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Child and Family Safety in Family Preservation Services. A training module for FPS therapists created by Cheri Johnson, MSW Central Washington University for Children’s Administration Olympia, Washington. Introduction.
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A training module for FPS therapists created byCheri Johnson, MSWCentral Washington Universityfor Children’s AdministrationOlympia, Washington
This training will focus on the FPS therapist’s responsibility in ensuring the safety of families, particularly children, with whom we work.
Prior to reviewing this material, it will be helpful if the therapist has viewed the CA video, “Making a CPS Referral: A Guide for Mandated Reporters.”
Please have the following items handy:
Given that families are not referred to FPS unless there is a substantial risk that a child may need to be removed from his/her home (or that they have already been in out-of-home placement and reunification is soon to occur)…
…it should be clear that the safety of children in or returning to their homes is of primary importance to our work in Family Preservation.
Accordingly, we’ll begin by examining the role of the FPS provider as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse/neglect (CA/N).
“Mandated reporting” refers to the statutory requirement (RCW 26.44) to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the designated agency, Children’s Administration.
[NOTE: reports may also be made to law enforcement.]
From RCW 26.44.020 (12): “the injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, negligent treatment, or maltreatment of a child by any person under circumstances which indicate that the child's health, welfare, and safety is harmed…..”
The accompanying handout includes definitions and examples to help clarify both the broader and finer definitions of child abuse and neglect.
This may also assist you in determining whether any safety concerns you may have fall under the heading of CA/N and thus must be reported to CPS.
While the handout provides statutes, definitions, and examples, this brief training cannot encompass such vital topics as identifying signs/symptoms of abuse, or appropriate interventions.
A concise yet thorough and extremely useful resource may be found at the Children’s Administration website, http://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/general/index.asp
There are also many clinically-sound trainings, seminars, journals, etc., available on the topic of identification of and intervention in child abuse and neglect.
Keeping in mind the parameters of your role as an FPS therapist, access these resources to increase your knowledge and skill level!
RCW 26.44.030 is quite explicit; three subsections detail who is required by law to report suspected child maltreatment.
(1)(a) Medical providers and other helping professionals;
(1)(b) DOC employees who observe offenders and/or children with whom offenders come in contact;
(1)(c) Any adult who has reasonable cause to believe that a child who resides with them, has suffered severe abuse.
FPS providers may actually fall under several covered categories; however, the category of “social service counselor” generally covers most providers.
No, the RCW specifies that one only needs to have reasonable cause to believe that CA/N has occurred.
If you have reason to suspect a child has been maltreated, CPS should be contacted and a referral made.
The RCW specifies that the report must be made at the first opportunity, but in no case longer than 48 hours after becoming aware of the situation.
IMPORTANT: If the referral is related to an FPS-involved family, the therapist must report immediately, and follow up with written notification within 24 hrs.
It begins with an intake call, when a referent contacts the designated CPS intake worker, who then gathers as much information as possible.
Be sure to have all available information in front of you, and be prepared to answer detailed questions from the intake worker.
Well………..yes, but don’t do it!!!
Make note of this in your FPS charting notes as further verification you have fulfilled your responsibility as a mandated reporter—and in case questions arise later.
Absolutely—and if someone shares information with you about their own suspicion a child has been maltreated, you should encourage them to report it directly to CPS intake.
Please note, however, that this does not satisfy YOUR responsibility to report! (unless you make the call with them)
According to the FPS Contract, all new FPS staff must view the video, “Making a CPS Referral: A Guide for Mandated Reporters,” within 2 weeks of being hired to provide these services.
The video must be viewed, and the appropriate statement signed, at least once every three years, according to the contract.
Making a referral to CPS should never be viewed as a negative action!
Remember, the purpose for mandated reporting and for CPS in general is to ensure the safety and well-being of all children—not coincidentally, the primary focus of Family Preservation.
As mandated reporters, we are given the legal responsibility not for investigating allegations or considering potential repercussions of a CPS referral—but for speaking up any time we have reason to suspect a child may be experiencing abuse or neglect.
…it could result in the loss of your FPS contract, your job, suspension or revocation of your professional licensure and/or registration, and your inability to obtain future employment in the field of social welfare.
…as well as to your profession, your agency, and yourself.
Beginning with the CA social worker’s first meeting, and continuing once a family is referred to FPS…
…a variety of areas (such as parenting skills, history of CA/N, etc.) are considered and addressed via observation, interviews, and the application of assessment tools.
Risk factors within and around the family (including environmental factors) are gauged in terms of what part they may play in a family’s ability to ensure their children’s safety….
…safety concerns are identified—i.e., what components of a child’s safety may be jeopardized by the identified risk factors….
…and a search is undertaken for ameliorative measures that may intervene in or even prevent circumstances that could result in harm to a child.
These steps set the stage for risk assessment and safety planning.
Before a case is referred to FPS, the CA social worker will typically have assessed risk factors and developed a safety plan for the family.
The FPS therapist will also be assessing various levels of risk, more formally with the NCFAS/NCFAS-R at the beginning and end of services, and less formally throughout the intervention.
Levels of both risk and safety will fluctuate during the course of an intervention, so ongoing assessment of both is necessary…
…by the FPS therapist, the CA social worker, and any other treaters involved with an FPS family.
The FPS Client Service Contract addresses the responsibility of the therapist to review the CA Safety Plan, if one has been developed.
…some parents may not know what a Safety Plan is, or how to comply with it—they may simply remember signing something that kept their child from being removed from the home.
This is, in most cases, not due to any fault on the part of the social worker; it’s more typically related to the stress of being investigated by CPS.
Faced with the fear that their child could be taken away from them, however briefly, parents will generally agree to sign almost anything, without much thought to what’s being signed.
Thus, even when the CA Safety Plan provides a list of safety concerns, action steps to correct these concerns, and a designation of who is responsible for taking the necessary actions…
…the family may not find the CA Safety Plan as helpful as it was designed to be.
Not infrequently, the CA Safety Plan will clearly identify what the family should not do (i.e., “Sam will not hit the children,” “Susan will not leave the children unsupervised,” etc.)…
…but will provide limited guidance in terms of what the family should do that would be considered a more appropriate response to the safety concern(s) in question.
One way to enhance client compliance with the CA Safety Plan is to supplement it with another plan, created cooperatively by the FPS therapist with the help and support of the referred family.
A good safety plan clearly states:
Well..….. although developing a safety plan is a fairly simple, straightforward process, there’s one aspect that tends to confound helping professionals in general:
we always want to jump ahead and fix things!
Accordingly, whether it’s the CA social worker or the FPS therapist, we tend to want to create safety plans that are more future- than present-oriented…
…and more PROactive than REactive.
But this is one time you’ll actually be encouraged to think in terms of reaction instead of prevention!
Consider instead what the family might do if the safety issue they need to avoid confronts them 10 minutes after you leave their home—or at 2:00 in the morning, or on Christmas Eve.
“If the situation you wish to avoid (i.e., whatever it is that could threaten your child’s safety and your ability to maintain him/her in the home) should start to happen, this is what you can do to manage/lessen/avoid the potential for harm to the child, with whatever resources are at hand at that time.”
In Case of Crisis,
…so limit the number of steps in an action plan, and limit the number of words used to explain each step.
All the great resources, skills, etc. you wish to introduce to the family—they don’t belong in the Safety Plan; save them for the family’s Service Plan.
The Service Plan calls for proactive planning, resource development, skill building, and all those other things you do so well as an FPS therapist!
First, review the CA Safety Plan with the client—both the therapist and the family should have a copy. [NOTE: Obviously, if no CA Safety Plan was required or completed by the social worker, this step is omitted!]
Does the family agree with the information on the CA Safety Plan? (great opportunity to hear the client’s “take” on what led to the referral!)
If either the client or the FPS therapist feels the CA Safety Plan does not provide clear or sufficient direction (i.e., what should be done if a situation arises that jeopardizes child safety)…
…the development of a new or supplemental plan can make a huge difference in the client’s ability (and willingness) to follow the CA Safety Plan.
The next step is to begin where the CA Safety Plan left off.
Working with the family, create a list of safety issues/ways to address them, that includes the social worker’s concerns yet fits with the family’s perspective.
Help family members brainstorm about available supports—friends, neighbors, extended family, community crisis services, etc.—and action steps that could be taken to ensure child safety.
…families will typically prefer the one they wrote—with no authority figure dictating, “This is what you’ll do or we take your kids” (which is how parents typically interpret the CA Safety Plan).
Although FPS therapists and their clients may prefer the therapist-generated safety plan to the CA Safety Plan…
…the CA Safety Plan continues to play a role in the FPS intervention.
As long as the second safety plan contains all pertinent requirements detailed in the CA plan, you need only review the second safety plan (documenting results and reporting to social worker)to remain in compliance with this contractual specification.
Rather than placing oneself in this position, any proposed changes to the Safety Plan should be discussed with the referring social worker.
…as well as any other document the FPS therapist creates related to the intervention.
Remember, the intent of a therapist-client Safety Plan is not to see who can develop the best-written, most comprehensive plan (or whose plan the family likes better)…
…it’s to ensure the family is able to comply with the CA Safety Plan, by having a clear idea of what they can do—even in the midst of crisis—to keep their children safe at all times.
We’ve already explored some of the most important means of enhancing the safety of the children we serve:
…whether we’re consciously aware of it every minute, or not!
…the written Family Assessment highlights and explains these concerns, and…
…the Service Plan develops various means of managing, correcting, or eliminating them.
to ensure that children can safely remain in their own homes, in the care of their own families, without need of intervention from outside sources.
That’s what Family Preservation is all about.
As an FPS therapist and a mandated reporter, the therapist must contact CPS intake immediately, upon becoming aware of the situation.
The referring social worker must also be contacted immediately, and written notification must follow within 24 hrs.
…the first call should be to the police (911)!
Utilize all your clinical skills (including any specialized training you may have in crisis intervention, mediation, etc.) to keep the situation safe while you wait for authorities to arrive.
But do not attempt to remove a child from their home, and never feel you must place yourself in unnecessary danger to protect a child.
No FPS therapist would ever be expected to place themselves in harm’s way to protect a child (or, for that matter, any family member).
There are excellent trainings, workshops, books, and so on, which address the topic of therapist safety.
In addition to honing your clinical skills, take advantage of opportunities to increase your preparation for dealing with potentially volatile situations.
But by and large, even initially-resistive families referred to FPS find our services extremely helpful.
Aggressive behavior targeting FPS therapists is actually quite rare overall.
Therapist responsibilities include the following:
The therapist thoroughly explores each safety concern noted by the referring social worker in the Family Assessment and Service Plan, and addresses them on an ongoing basis throughout the intervention.
Therapist reviews CA Safety Plan at least every 2 wks, develops a second plan if necessary to clearly provide a list of available supports/action steps for families to take to ensure child safety, and provides weekly safety updates to referring social worker.
Therapist completes the NCFAS/ NCFAS-R and written Family Assessment, and develops a Service Plan with family, focusing on reducing/ eliminating any concerns related to child safety.
Therapist remains continually vigilant for any indications that caregivers may not be keeping children safe—assessing verbal and nonverbal communications, observing behaviors, and so on.
5. Teaching families new skills and connecting them to appropriate resources related to decreasing risk of harm and increasing child safety.
Therapist introduces families to skills, techniques, and resources to further reduce risk factors and enhance the family’s ability to keep children safe and healthy.
Therapist reports any suspicion of CA/N, as mandated by RCW 26.44; also provides verbal and written notification to referring social worker as per the FPS Client Service Contract.
From start to finish, every aspect of the FPS intervention is geared towards enhancing family and child safety.
Regardless of the specific task at hand, the FPS therapist is ever alert to the health, well-being, and safety of the children in each home we visit.
…and the effective therapist focuses every intervention toward that end.