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Apr 04, 2014
DCFS Child Welfare Launches Family-Centered Approach to Safely Keep More Children with Families, Reduce Instances of Abuse
Advanced Safety Practices moves away from incident-based investigations

BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is kicking off Child Abuse Prevention Month by announcing a new family-centered approach to taking reports of child abuse or neglect. The new approach is aimed at safely maintaining children in their own homes.

In the Advanced Safety Focused Practice model, child welfare staff who take reports of child abuse and neglect gather additional relevant information to better understand the families, any safety threats, and ways to make the environment safer for the child so families stay together. Child welfare staff completed foundational training in Advanced Safety Practices earlier this year and will soon begin phase two of training.

"By moving away from the traditional incident-based approach child welfare staff can look at how a parent and child function in the household if reports of abuse or neglect are received," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "We'll determine if the child's basic needs are being met, if medical help is needed, and if there are safety concerns for the child that must be taken into consideration."

Advanced Safety first looks at five critical areas - the extent of maltreatment, circumstances surrounding maltreatment, child functioning, adult/caretaker functioning and general parenting practices.

"With this information, staff can make better decisions and reduce the likelihood of maltreatment or abuse to occur in the future," said Sonnier. "Focusing on these critical areas improves our overall social work practice and allows us to better ensure that the children in our state are safe."

Advanced Safety then considers three primary elements in determining whether a child is safe or unsafe: threats of danger, whether the child is vulnerable and whether the caregiver has enhanced or diminished protective capacities.

Conditions that could make a child vulnerable to abuse or neglect include age, physical or mental disability, provocative behavior, powerlessness, defenselessness, non-assertiveness and illness.

Advanced Safety is DCFS' latest step to standardize child welfare intake throughout the state. DCFS' efforts to move from a parish-by-parish intake system began in 2011 with the launch of the Centralized Intake system.

Centralized Intake provides greater consistency regarding reports of potential child abuse or neglect and oversight over intake decision-making. Prior to that time, various staff in local offices received such reports and determined the appropriate response.

Today, Centralized Intake staff, who are trained child welfare workers, man the state's 24-hour statewide, toll-free hotline - 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437) - to take reports of possible child abuse and neglect, ensuring that no reports are missed and that each report is handled promptly and uniformly according to best practice. Each report is evaluated to determine if it meets the legal criteria for abuse and neglect.

On average the hotline receives an average of 4,500 calls of reports of abuse and neglect each month. About 2,500 of those calls accepted for further investigation. More than 316,692 calls have been taken since its launch.

Anyone can report child abuse or neglect by calling the 24 hour statewide, toll-free hotline 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437). For more information about reporting child abuse or neglect in Louisiana or who is considered a mandated reporter, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/ReportChildAbuse.


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