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Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect

How the Child Welfare System Works

The child welfare system is a group of services designed to promote the well-being of children by ensuring safety, achieving permanency, and strengthening families. While the primary responsibility for child welfare services rests with States, the Federal Government plays a major role in supporting States through funding of programs and legislative initiatives.

This factsheet includes answers to the following questions:

  • What happens when possible abuse or neglect is reported?
  • What happens after a report is “screened in?”
  • What happens in substantiated (founded) cases?
  • What happens to people who abuse children?
  • What happens to children who enter foster care?
  • Where can I find additional resources?


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How the Child Welfare System Works