Child protective services (CPS) casework practice can encompass a variety of interventions. Effective casework practice allows child protection staff to work together with families to identify strengths, needs, goals, and desired outcomes. Often, the goals focus on enhancing caregiver protective capacity, which can help maximize children's safety and minimize their risk of harm. Parents may be reluctant or resistant to engage during a child protection investigation, which is why it is imperative to establish rapport, build relationships, and partner with families to achieve the goals identified and ensure the safety and well-being of the children and the family unit.
Child protection professionals should also be aware of racial disproportionality within the child welfare system. Families of color, as well as those living in poverty, are more likely to be investigated by child protective services, and children of color are more likely to be placed in out-of-home care. It is essential that child welfare professionals work to identify their own biases or stereotypes that may affect decision-making when engaging with families, especially racially and culturally diverse families. It is important to understand how issues of socioeconomic status and race influence child protection decisions. Understanding causes of disproportionality, including racial bias and systemic factors, can help child protection staff address and promote equity.
If you want to learn more about best practices to connect and engage with families while effectively addressing key processes in child protection casework practice, use the following resources.
Child Protective Services: A Guide for Caseworkers
Engaging the Child, Family, and Significant Adults (PDF - 587 KB)
Virginia Department of Social Services (2017)
Reviews the importance of family engagement in child protection to make the best decisions about safety, permanency, and well-being. This guide provides information for child protection workers on topics such as engaging families in searches, working with incarcerated parents, teaming, and more.
Family Engagement: Partnering With Families to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes
How Can Investigation, Removal, and Placement Processes Be More Trauma-Informed?
Casey Family Programs (2018)
Explores ways that child protection interventions can become more trauma informed to minimize trauma to children and families. Learn about how investigation, removal, and placement causes trauma for children.
Motivational Interviewing: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals
Minnesota Child Welfare: A Framework for Competent Child Welfare Practice (PDF - 638 KB)
Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare & Minnesota Department of Human Services (2018)
Includes a set of competencies required in the State of Minnesota for quality practice among front-line professionals and their supervisors.
Putting Family First: Developing an Evidence-Based Child Welfare Preventive Practice Model
Annie E. Casey Foundation (2020)
Provides guidance for agencies on what to consider when developing a preventive practice model that aligns with the requirements of the Family First Prevention Services Act, addresses the needs of families, and ensures that selected programs and practices are feasible to implement with quality.
Why Involving Entire Families in Child Protection Cases Can Improve the Lives of Endangered Children
Chandler & Tochiki (2018)
Scholars Strategy Network
Presents a casework practice model from Hawaii that involves incorporating extended family members into planning and decision-making for child protection.