The process of family assessment must be done with great care to reduce trauma to the child while still eliciting the necessary information to assure safety and protection of the child and family. The assessment of child abuse and neglect requires a cooperative, coordinated, and complementary approach by those charged with the responsibility for these cases. In Ohio, statutes place this responsibility jointly with law enforcement agencies and the County Child Protective Services Agencies. Law enforcement agencies and the County Child Protective Services Agency are the mandated agencies to receive and respond to initial reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. In Fairfield County, both law enforcement and Protective Services have important roles in assessing abuse and neglect. Both agencies are primarily responsible for ensuring the immediate safety of children and families. Protective Services is primarily concerned with assessing the situation, on-going risk to children, and the capacity of parents to properly care for and protect their children. Protective Services believes it is best for children to live in a family setting, ultimately with their primary caregiver. Protective Services strives to help families remain together as they solve problems.
Protective Services must evaluate the long term resolution for the child and may provide or arrange for voluntary services needed by the family to assist in maintaining the child in his/her own home whenever possible. Alternatively, the Protective Services agency may work with the County Prosecutor’s Office to initiate juvenile court action when necessary to protect the child and to require that the family engages in treatment services.
After a county agency receives a report of possible child abuse or neglect, a caseworker completes an assessment. A Protective Services worker will meet with you explain what concerns were reported and gather information by talking with you, your children, and school or other professionals, relatives, and neighbors, if necessary and appropriate. The caseworker will complete an assessment which focuses on creating partnerships between families and the agency. It is designed to address the family’s issues early on, before they lead to the stress that may cause abuse or neglect.
Caseworkers partner with families to:
- Discuss the issues confronting the families,
- Assist them in determining the causes, and
- Search for potential solutions.
If the caseworker determines that the child cannot safely remain in the home, he or she then works with the family to find an alternative safe placement, preferably with relatives or another familiar setting, such as with a neighbor, family friend or another family within the same area and school district.
Important points to remember:
- If the assessment shows no or only minimal risk of maltreatment to your children, the agency does not stay involved. Instead, the agency will close the case or refer you to other community services.
- If the assessment shows continuing risk of maltreatment to your children, Protective Services will seek to help your family and reduce risk to the children.
Protective Services will not assign blame or apply negative labels, however will work together with the family to identify solutions, if needed. Families help to identify their own strengths and assist in making decisions regarding safety concerns for their children