Child welfare services, usually provided by state, county or other public child welfare agencies, assigned to investigate allegations of child abuse, neglect or abandonment. Protective service workers who believe a complaint is founded may remove a child from the home immediately and place the child in an emergency shelter home or foster home. A judge will shortly thereafter determine if continuous foster care is in the best interests of the child. Reports of suspected abuse may come from teachers, physicians, emergency room doctors and other sources.
If the complaint was unfounded, the child will remain in the home. Unfounded complaints may come from ex-spouses, jealous neighbors and similar other sources. Protective services workers should be trained in techniques to detect abuse and injuries most likely to have occurred from abuse.
Protective services is a high-pressure, stressful job, and many social workers working in this unit transfer to other jobs that are less stressful.
Workers report that even when they remove a child from his or her home because of severe abuse, the child is angry at the caseworker rather than at the abusive parent. In addition, the abusive parent often denies the abuse and believes the caseworker is persecuting the parent.
Often protective workers are given little time to investigate and must visit the accused person within 24 hours or 48 hours, so the pressure of time is another constraint on the worker.
Ultimately, many of the children seen by protective services workers and judged by the workers to have been abused, neglected or abandoned will enter the child welfare system. Adoption will be the plan for some of these children. The failure of protective services to assure children's safety was a major reason Congress passed the ADOPTION AND SAFE FAMILIES ACT. (See also ABANDONMENT; ABUSE; NEGLECT.)
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
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