Home Issues + Resources Child Abuse and Neglect Role of Child Welfare Systems in Confronting Abuse and Neglect

Role of Child Welfare Systems in Confronting Abuse and Neglect

Every state has a child welfare system charged with taking action every time it receives a report of child abuse or neglect. These systems are responsible for thoroughly investigating each report and taking appropriate measures to keep children safe — either providing services to troubled families and monitoring their homes or removing children from dangerous circumstances and placing them in foster care.

Too often, however, state child welfare systems are underfunded, understaffed, lacking leadership, and ill-equipped to fulfill these responsibilities. Common problems include:

  • Failure to initiate or complete investigations of abuse or neglect quickly enough — or to investigate at all.
  • Failure to accurately assess children’s risk of being harmed.
  • Poor decision-making about whether or not to remove children from their homes.
  • Failure to adequately monitor families who are known to the child welfare system — and to provide services to ameliorate risk.
  • Failure to adequately train and supervise the social workers who respond to reports of maltreatment — the people on the front lines who have to make serious decisions every day about whether children are in danger and families need help.
  • Failure to provide appropriate supervision and services after an investigation, putting children in danger of suffering further abuse and neglect.
  • Failure to properly monitor foster homes and other placements.

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