Secretary Malhotra
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Governor's Office

Child Protective Services

DHR Service: Child Protective Services

 The best place for children to grow up is in their families. Safe solutions can be achieved in collaboration with families and communities; permitting children to stay at home while their family is involved in services to engage, support and strengthen their ability to safely parent. This is always the preferred alternative to placement in foster care.

Child Protective Services (CPS) is a specific social service provided by DHR to assist children believed to be neglected or abused by parents or other adults having permanent or temporary care or custody, or parental responsibility. The program also offers service to household or family members who may require intervention to decrease the risk of any continuing physical, sexual or mental abuse or neglect. The first priority of CPS is to safely maintain a child in their home and to protect the child from further harm and maltreatment. Where the caretaker is willing and able, through the provision of services or other assistance, to work toward maintaining safety for the child, no alternative placement is needed. Remaining safely at home or with family is always preferable to placement in foster care.

The goals of CPS are to:

  • Protect children and assist parents or caretakers in providing proper care and attention to children
  • Remedy and decrease the risk of continuing abuse and neglect
  • Provide an alternate plan of care for children when parents or caretakers are unable to proved proper and safe care for them;

While CPS works to provide services and interventions to families, it is not designed to address all issues that contribute to a family’s difficulties or to address the full range of parent-child problems.

Our main focus is on protecting children from abuse and neglect and to engage families in the process of helping to safely parent their children. Child protection is a community responsibility and communities must respond strategically to children who are in danger of abuse or neglect working with families at the first sign of a problem and resources should be coordinated through combined efforts. The community has an obligation to ensure that the required services are available for prevention, intervention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

Solution-Focused Approach of CPS: Maryland’s recent legislative mandates now allows for two responses to reports of child maltreatment; investigative response and alternative response. The investigative response is applied for those reports of child abuse that meet the criteria of high or moderate risk to a child’s safety, while the alternative response is applied for reports that meet the criteria of low risk. Both approaches to reports of child maltreatment involve collaborative work with families to seek solutions in assisting the family in gaining the help needed to reduce the risk of further maltreatment. Both focus on interventions that strive to achieve child safety, promotion of permanency and child well-being. The investigative approach continues, due to the nature of the reports of high to moderate risk, to require additional fact finding and to a formal finding at the conclusion of the investigation. The alternative response allows more flexibility to tailor the response to the needs and circumstances of the family and to collaborate with the family to seek solutions to prevent further maltreatment.

Both responses require workers to enter into a relationship with a family to identify and reduce risks to children. Factors related to the origin of the risk are identified with the family and solutions are sought to produce safety outcomes. The outcomes are based on collaboration with the family and the desire and willingness on the part of all to work to produce child safety and well-being.

Using a combination of support, direction, and authority, the worker may provide direct services to the family members and also act as case manager in coordinating the provision of other services that are needed.

Principles to the social work discipline for CPS is that:

  • Most CPS clients can change their behavior if provided sufficient help to motivate and empower them.
  • Personal, social and societal factors may lead to inadequate parenting and to child maltreatment.
  • Most often, they represent examples of failure and despair, rather than willful premeditated behaviors.
  • Child abuse and neglect are principally social rather than legal problems.
  • Effective intervention requires CPS to respond in a non-punitive, non-critical manner and most importantly, offer help.
  • Child Protective Services should collaborate and coordinate with law enforcement, medical providers, and educational personnel, while maintaining our unique roles and functions.
  • It is best to keep children with their parents when safety can be assured.

The ultimate success of CPS intervention rests with the family and they must be encouraged to be involved with and participate in the intervention process.

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