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Reforming The Child Protection System

Reforming What System?

Before we can get down to the complex task of reforming
the child protection system, deciding exactly what is to be reformed is a
necessary step. First and perhaps foremost, there is no child protection
system. To call what exists a system implies a significant degree of
integration and interdependence among the various elements comprising child
protection. There are components and focal areas that might appropriately be
thought of as systems. These include individual local agencies or local
branches of state departments, specific programs within state or regional
units, or programs or service units that work together in a somewhat integrated
way. What is usually referred to as the child protection system is more
appropriately described as an aggregation in the sense of many separate but
more or less related things being grouped together, mostly for convenient
reference. Our first challenge is, then, to figure out how we are going to go
about reforming an aggregation.

In most states, child protection is aggregated under the
auspices and administration of a state-level department responsible for the
safety of abused and neglected children in the state. The responsibility is, in
turn, delegated to various local and regional units and entities that function
fairly independently from each other. In some states, there is a state-level
department that provides auspices and supervision for local, county-level
departments or agencies that are, in turn, responsible for the administration
of programs and services and for the safety of abused and neglected children in
the individual counties. Additionally, there are other child protection
components responsible for specific child populations such as the children of
individuals serving in the military and Native-American children living on
federally designated reservations. Collectively, these components and their
numerous sub-components are what is called the child protection system.

It is unarguably true many children are not protected and
kept safe within this aggregation. It is equally true thousands of children are
kept safe and are not further victimized by abusing and neglectful people
within their environments. The challenge is to increase the proportion of
children who are kept safe without jeopardizing the safety of those children
who are successfully being kept out of harm’s way. Achieving this outcome is at
the essence of any efforts focusing on reforming child protection.

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