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Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) List Serve

Database of Past CMRL Messages

Welcome to the database of past Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) list serve messages. The table below contains all past CMRL messages (text only, no attachments) from Nov. 20, 1996 - March 6, 2018 and is updated quarterly.

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Message ID: 9549
Date: 2014-02-27

Author:Edward Opton

Subject:Re: child welfare decision making

Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language," is pertinent. Edward Opton On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 9:23 AM, D F MCMAHON > wrote: When investigating child protection reports, ND uses a 21 factor risk assessment tool. This is not structured decision making, incidentally. ND also uses a county-implemented system. Rather than recording the decision as substantiated or not, the decision is recorded as "services required", services recommended", or "no services required/recommended". A "services required" decision is the legal equivalent of a substantiation. Review of policy manuals provides no statement as to who actually makes the assessment decision, and decision making is not referenced in policy sections defining the roles of individuals or agencies involved in the decision making process. Policy sections instead refer to things like monitoring assessments for standards compliance, deciding whether tyo grant extensions of the assessment timeline, etc. Policy discussion of the decision in the manuals is conveyed in a passive form, e.g. "when a decision is made" without ever actually stating the formal process for making the decision. I have been told by the county social services director that the decision is actually made by the local (regional) office of the state child and family services agency. I have heard it stated by state CFS officials (numerous times) in legislative hearings that they do not control county actions and decisions. It's possible that decisions are actually made during county level staffings and possibly reviewed by staffings at the regional state office but again this is not articulated anywhere. Statute merely says that the "decision is the responsibility of the department", with "department" defined as the state agency or its designee. Question: are these roles articulated more clearly in other states? Are precise responsibilities defined in internal and inter-agency agreements in county-implemented systems? Second, when a subject receives the assessment decision (which is sent from the state's regional office, not from the county, incidentally) the decision letter will state (in the case of "services required") the basis of the decision in terms of the type of maltreatment alleged with a short statement of the particular basis. A subject receives a copy of the 21 factor assessment tool only if they request it, and any content provided by anyone other than the subject is redacted (I have asked about the redaction of content previously on this list, and I do believe the redaction exceeds what state law provides for, since it goes beyond identity to any and all information or allegations--or even statements supporting the subject--made by other individuals). The only way to obtain an unredacted report is through legal discovery in a juvenile court proceeding or an administrative hearing process. As far as assessing the totality of risk based on the 21 factors, there is no scoring or point system. It is unknown if a single "high" risk factor, for example, would lead to (at minimum) a services recommended decision. The overall impression is that ultimately this is kind a gestalt decision. Policy states the decision is "influenced by" the risk assessment but does not state that the decision is based on that assessment (purportedly, the risk assessment is intended to determine service needs). However, the risk assessment also includes any factual information supporting the decision. In an administrative appeal of the decision, it is well-nigh impossible to sift out what constitutes the factual basis used for the decision vs. what constitutes information relevant to preventing future maltreatment. Presumably, cases in which there is no finding of actual maltreatment having occurred but discovers significant risk factors for future maltreatment would be concluded as "services recommended" (which does not entail listing on the registry). My question here is if the protocol in other states provides for a clearer distinction between factual findings that maltreatment has occurred vs. factors are not directly tied to the maltreatment but indicate risk for future maltreatment. Sheri McMahon North Dakota -- Edward Opton National Center for Youth Law 405 14th St., Oakland, CA 94612 510-835-8098, ext. 3014 www.youthlaw.org

Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language," is pertinent. Edward Opton On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 9:23 AM, D F MCMAHON > wrote: When investigating child protection reports, ND uses a 21 factor risk assessment tool. This is not structured decision making, incidentally. ND also uses a county-implemented system. Rather than recording the decision as substantiated or not, the decision is recorded as "services required", services recommended", or "no services required/recommended". A "services required" decision is the legal equivalent of a substantiation. Review of policy manuals provides no statement as to who actually makes the assessment decision, and decision making is not referenced in policy sections defining the roles of individuals or agencies involved in the decision making process. Policy sections instead refer to things like monitoring assessments for standards compliance, deciding whether tyo grant extensions of the assessment timeline, etc. Policy discussion of the decision in the manuals is conveyed in a passive form, e.g. "when a decision is made" without ever actually stating the formal process for making the decision. I have been told by the county social services director that the decision is actually made by the local (regional) office of the state child and family services agency. I have heard it stated by state CFS officials (numerous times) in legislative hearings that they do not control county actions and decisions. It's possible that decisions are actually made during county level staffings and possibly reviewed by staffings at the regional state office but again this is not articulated anywhere. Statute merely says that the "decision is the responsibility of the department", with "department" defined as the state agency or its designee. Question: are these roles articulated more clearly in other states? Are precise responsibilities defined in internal and inter-agency agreements in county-implemented systems? Second, when a subject receives the assessment decision (which is sent from the state's regional office, not from the county, incidentally) the decision letter will state (in the case of "services required") the basis of the decision in terms of the type of maltreatment alleged with a short statement of the particular basis. A subject receives a copy of the 21 factor assessment tool only if they request it, and any content provided by anyone other than the subject is redacted (I have asked about the redaction of content previously on this list, and I do believe the redaction exceeds what state law provides for, since it goes beyond identity to any and all information or allegations--or even statements supporting the subject--made by other individuals). The only way to obtain an unredacted report is through legal discovery in a juvenile court proceeding or an administrative hearing process. As far as assessing the totality of risk based on the 21 factors, there is no scoring or point system. It is unknown if a single "high" risk factor, for example, would lead to (at minimum) a services recommended decision. The overall impression is that ultimately this is kind a gestalt decision. Policy states the decision is "influenced by" the risk assessment but does not state that the decision is based on that assessment (purportedly, the risk assessment is intended to determine service needs). However, the risk assessment also includes any factual information supporting the decision. In an administrative appeal of the decision, it is well-nigh impossible to sift out what constitutes the factual basis used for the decision vs. what constitutes information relevant to preventing future maltreatment. Presumably, cases in which there is no finding of actual maltreatment having occurred but discovers significant risk factors for future maltreatment would be concluded as "services recommended" (which does not entail listing on the registry). My question here is if the protocol in other states provides for a clearer distinction between factual findings that maltreatment has occurred vs. factors are not directly tied to the maltreatment but indicate risk for future maltreatment. Sheri McMahon North Dakota -- Edward Opton National Center for Youth Law 405 14th St., Oakland, CA 94612 510-835-8098, ext. 3014 www.youthlaw.org