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Ongoing Child Protection Services

Ongoing child protection is concerned with case planning, treatment and services for children and families for whom there are open cases with county departments of human/social services past the intake and initial assessment phase, and includes expedited permanency planning.

When do Ongoing Children’s Protective Services occur?
When safety concerns regarding children continue past the initial assessment stage within the human/social services system,  cases enter “Ongoing Services.”  It is expected that cases that continue in the system more than 30 days from the initial contact  have entered some form of “ongoing services.”  Especially in smaller counties, this phase of work with children and families may be handled by the same caseworker who did the initial assessment.  In larger counties with more staff, there is usually separate staff that carry the case once it enters the ongoing stage of services.

What are Ongoing Children’s Protective Services?

While Ongoing CPS issues are found throughout Volume VII , the primary reference area specific only to it is found at 7.202.62.  The requirements for the use of the Colorado Assessment Continuum (CAC) instruments of safety and assessment risk are found at section 7.301.1, and should be the basis for the case plan. The North Carolina Family Assessment Scale is no longer required. A letter dated February 13, 2013 was sent to Human Services Directors describing this change, and a rule package is currently in draft and will be presented to the State Board.


The requirements for the Family Services Plan are found at section 7.301.2.  Everything in the Child Welfare Practice Handbook that relates to achieving safe early permanent living plans is connected to this phase of services, including family assessment, service/case planning, monitoring and evaluating outcomes. Use of concurrent planning and effective visitation are key strategies when there are out-of-home placements.  Understanding the stages and process of change in selecting interventions is important in both in-home and out-of-home placement cases.    Everything that is required for Expedited Permanency Planning cases regarding children under the age of six and their siblings is part of ongoing children’s protective services. 

The ongoing worker facilitates change through continual assessment, case management activities, referrals to services in the community, as well as sometimes being the primary services provider.  The children may be in out –of- home placement or may remain in their own homes.  In the part of the Colorado Revised Statutes known as the Children’s Code, all of the procedures that relate to a Dependency and Neglect (“D and N”)  case may be part of the ongoing intervention.  Everything that relates to case planning ,  treatment plans and hearings for “adjudication,”  “disposition,” “permanency,” “review” and “termination of parental rights” are part of the work of ongoing services when voluntary interventions with families have not been able to keep children safe and the case has entered the court system. Thus, all intervention strategies to help achieve children’s safety, permanency and well being past initial assessment are part of ongoing services. 

A suggested reference guide to providing effective ongoing services is the American Humane Association’s 2004 edition of Helping in Child Protective Services, A Competency-Based Casework Handbook, edited by Charmaine R. Brittain, MSW, PhD and Deborah Esquibel Hunt, LCSW, PhD.  This resource includes the cites that constitute the observations and suggestions shared throughout the rest of this website’s  introduction to Ongoing Children’s Protective Services:

How are Ongoing Children’s Protective Services delivered?
Intervention is an act that modifies the behavior of an individual or family system.  In child protection services, intervention strategies are not meant to create an ideal family. Rather, the overall goal of intervention is to change the conditions or behaviors causing risk to the children from future maltreatment.  This can begin with the initial contact of the CPS worker and continue through a series of carefully planned steps that help family members identify and make important changes to safely care for their children.

Meaningful intervention can take place through the informal process of the CPS worker making effective use of self-engaging families through a professional relationship while providing guidance, support, and encouragement toward positive change.  Although many intervention models have been developed to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect, studies have attributed the most positive case outcomes to the relationship between the CPS worker and the family.  That relationship is the vehicle of change.  How the caseworker engages, interacts, builds rapport and serves families may have greater impact on the outcomes of CPS cases than any other intervention strategy.  As the worker works with families and helps them identify their problems, strengths, and goals, he or she is providing services.  These services can have a therapeutic effect if the worker is skilled in the casework relationship.

Interventions That Are Fundamental in CPS

The Family Services Plan (FSP), along with ongoing assessment, provides a guide for measuring the family’s progress in reducing or eliminating risks.  The FSP defines and documents the methods and activities for reaching the desired goal and the benchmarks that indicate positive change and readiness for case closure.  The safety and risk assessment, as well as training and supervision, should be used to assist a worker in determining the ongoing needs of the child(ren) and familiy. 

Solution-focused therapy assumes that change is constant and inevitable and that small changes can lead to bigger changes.  A few suggestions for the worker to use are:

  • Exception-finding questions formulate solutions by building on strengths and past successes.  For example:  “Has there ever been a time you were angry with John but did not hit him?  What did you do instead?”
  • Miracle questions allow the family to envision a future time when the problem is solved and they can savor their success.  Example:  “If tomorrow morning a miracle happened, and you knew exactly how to handle your temper and John’s difficult behaviors, what would be different?  What would you notice?”
  • Scaling questions assess where a family is in relation to their problem.  These types of questions can also be sued to measure a family’s motivation and degree of change.  Example:  “If a ten means you spend every minute of the day with your child and a one means you spend no time at all, pick a number that describes how much time you currently spend with your child.  What number would like it to be?  What will it look like when you are at that number?”
  • Coping questions allow family members to get in touch with internal resources to discover what they must do more of to create a foundation for future success.  Example:  “There are so many stressors in your life!  How are you doing as well as you are?”  or “It sounds like things are really touch.  How do you get through each day?”

Family therapy can be a useful intervention if family members are willing and able to articulate their feelings, if the children are old enough to participate, and if the level of anger and frustration is not overwhelming.

  • Confront the maltreatment openly as a family.
  • Define the patterns of maltreatment within the family system.
  • Discuss rules and roles to enhance a safer level of family functioning.

Group therapy can be beneficial in many cases. 

  • Groups can be used to reduce isolation and improve self-esteem in recognizing that other families struggle with similar issues.
  • Groups create an environment where peers can assist each other in confronting defense mechanisms such as denial and thinking errors.

Group therapy is most often used with situations involving sexual abuse, domestic violence, alcohol or other drug abuse, and anger management.

Individual therapy is not effective in dealing with all categories of child maltreatment because some individual do not have the capacity for self-reflection.  Key issues to be addressed in individual therapy may include past history of abuse, managing stress, patterns of thinking, attitudes toward violence, and sexuality.

Since many parents or caregivers who abuse or neglect their children are unorganized about keeping appointments, most therapy interventions need special supports such as transportation and daycare. 

Home-based visitation services can reduce incidences of maltreatment.  To be effective, they need to occur frequently enough so the home visitor gets to know the family and the family can develop a therapeutic relationship with the visitor.  The home visitor may include  CPS workers,  trained community service providers,  paraprofessionals, or volunteers.  The home visitor can watch for potential maltreatment and provide service or create a safety plan to prevent a future occurrence. 

Support services are usually community-based activities designed to strengthen families and promote the well-being of vulnerable children.  However, “family support” reflects a set of values about having a nonjudgmental attitude rather than a clearly defined program strategy.  Examples of support services include parent educational services, employment counseling and t raining services, budget management, legal services, homemaker services, respite care, temporary shelter and housing services, referral to food and clothing banks, and transportation.  

For services to have an impact on the occurrence of abuse and neglect, strategies will need to be developed to include fathers, boyfriends, partners or co-parents as well as mothers.  Use of the extended  family and kinship network is effective in supporting the family when available. 

How is it known when Ongoing Children’s Protective Services are completed? 

A case should never be closed in CPS  while there are still safety issues that are unresolved.  The Colorado Assessment Continuum instruments for measuring safety. Risk should be applied prior to closing a case to determine the level of safety and risk present. The caseworker should also consult with his or her supervisor prior to closing the case.