Child Welfare Values - The Ohio Child Welfare Training Program

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Child Welfare Values - The Ohio Child Welfare Training Program

Transcript Of Child Welfare Values - The Ohio Child Welfare Training Program

Integrating Child Welfare Values and Practice
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1 Casework Supervision Pre-Training Reading

Excerpt From:

Rycus, J.S., & Hughes, R.C. (1998). Child Welfare Values. Field Guide to Child Welfare, Volume I, Foundations of Child Protective Services, 241. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.

October 2007

Child Welfare Values Today
Today, important elements of our societies' values regarding the welfare of children are articulated in the professional values of the child welfare field within the social work profession. The child welfare field has applied fundamental social work values to the provision of child welfare services, thereby deriving the following general value:
All children have an absolute right to a safe, permanent, stable home, which provides basic levels of nurturance and care, and is free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
This general child welfare value is the overriding moral end targeted by all aspects of the child welfare field of practice. It is a derivational incorporation of all four of the fundamental values of social work. For children, freedom includes the possibility to grow and develop free from harm and exploitation. For children, justice includes access to basic care and nurturance. Children do not ask to be born, and this is their birthright. These rights exist because children, like adults, are human beings with intrinsic and irreducible worth. And finally, if we have any unselfish oblation to others, it is especially so for children. We cause them to be, they are dependent upon us, they are fragile, and they are without power and influence.
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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To achieve the ends set forth by this general child welfare value, the child welfare field has developed several norms to guide professional activity. The overriding prescription for child welfare professionals is to always act in the child's best interests. This general norm helps the field to stay focused on its primary responsibility – children. It is the most important professional norm of the child welfare field. But it does not always provide applied criteria for the identification and differentiation of policies and interventions. More specific norms for sanctioning activities in the best interests of children are required. Some of these more specific norms of child welfare practice are:
The child welfare system must protect children.
The only justification for the child welfare field's nonvoluntary involvement with a child and family is that the child is at risk of abuse or neglect. All child welfare protective activities and interventions must be toward the goal of protecting the child from harm.
The child welfare field must provide family-centered services.
The family unit is the central focus of child welfare practice. It is always in a child's best interests to remain with his or her own family, if the family can be helped to provide an environment that provides basic care and nurturance, and is safe from abuse and neglect. Child welfare services should enhance and promote the healthy development of families, and empower them to provide safe and nurturing care to their children. Out-of-home placement should be avoided, unless it is the only way to protect the child. When children must be placed out of the home temporarily, planning and services to promote reunification should begin as soon as the children are removed.
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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Child welfare services must promote permanence for all children.
Permanency planning is, simply, a comprehensive and ongoing case planning process directed toward achieving the goal of permanence for children. Our adherence to principles of permanency planning reflects a fundamental child welfare value regarding the right of children to grow and develop in permanent, stable family environments. Case planning is the step-by-step planning and problem-solving technology used by social workers to bring about desired ends. The term "permanency planning" thus reminds us that case planning activities should always be directed toward assuring that the children we serve have permanent families who can provide them with nurturance and protection.
Child welfare services must be culturally competent.
Cultural competence is the capacity to relate with persons from diverse cultures in a sensitive, respectful, and productive way. Cultural competence incorporates a complex and interrelated array of cognitive and psychological traits and behaviors. And, since it is virtually impossible for anyone to fully understand all the characteristics, nuances, and traits of all the world's cultures, achieving cultural competence requires a lifelong process of learning and change. While child welfare workers will never learn all aspects of the cultures of the families we serve, they must become sensitive, respectful, and adaptive in their cross-cultural communications and interactions.
Children who need out-of-home placement should always be placed in the least restrictive, most home-like environment, as close to their own home as possible.
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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A properly chosen placement will meet children's physical, emotional and social needs, will strengthen and preserve children's relationships with their families, and will minimize separation trauma. To the degree possible, children should be placed with members of their own extended families, or in their home communities to maintain continuity, preserve important relationships, and support their cultural identity.
These are examples of the norms, or instrumental values, of the child welfare field. They are all valued means, instrumental to achieving safe, permanent, stable homes for children which provide basic levels of nurturance and care, and which are free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Integrating Child Welfare Values and Practice
Values do not always appear complementary. Moral and practice dilemmas can result from apparent values conflicts. For example, our culture places a high value on both individuality and cooperation, practically guaranteeing conflict. Our society also highly values both creativity and conformity. Again, the potential for conflicting values and norms is virtually guaranteed.
Many social workers become concerned about potential moral dilemmas in child welfare practice. For example, in family-centered services, who is our client? Is there a conflict between parental rights and children's rights? And how can we plan for permanence, be family-centered, and still place children when necessary?
Following, we have identified some apparent practice dilemmas, and have attempted to show how these dilemmas fail to materialize, if careful thought is given to their underlying values and their operationalization into practice.
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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Family-Centered Services Vs. Child Protection – Is There a Conflict?
The recent emphasis on family-centered services has surfaced some confusion regarding the relationship between children's rights and parents' rights. We often hear derisive comments about extreme philosophical positions supporting either parents' rights or children's rights, as if these were on a continuum, with children's rights at one end and parents' rights at the other, and as if we should place an "X" on the spot that best describes our leanings. The "children's rights" end of this hypothetical continuum is often construed as synonymous with child protective services. The "parents' rights" end of the continuum is often construed as synonymous with family preservation. In fact, this continuum model of parents' rights versus children's rights, and family-centered services versus child protective services, is confusing and inaccurate. The relationship between parents' rights and children's rights cannot be described as the two ends of an exclusionary continuum. They are, in fact, most often compatible. Family-centered services is not the opposite of child protective services. In reality, when children can be protected in their own homes, family-centered services is the best means of achieving child protection.
Rights and Responsibilities
Many ethics philosophies incorporate a conceptualization of human rights. Among these various ethical paradigms the scope of rights may vary, and their moral validity may emanate from a variety of sources; however, they are always divided into two types of rights: absolute and contingent. Absolute rights convey upon their beneficiary privileges that are unconditional. Absolute rights do not have to be earned, and they cannot be taken away. Contingent rights, however, are conditional. They must be earned. Contingent rights may be dependent upon the individual meeting certain responsibilities, and they may disappear if those responsibilities or conditions are not met. Children's
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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rights are an example of absolute rights. Parents' rights are an example of contingent rights.
Children's Rights Children's rights are absolute. By the fact of being born, children have an absolute right to certain levels of care and support, and to an environment free from abuse. These rights have no contingencies. They should not depend upon children's economic circumstances, the religion of their parents, their genetic inheritance or its phenotypic expression, their culture or race, or even the behavior of their parents.
Parents' Rights The depth and breadth of parents' rights is considerable. Our society has clearly and correctly determined that, in the vast majority of circumstances, parents should have the authority and responsibility to make decisions for their families and children. Parents are the legitimate source of most major decisions regarding their children's physical, social, emotional, and psychological development and well-being. Parents' rights are, however, not absolute rights. They are contingent upon parents meeting their responsibility to provide their children with minimum levels of nurturance and care, and a safe environment free from abuse or exploitation.
Child Welfare Services
Our society has evolved a clear position regarding the state's interest and moral obligation to assure the absolute rights of children to certain levels of care and nurturance, and to a safe environment. The legal concept of "parens patriae" conveys to the state the legal authority and moral responsibility to assure that children are not neglected or abused by their caregivers. In exercising this authority and responsibility, public child welfare agencies, as agents of the state, can fulfill not only their obligation to protect the absolute rights of
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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children, but they also can facilitate parents in meeting their responsibilities to nurture and protect their children, thus helping parents to meet the contingencies of their parental rights. This combination of protecting children and empowering families should be the foundation of family-centered practice. When parents meet their contingent parental responsibilities, sometimes with empowering and supportive family services, then parents' rights and children's rights become integrated and interfused ends. Family-centered practice is the recognition of this potential compatibility.
Family-Centered Child Protective Services
The guiding principle of child protective services is to always act in the best interests of the child. If we accept that it is always in the best interests of children to remain with their own family, when that environment is, or can, with reasonable efforts, become an abuse-free and nurturing environment, then there is no philosophical conflict between family-centered services and child protective services. Family-centered services should not replace child protective services, but rather should complement them. Family-centered services, when successful, protect children from abuse and neglect, and also protect children from the trauma of unnecessary separation and placement. Family-centered child protective services best describes a family-centered approach to our child protection responsibilities.
Family-centered child protective services will always:
1. Be in the best interest of the child. 2. Advocate for the absolute rights of children to an abuse-free and
nurturing family environment. 3. Advocate for parental rights contingent only upon the protection of their
children.
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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4. Recognize that it is always in the best interest of children to remain with their own family when that environment is, or can, with reasonable efforts, become an abuse-free, nurturing environment.
5. Recognize that trauma to children can result from both abuse and neglect, and, from separation and placement.
6. Recognize our obligation to provide comprehensive family-centered services to strengthen families, when it is in the best interests of children.
7. Place children out-of-home only when it is necessary for their protection.
8. Make comprehensive efforts to reunite families when placement is necessary, and families can be preserved.
Child protective services have been the responsibility of child welfare social workers in the U.S. and Canada for over a century. Guided by the philosophical principle of always acting "in the best interests of the child," the field of child welfare has responsibility for protecting children from abuse and neglect. In the past, some social workers and agencies have been too quick to remove children from their homes because it was thought to be "in the best interests of the child." While child welfare professionals were aware of the risks involved when children remained in maltreating families, they were often less clear regarding the traumatic effects of separating children from their families and placing them out-of-home. Recently, as research and experience document both the traumatic effects of separation and placement, and the success of efforts to strengthen and preserve many families, there has been a move toward using comprehensive family-centered services to protect children in their own homes.
The recent focus on family-centered services represents an important reemphasis of casework methods, and a recommitment to the fundamental
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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importance of family integrity to our society's health. This focus is long overdue. Unfortunately, there has also been dangerous rhetoric deemphasizing our essential responsibility to protect children. Family-centered child protective services must be clearly understood, and clearly communicated, as a means to protect children, not an abdication of our responsibility to do so. And, while family-centered services can help a majority of families provide care and protection for their children, some children must be placed out of their homes to assure their protection.
Integrating Family-Centered Services and Child Placement
As we indicated earlier, permanency planning is a comprehensive case planning process directed toward achieving the goal of permanence for children. Principles of permanency planning reflect fundamental child welfare values regarding the rights of children to grow and develop in permanent, stable family environments. The rationale for permanency planning is derived from an understanding of the developmental needs of children, and the traumatic effects of separation and placement on children and their families. When children are separated from their families for extended periods of time, they experience multiple psychological losses and threats, which can produce emotional and developmental trauma. When children are removed from their families, their most significant emotional attachments are disrupted or severed. The absence of stability, continuity, or certainty in their lives creates constant anxiety about an equivocal future. They are often emotionally overwhelmed, and they lose the ability to participate in, much less to master, normal developmental activities. Delays in cognitive, social, and emotional development are common outcomes for children who have experienced traumatic separation. Finally, children in lengthy placements will often experience the natural process of grieving and detachment from their families. This may prevent them from ever being fully reintegrated in their families.
Supervisor/Manager Core Module 1: Casework Supervision, Pre-training Written by IHS for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program – Revised October 2007
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