Diane DePanfilis & Howard Dubowitz (Eds.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000
Reading the Handbook for Child Protection Practice left this reviewer with concerns about the audience for whom the book is intended. The Handbook is an extraordinary compendium of practical, specific, research, and experiencebased information on doing the work of child protection. It consistently reflects a philosophical framework that is essential for successful work with vulnerable families. It is strength-based, respectful, hopeful, and nonjudgmental. But, how is it really intended to be used? Is it designed for a newly graduated person with sociology degree, for example, who begins working in a child protection investigation unit, as his/her bible for practice? Or, is it meant for someone with a social work degree and some child welfare experience to use a reminder or to expand on already existing knowledge? I'm concerned that the very things that make this handbook so valuable to the latter make it seem inappropriate for the former. With 674 pages, the Handbook for Child Protection Practice, in 124 chapters, rushes through topics the authors and their advisory group identified as most important to effective child protective services. Where the text excels is in its breath, it is limited in depth. Some topics are covered in three-page chapters. It is on one hand a very insightful, concise, useful encyclopedia of practice that does an excellent job of identifying relevant, important practice areas. On the other hand, it touches so lightly on some complex, challenging issues that it may lead the user to a false sense of readiness to practice.
Because the value of the Handbook lies in the scope of topics covered, this review will list the topics, even though that list is extensive. The Handbook begins with six chapters on reporting and screening child protection reports. These chapters describe the various forms of child abuse, how to decide whether or not to accept a report for child protective services and list criteria most critical to determine the urgency of CPS responses. The next six chapters, Part II, deal with Engagement and talk about connecting with children at different developmental stages, engaging families-including those from different cultural backgrounds, often in circumstances that are difficult-and the effective use of authority.
Part III of the Handbook covers interviewing. Chapters describe how to interview children and adolescents about suspected sexual and physical abuse and list tools to facilitate interviews with children. Chapter 17 explains how to interview nonmaltreating parents/caregivers while chapter 18 covers interviewing the alleged perpetrator. The last chapter in this section talks about effective questions in those less clear-cut cases that may involve only a single visit.
Part IV, with six subsections, is titled "Initial Assessment." Chapters look at cultural issues in identifying maltreatment, coordination between CPS and law enforcement, screening for alcohol and other drug abuse as well as assessing risk. Chapter 24 discusses substantiating a case while the next five chapters cover ways in which specific forms of neglect are identified. Chapters in the section on physical abuse include information on determining such abuse, use of medical evaluations and interpreting medical tests. Two chapters differentiate between abusive and noninflicted injuries; another chapter explains Shaken Baby Syndrome. The final chapter in the section on physical abuse talks about assessing histories of physical abuse among assaultive adolescents. The next section in Part IV, chapters 37-44, covers sexual abuse. Determination of sexual abuse, developmental factors relevant to a child's disclosure and interpreting sexualized behavior and sexualized play by children is covered. Medical evaluations, interpretation both laboratory tests and physical exams of children are discussed as well as evaluating suspected sexual abuse in adolescent females. Two chapters cover psychological maltreatment. The next section, on risk assessment and safety evaluation, includes cultural factors in risk and safety assessment, ensuring the child's safety within several different problematic contexts, for example, domestic violence, chemical dependency, and home hazards, as well as in foster or kinship care. The appropriateness of family preservation or other permanency plans is discussed in Chapter 53. The question of whether to remove the alleged offender of the child is covered in chapter 54 while the last chapter in this section talks about assessing the risk of maltreatment in foster and kinship care.
The first section of Part V of the Handbook, "Family Assessment," with emphasis on the child, describes assessing child and youth behavior, development, emotional states, mental health, health status, social support systems and behavior related to separation and visitation. Chapters in the second section, on parents and caregivers, talk about assessing caregiver's personal history, parenting attitudes, knowledge, and level of functioning strengths and treatments needs as well as motivation and readiness to change. Two chapters describe what you need to know about the care needs of children with major medical problems as well as the needs and capacities of caregivers with HIV or AIDS. The final section of Part V, with an emphasis on families, covers assessing family strengths, functioning, and parent-child relationships. It describes how to conduct ethnographic interviews, how to assess the treatment needs of children affected by domestic violence and the likelihood of successful intervention.
Service planning is covered in Part VI. Purposes of chapters include illustrating the connection between risks identified during family assessment and client outcomes, identifying outcomes relevant for intervention, and describing strengthsbased service planning. Chapters explain how to involve fathers, how to develop measurable goals and objectives that match client intervention outcomes, and explain concurrent planning as well as the use of family group decision making. The last two chapters talk about developing collaborative intervention plans with the kinship network and planning effectively across internal agency boundaries.
The chapters in Part VII, "Intervention," consider the types of mental health treatment and pediatric care that should be considered for maltreated children, and effective strategies to address common behavior problems. The chapters further talk about helping children adjust to out-ofhome placement and maintain cultural identity in out-of-home care. Chapters emphasizing the parent or caregiver cover enhancing parenting, interventions for the nonabusive parent, developing social skills, and making connections to the community. Included are recommended treatment options for sexual and physical abuse perpetrators, depression, domestic violence, and chemical dependency. The next section covers the essentials of family therapy, how to support biological families after a child has been removed, and how to facilitate visits between foster children and their biological children that support the goals and objectives of intervention. They talk about ways to build financial management skills, handle multiple service providers and utilize religious institutions. The last chapters describe Family to Family programs as well as the support and interventions needed by foster and kinship caregivers. Evaluation and closure are the topics covered in Part VIII. Chapters describe how to measure risk reduction and discuss when termination of parental rights or family reunification are options. Also included are ways to prepare youth for independent living and families for case closure. Part IV, "Legal and Ethical Issues," talks about clients' rights to information, avoiding being sued, the role of the caseworker in juvenile court, and feeling comfortable testifying in court. It covers helping children be comfortable in the legal system and improving their competency as witnesses. In addition, it describes why communicating with lawyers is so important and difficult, as well as how to work effectively with a variety of other courtroom players.
Finally, Part X, "Child Protection Practice: Special Issues for Practitioners," covers a collection of relatively unrelated topics including a list of the core competencies for practitioners in child welfare, personal safety, and preventing burnout. The final three chapters include coping with the death or serious injury of a child, balancing common sense, personal values, and agency constraints. It concludes with using care in record keeping to guide intervention and provide accountability.
The appendices include a dozen helpful documents including MAST, information on STDs, developmental milestones, recommended childhood immunization schedules, parenting resources, a genogram structure for assessing and maximizing strengths, assessing family needs/resources and social support, steps in court process, and resources on both child welfare competencies and organizations concerned about child protection.
As an encyclopedia for practice, The Handbook for Child Protection Practice will be particularly useful for those needing insight into the complexity and breadth of work in child protection rather than those needing to learn in-depth knowledge and skills. Those doing staff development and supervision, for example, will find the Handbook fill of valuable reminders about quality practice with vulnerable children and their families. Those from other professions providing services to these same clients, will find useful, succinct information that will help them as they seek to understand how to interact more effectively with staff providing child protection services. Child protection practitioners themselves will certainly gain new knowledge from the Handbook and appreciate not only how well organized and clearly written it is, but also the inclusion of suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter. Social work educators may find problematic the lack of explicit discussion of a philosophical base for practice. Working through the ethical dilemmas inherent in this area of practice, for example, is essential as students prepare for practice in child protection. With care as to its use, I believe the Handbook is going to contribute significantly to the day-to-day work of those doing some of the most challenging and important work done by social workers.
Jennifer Borup, Assistant Professor Social Work Program, UW-River Falls Project Director, Western Wisconsin Partnership for Children and Families River Falls, WI
Copyright Families in Society Sep-Dec 2002
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