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Guiding Principles

The primary goals of all child welfare activities are to protect children from physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or exploitation, and to provide them with safe, nurturing, permanent families.

Our first choice of intervention is to strengthen and empower a child's own family, thus assuring the child safe and nurturant care at home. When successful, this not only protects children from abuse and neglect, but also prevents the traumatic and often lifelong developmental and psychological consequences for children, and their families, of separation and out-of-home placement.

While the legal authority vested in child welfare professionals is an essential prerequisite for child protection, the exercise of this authority is not always the most effective method of intervention in achieving our goals. Intrusive protective authority is used only when family members cannot be engaged, supported, and empowered to collaborate with the agency to assure their children safe and nurturant care, free from maltreatment. The model fully supports the appropriate use of authority, but stresses the role of the caseworker as an enabler, facilitator, and educator.

When services to support and empower families cannot assure protection of children at home, the child welfare agency must act immediately and decisively to protect children. This may include out-of-home placement. Placement is a legitimate child welfare intervention, albeit an intervention of last resort, to be utilized only when other less intrusive measures are unlikely to assure the child's safety.

Children should remain only briefly in temporary, impermanent placements--only as long as is necessary to develop and implement a permanent plan. This plan may include reunification with the child's biological family, or permanent placement with an alternative family.

A family-centered approach to child welfare is not restricted to a child's biological family. Supportive, developmental, and therapeutic services must also be provided to a child's kinship family, foster family, or adoptive family. This creates a supportive family, neighborhood, and community milieu in which families can access resources and services to help them provide a safe and healthy home environment for their children.

This model reflects a developmental perspective for all child welfare activities. A developmental perspective contends that development is a continuous process, influenced by personal, interpersonal, and environmental factors. This model also asserts that individuals and families have inherent strengths and capabilities, and that most people continue to grow and develop throughout life, particularly when given the proper enabling and supporting interventions. However, a developmental model does not acknowledge only personal and family strengths in its assessments and planning. Problems and limitations cannot be ignored or minimized, particularly when these contribute to risk of maltreatment for a child. A developmental model concurrently considers problems, strengths, and potentials. But, while a purely deficit model might assume that problem traits and behaviors are permanent, immutable, and unchangeable conditions, a developmental model contends that, with the proper enabling supports and interventions, positive development can occur, and problem areas can be modified, compensated for, or eliminated.

This model promotes the development of personal and institutional cultural competence. To become culturally competent, practitioners must first understand themselves and the effects of their own culture on their values, perspectives, behaviors, and judgments about others. They must use culturally relevant information to establish mutually respectful and productive relationships with families; to inform all case judgments and decisions; to identify and help families access culturally relevant service providers; and to assure cultural continuity and development of a positive cultural identity for children.

This model promotes a collaborative, community-based, multi-disciplinary approach to child welfare practice. It recognizes the necessity of strong community support and direct involvement with families, if we are to achieve our mission. The model promotes the development of a community-based network of formal and informal service providers and resources that can support the child welfare agency's interventions, and that can stabilize, support, and sustain families after the child welfare agency is no longer involved.

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