 3 3

Arizona 3 2 2 0 2
Colorado 2 2 1 0 2
Connecticut 3 2 2 1 3
Delaware 1 2 2 0 1
Georgia 3 3 0 0 3
Illinois 2 3 3 0 3
Iowa 1 2 0 1 3
Maryland 3 2 1 1 3
Missouri 1 2 1 0 2
New Hampshire 1 2 3 1 3
New Mexico 3 2 2 2 3
Oklahoma 1 2 1 0 2
Oregon 3 2 3 3 3
Rhode Island 0 1 1 0 1
Texas 2 2 3 2 3
Virginia 1 3 3 0 1

States are rated in each category according to the degree to which submitted materials fully addressed each category: 0 = Not at all, 1 = Minimally, 2 = Adequately, 3 = Addressed at a high level.

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