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In many states, a child protection service (CPS) refers to a government agency that is responsible for receiving reports about child neglect or abuse. However, some states use different terms, such as “the Department of Social Services” or even “Social Services.”They refer to the same concept of CPS that makes an emphasis on family-centered practices toward children. It is significant to note that the phenomenon of child neglect or abuse has gained much interest among professionals in the law enforcement, criminal justice, mental health, social work and medical fields. Furthermore, there has been growing public concern regarding the maltreatment of children as child abuse is a very complicated problem. Practitioners and researchers have been trying to assess the nature of this issue, develop approaches of case management, and come up with child abuse preventive strategies.
2.0: Research Question
This research was directed by an overarching research question presented below:
How do public perceive the child protective services?
3.0: Aims and Objectives of the Research
The aim of this research is quite broad and seeks to determine public's (service users) perceptions in child protective services in terms of collaboration, inclusiveness and participation. Therefore, this research aims at examining public’s (service users') perception towards child protection services and how their perceptions are involved in decision-making.
The objectives are as follows:
- To assess public’s experiences with the child protective services and ascertain whether there is congruence between public perceptions of child protective risks and how the staff of child protective serves understandd those risks;
- To assess a public perception on the quality of CPS, including workers' competencies and qualities, as well as organizational issues that affect the effectiveness of CPS;
- To assess the extent of inclusiveness in working with families and children from public perspectives.
4.0: Background Information
Child protection is an area that has been growing since the issues regarding non-accidental injury to children and subsequent child sexual abuse became public interest during the 1970s and 1980s (Wilson, & James, 2007). A series of new legislation contributed to the development of child protective services by/with the government. Therefore, child welfare, which is an area of public policy came into being in the early 20th century (Kamerman, Phipps, & Ben-Aryeh, 2009). It began with children safety at home, as well as in the workplace as its fundamental focus. During the 20th century, the views on a child withing the US society changed all over sudden (Kamerman, Phipps, & Ben-Aryeh, 2009). Initially, children were considered to be family properties and were precluded from government intervention, but since the conception of child welfare, a child has become protected from family maltreatment. In addition, protection involved a withdrawal of a child from family’s care. In the 1970s-1980s, there was a deeper understanding of attachment between a parent and a child that increasingly revolutionized child welfare practice and policy (Wilson, & James, 2007). Therefore, strategies for improving and preventing child maltreatment changed towards the direction of empowering and engaging the family’s strengths as important resources for a child. As a result, courts took control of situations under which the governmental agencies (protective child services) carried out legal custody of a child. Since the agencies had a burden of producing evidence of maltreatment when getting legal custody, child public services started to concentrate on seeking evidence that would be acceptable by the court.
While parents are still socially and legally responsible for taking care of their children, the government has a legal mandate to establish child protective services to counter allegations of abuse or neglect of a child and protect him or her. In undertaking its mandate, the child protective service system must equilibrate the protection of child's emotional and physical safety with acknowledgment of family’s unique needs and strengths. The child protective service system has to respond to families that develop their abilities in meeting their service and safety needs (Bridgeman, 2012; Fowler, 2002).
Many protocols, policies and practices have been established, evaluated, and implemented, in commitment to concurrently meet the needs of each family and child to accomplish the consistently high standards required for the performanceof the system. One of the advanced methods is the differential response (Adams, Cameron, & Coady, 2007). The differential response is influenced by the community strength to support child welfare. According to Adams, Cameron, and Coady (2007), differential response was introduced in the1990s and spread in an attempt to address increasing recognition that the differing needs and circumstances of the families necessitate distinctive responses.
5.0: Literature Review
The aim of the following literature review is to give a synthesis of the available literature concerning public perception regarding protective child services. Therefore, reports, articles, books and other credible sources that provide evaluative and descriptive information on child welfare models, policies, practices, protocols and structures related to public response towards protective child serves will be used to build up this research.
Most significantly, the child protective services have received congruence of views from the public (Adams, Cameron, & Coady, 2007). Congruence of views refers to the extent to which public’s views coincide with those of professionals, and the conflict of these views is accompanied by repercussions. Taylor & Daniel (2005) came up with concepts of the operational perspective. They defined it as a collection of the socially-based perceptions that people hold. These perceptios help people cope up with the accusation of abuse. Therefore, they concluded that the greater the convergence of perspectives is, the more positive the outcome can be. Likewise, Buckley (2003) came up with strong arguments that the extent to which public’s views (parents and professionals' views) are conjoined in the child abuse investigative stages can determine the impact encountered by them.
Therefore, congruence of views between the child protective service systems and public (service users) can have two perspectives. The first perspective happens when the expectations of the public (service users) are not compatible with the response they receive from the child protective services (Cameron et al., 2013). The second perspective occurs where the extent of seriousness of child’s maltreatment or neglect is considered differently by the public, and thus, the child protection staff or parents feel that they have wrongly or unfairly accused.