Child Welfare Services

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Child Welfare Services
February 12, 2009
By Beth Gabor, Yolo County Public Information Officer & Kimberly Bellows, U.C. Davis Intern

A well known, but little understood division of the Yolo County Department of Employment & Social Services is Child Welfare Services (CWS). This division confronts the heartbreak, frustration and difficulties that come with protecting the welfare of society’s children. To carry out this work, CWS has a legal framework and mandates that govern its action and response to reports of child abuse and neglect.

CWS goes into action when a report is made alleging abuse or neglect of children. Specific tools are utilized at all stages of the investigation which look at factors that effect how quickly CWS responds as well as risk and safety issues, including what steps can be taken to resolve the issues. Ultimately, referrals take one of three routes: 1) they are evaluated out of the system due to false allegations or allegations which do not meet legal definitions of abuse and neglect; 2) sent through non-profits in cases that do not meet legal definitions of abuse and neglect but still require help; or 3) they are assigned to a social worker for investigation.

There are two types of response times: 1) ten day response, where children are not believed to be at immediate risk; or 2) immediate response, within 24 hours, to deal with critical situations. CWS is required to complete their investigation within 30 days. In situations where it cannot be closed within 30 days, a case plan must be developed with the family. This does not necessarily mean children will be taken from their families. There are a number of steps that can be taken to resolve the issue that brought the family to the attention of CWS.

One option for a family that recognizes it has problems, but wants to resolve them, is voluntary family maintenance in which children stay in the home while the family receives a variety of services. If a family is not so cooperative, the court can order court family maintenance where children stay in the home and the court orders the services the family receives. If it is clear that a child cannot be safely maintained in the home, due to imminent risk of harm, the child is removed from the home. Where a child is under three years of age, parents have six months to complete their court-ordered activities. For children over three, families have 12 months to improve their situation. In some cases, a permanent placement is found for children outside the home, such as adoption, guardianship or long-term foster care.

The above mentioned steps are not taken solely by CSW. In all cases, besides voluntary family maintenance, the court is involved and every single party has a lawyer, including each child, parent and any other party involved. In all cases, it is CWS’s intent to protect the welfare of children in conjunction with the law, the courts and families.

“Our goal is to put ourselves out of a job,” explains Diana Williams, Chief Deputy, Yolo County Department of Employment & Social Services explains. “It would be really nice if kids weren’t getting hurt.”

To report suspected child abuse, call (530) 669-2345 or 1-888-400-0022. For more information on CWS, contact the Department of Employment & Social Services at (530) 661-2750 or visit: www.yolocounty.org (go to: Government > Departments > Employment & Social Services > Child Welfare Services).