General Protective Services
This is the assessment/investigation of all referrals to a Children and Youth Services agency that do not reach the level of a Child Protective Services report (CPS). Examples of these referrals are truancy, lack of supervision and homes with health and safety concerns.
Child Protective Services (CPS)
This is the investigation of all reports of child abuse. Once a referral is received a caseworker must make sure the child is immediately safe, and make contact within 24 hours. Any concerned person may make referrals. People who come into contact with children because of their employment are required by law to report suspected child abuse.
Once an assessment/investigation is completed and it is determined that a family would benefit from Children and Youth Services, a Family Service Plan(FSP) is developed with the family and caseworker which identifies changes that need to made by the family, and what services that will help the family make the changes. The goal is to provide supportive casework to the family in order to make sure the home is safe for the child. The goal is to keep the family together and to help the family make that possible by supporting the family in making positive changes. This goal should happen by providing a variety of services that meets the family’s needs.
The services your Caseworker will talk to you about will depend on what your family needs, what you ask for, or what a Judge might order. Sometimes services are provided by Children Youth and Families (CYF). Sometimes CYF will refer you to services provided by another agency or program.
You may request and/or be asked to go to the following in order to assess your needs or to strengthen your family:
psychological assessments (to assess parent and child relationships);
counseling and therapy;
self-help or support groups;
drug and alcohol rehabilitation;
counseling in homemaking and home budgeting.
Some of the services your family may receive could be, but not limited to:
Children and Youth Services has staff on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to answer emergency calls and high-risk referrals of child abuse and neglect. The Emergency Children and Youth worker will assess the child abuse report and decide if the child is safe staying in the home or should the child be removed from the home to another location to make sure the child is safe.
This happens when the court decides that it is not safe for the child to be stay in the home. The child would then be removed from their family. When a child is removed from their home it can be extremely traumatic for both the child and the family. Removal of a child from their home is only used as an option when a child’s safety cannot be assured and when there are no suitable relatives able to care for the child. If the child cannot stay at home, or with a relative, the child may end up going to a foster home, group home, residential treatment center or a shelter care facility. When Children and Youth Services look for a place out of the home for the child they must determine which type of placement is the least restrictive for the child, yet able to still meet the needs of the child.
Once a child is placed out of their home the goal of Children and Youth Services is permanent planning for the child. This plan can involve a return to the family, adoption or independent living. Together with the family, Children and Youth Services set goals for the family to reach so that the child can return home. This plan is created by the parents, child and caseworker. The plan will have the reasons the child was placed out of home and what changes the family has to make before the child can return home to their family. The court will review the family’s progress every six months or sooner if requested. Involuntary termination of parents rights (TPR) can happen if a family is unable or unwilling to make the changes that are needed for the child to return home, and that are in the child’s best interest. If that happens it could mean the court would move to place the child for adoption.
Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect
Pennsylvania has by law a Child Protective Service Law that defines abuse intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing non-accidental serious physical or mental abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation, or serious physical neglect caused by acts of omission by the parent or caregiver.
Intentionally: on purpose
Knowingly: understanding what could happen as a result
Any recent act or failure to act by a person that causes non-accidental serious physical harm to a child less than 18 years of age. Serious physical harm is an injury that causes a child severe pain or interferes with a child physical functioning, either temporary or permanently.
To make up, fake or cause an illness to a child that result in excessive, unnecessary and possible harmful medical treatment
Emotional Abuse is an act or failure to act by a parent or caregiver that causes non-accidental serious mental harm to a child who is less than 18 years of age. Serious mental harm is a psychological condition that is diagnosed by a doctor or licensed psychologist. This includes the refusal of treatment that leaves a child continuously and severely anxious, agitated, depressed, socially withdrawn, psychotic, a fear that the child’s life or safety is threatened, or that a the emotional abuse has caused the child to not be able to accomplish age appropriate development and social tasks.
Sexual Abuse or Exploitation
An act or failure to act by a parent or caregiver that causes sexual abuse or exploitation (to use) of a child who is under 18 years old. Sexual abuse or exploitation is the employment (hiring of) use of, persuasion
Having a child participate or pretend to perform sexually explicit conduct
Nudity, looking at someone’s sexual parts so that the child or other person is sexually aroused
Participating in sexual acts so that the child or other person is sexually aroused
Information adapted from Juniata County Children and Youth Services
Every child has the right to be:
Safe and protected from danger
A permanent home, food, and clothing
Age-appropriate supervision and discipline
Medical and dental care
Services to meet any special needs
To go to school or receive an education
To practice their religion
Receive respectful and courteous treatment
(Allegheny County Parent Handbook, 10/2011)