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Journal Issue: Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect Volume 8 Number 1 Spring 1998

Rethinking the Paradigm for Child Protection
Jane Waldfogel

Summary

Mounting pressures on the nation's system for helping children who are abused and neglected have prompted new efforts to reform the child protective services (CPS) system to better protect children's safety. As this article explains, current reform efforts are focusing on the "front end" of the system, in which reports of abuse and neglect are screened and investigated, and caseworkers recommend whether and when to close a case, provide in-home services, or remove a child from a home. This article discusses the problems of the CPS system that are currently receiving attention, and it closely examines one proposal for reform—the community-based partnership for child protection. This approach emphasizes targeting investigations by CPS toward only high-risk families, building collaborative community networks that can serve lower-risk families, and providing a differentiated response to both high- and low-risk families that is tailored to each family's situation. Early experiences implementing these ideas in Missouri, Florida, and Iowa illustrate the promise and challenges of reform.