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Children in Need of Services vis a’ vis Families in Need of Services

After hearing a panel discussion on the current practices and views in our county (Lake) in Indiana,  regarding placement of children out of the home, it occurred to me that we talk about responding to the needs of children in our community and our State.  In Indiana, it is the Department of Child Services, in Illinois it is the Department of Children and Family Services.  And yes, it is perhaps just semantics, however given what we now know about trauma and its effects, including epigenetic, it seems important that perhaps we need to shift our focus to the family.  And yes, I do know that Family Preservation Services have become part of the services offered to families through the Dept.  My concern is the “when” of these services being offered.  Are more Family Preservation Services put into effect after a child has been removed from the bio family and adjudicated a Child in Need of Services rather than using preservation services as a primary intervention if the child is NOT in immediate physical danger?  And what are the data showing regarding need to remove, if family preservation services have been put into place?  If we look at the cost of removing a child from the home in lieu of paying for family preservation, I believe financially, there would be a fairly substantial cost savings if the child was able to remain with their family.  And looking at the emotional cost of removing a child from their home, the costs of trauma (and removal from one’s family is a very real traumatic experience that takes its toll no matter how loving the temporary placement) cannot be measured in dollars. I know that all of what I have said above sounds very simplistic, trust me I worked in Child Protective Services for many years and I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. And that includes first putting children in emergency foster care for up to 30-60 days, and then removing to “long term” foster care where the child’s behavior was not acceptable and the child had to be removed again, and then again., and finally permanent removal and termination of parental rights.  And children who are abandoned by the very systems created to protect them.  And instead, now, have so many more issues  And in those days, we didn’t know then what we know now about the effects of trauma on the body, brain and behavior.  I am hoping that family preservation will always become the very first line of defense, when at all possible.  Even if that includes rent payment so that a family can maintain a residence and the children not have to be put into the system, not even with court intervention placing them with family members. Even if it includes payment for child care, to help parents be able to work to lift their family out of poverty.  These remedies are cheaper in the toll that they take on the brain, body and behavior than removal.  Child care while a parent attends AA meetings, child care while a parent goes to a job interview, etc.  Keeping families in tact, connecting with the needs of the whole family, can truly be a cost saving measure for the community.  Often times the prices we pay initially for keeping families intact prevents the future costs of illness (physical and mental), crime, incarceration, etc.

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