Child Advocacy Centers Support Children and Families
The idea of regional Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) is catching on. Meaningful work is already being done statewide to help victims and their families work through the trauma of abuse, and now Clinton County’s CAC is working with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Essex and Franklin Counties to develop the first regional CAC in New York State. The North Country is not the only region seeking to establish a regional CAC. Fulton County has worked to develop a CAC with satellite sites serving Montgomery and Hamilton counties. Jefferson County has worked to develop MDTs and satellite locations in St. Lawrence and Lewis Counties. Genesee County is leading an expansion in Western New York to create a regional CAC with Orleans and Wyoming Counties. Discussions have been held to focus on expansion of this model to other regions of the state.
CACs are child-friendly locations where allegations of child abuse and maltreatment are investigated by a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT). There are currently approximately 40 CACs in operation across the state, serving approximately 19,000 children each year.
The first North Country child abuse prevention conference, "Hope Changes Everything," was held this fall in Clinton County for MDT members and other stakeholders. It provided an opportunity for dedicated child welfare service providers to collaborate and build more innovative partnerships to better serve children in the North Country.
MDTs include professionals in areas such as law enforcement, child protective services, health care, mental health, and victim advocates. Their goal is to conduct a streamlined and coordinated investigation of the allegations in a way that reduces the amount of trauma and stress placed on the child and non-offending family members. Many CACs are accredited by the National Children's Alliance. For more information on North Country regional CAC model, contact Richelle Gregory at Richelle.Gregory@clintoncountygov.com
Permanency Roundtables Generate Creative Planning
When working to achieve permanency for youth in foster care, many agencies turn to Permanency Round Tables (PRTs) to find new strategies. A PRT is a two-hour meeting dedicated to discussion and planning for one particular youth. The structured meeting involves a team of approximately eight-to-nine people with both internal and external expertise in child welfare regulation and policies who are briefed about the youth's situation and then brainstorm about how to overcome barriers to permanency. The intensive discussion is used for cases where youth have been in foster care for an extended period of time with few prospects for permanency.
Pat Heaman is one of four OCFS staff members who were trained in the Permanency Roundtable model by Casey Family Services, a division of the Annie D. Casey Foundation. She has since trained local department of social services (LDSS) staff in several counties and serves as a resource for voluntary agencies as well. "What's unique is having nine people talk about one youth for two hours," she says. "Some pretty creative plans have come out of this."
Roundtable participants include a facilitator, the caseworker and supervisor, a "permanency specialist" with knowledge of policies and regulations, a scribe, and several other people who are unfamiliar with the case.
At the outset, the caseworker presents the case by summarizing who the youth is – his or her strengths, prior placements, permanency goals, what has been done in the past, any diagnoses, and where they are at this point and time in placement. The caseworker usually brings a photo of the youth to the PRT to provide a visual of who the team is working for.
After a question period, the group throws out ideas in response to five basic questions:
- What will it to take to achieve permanency for this youth?
- What can we try that has been tried before?
- What can we try that has never been tried before?
- How many things can we do concurrently?
- How can we engage the youth in planning for permanency?
The scribe records all the ideas and the group spends 30 minutes developing an action plan with strategies, tasks, and time frames. The group also discusses whether elements of the plan can be used in other cases.
Some local districts have affirmed the effectiveness of PRTs by building them into their practice. Monroe County now does PRTs for two to three youth each month. Chemung County has also used PRTs for some of its preventive services cases, where roundtable participants brainstorm ways to prevent a youth from being placed in foster care.
Treasure MAPP Seminar Focuses On Partnering, Leadership and Listening
OCFS Deputy Commissioner for Child Welfare and Community Services Laura Velez doesn't mince words when it comes to the challenges faced by those working to help find permanency, well-being and safety for children who need a stable environment.
"This work we're doing is not easy, the work you do is not easy," Velez told attendees of a child welfare seminar in late summer. "Nobody who comes into child welfare who stays in it longer than a year thinks it's going to be easy. This is more of a mission for some people than it is a job. Not many people stay with it if they only consider it a job."
She was speaking to leaders in certified Group Preparation and Selection II/Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (GPSII/MAPP) at the Radisson Hotel. Her theme was “Principles of Partnership - Partnering to Find the Treasures of NYS Child Welfare.”
"Partnership is a process with no beginning and no end," Velez told attendees. "It's worth the work, because when it comes together our outcomes get better."
Part of the deputy commissioner's presentation focused on how to overcome obstacles to forge a partnership - obstacles such as an annoying partner. "Think of the most annoying person you know," Velez suggested, "and think of five strengths that person has." The next step toward improving the life of a child could be as simple as determining how to utilize those strengths to reach the common goal.
Velez says New York has spent much of the last two years working on how to improve the process of getting youth adopted, reunified or moved in with relatives, and how to do it faster and safely. "We are committed to doing that," she said, and ended by encouraging those gathered to maintain that commitment. "I look forward to a continued partnership with you and hope that you're able to take these principles back to your agencies and your work and use them to the best of your abilities."
Collateral Contacts: A Key Strategy Required by Regulation for CPS Caseworkers
Collateral contacts are considered one of the most important ways to achieve a full understanding of child safety during child protective services investigations and within a family assessment response. When local district caseworkers obtain information about a family when it directly pertains to an investigation, they are not only doing their duty as required by regulation 18NYCRR 432.2(b), they are increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
“Sometimes a caseworker might have the idea that communicating with collateral contacts might violate confidentiality,” says OCFS Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez, “but contacting collaterals is necessary and required during an investigation or assessment.
OCFS’s Child Protection Services (CPS) Manual (CPS Manual) describes collateral contacts as those who may have additional knowledge or information that would be helpful in gaining a better understanding of child safety and how a family functions, or information that can clarify and/or address information already in the CPS report. Obtaining such information equips a worker to make a more comprehensive child safety assessment.
Collateral contacts may include:
• Family medical providers
• Social service agencies
• Other agencies providing services to the family
• Extended family members
There are some professional collateral contacts who may be unwilling or unable to share information without a signed consent form. These contacts are often bound by HIPAA regulations establishing their confidentiality and accountability. This is one reason it’s useful to engage a family and request a signed consent form from them when necessary. More information about medical exams and obtaining releases is available in the CPS Manual in Chapter IV, Section D.3. Collateral contacts can be used determine the potential for immediate or impending danger within the first 24-hours but their value continues throughout an investigation. An electronic copy of the CPS Manual is available here: http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cps/