A child protective services (CPS) worker who determines that a child can remain safely in the home with his or her family or caregiver then conducts a comprehensive family assessment with the family to determine the services needed to minimize both the risk of child maltreatment and the factors that contributed to this risk. The caseworker will engage the family, develop the case plan, and refer for appropriate services.
Once the case plan has been developed, the caseworker provides or arranges for services identified in the plan to help family members achieve or accomplish the plan's outcomes, goals, and tasks. Selecting and matching interventions and services is important in the casework process. Child maltreatment is caused by multiple and interacting factors, so interventions need to address as many of these contributing issues as possible. These include mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, parent education, and services to all family members that address trauma and concrete needs such as housing and child care. The ultimate goals are to keep the child safe, ensure the child’s overall well-being, strengthen the family, reduce the need for agency involvement, minimize the risk of a recurrence of maltreatment, and close the case when appropriate and safe.
Services to families with children that remain in their homes, sometimes referred to as family support or family preservation services, are provided at three levels, namely:
- Minimal services, such as education and support that address basic parenting skills, including the use of age appropriate discipline techniques and establishment of realistic expectations for a child or that address home maintenance skills, including effective home cleaning, grocery shopping, and budgeting
- Intermediate services, such as family therapy, outpatient substance abuse, or mental health treatment for the parent and/or the child or the provision of respite care for caregivers to relieve the stress that contributed to the maltreatment
- Intensive services, such as a family preservation effort that requires an intensive family intervention by a caseworker for a short period of time to resolve issues contributing to maltreatment
Groups other than the child welfare agency can provide many of these services, particularly at the minimal or intermediate level, and are often community-based or come from informal support systems. At the intensive level, private providers with whom the agency contracts can render specialized or intensive services as needed.
When the risk of further maltreatment is minimized and the goals of the case plan are met, then the case is closed and no further contact with the child welfare agency is required. If, however, sufficient progress is not made, maltreatment recurs, or anything else happens that endangers the child’s safety, then the CPS agency will reconsider whether the child should be removed from the home.
If the case is closed and another allegation of maltreatment is reported, then the case could be reopened and the CPS process begun again.