May 21, 1998

Department of Health and Family Services
Division of Children and Family Services 

To: County Departments of Human Services Directors
County Departments of Social Services Directors
From: Susan N. Dreyfus
Division of Children and Family Services
Re: Training on Child Safety Assessment and Planning

Throughout 1998 and the first half of 1999 we will be providing training for all county child welfare staff on child safety assessment and planning. Child safety is perhaps the public child welfare system’s most critical responsibility. Social workers need to make decisions regarding a child’s safety throughout the life of a case: at intake, at the first face-to-face contact, during the investigation/initial assessment, in developing conditions for return once a child has been removed from the home, and prior to reunification. Additionally, family conditions can change, making it imperative to keep considerations of child safety at the forefront at all times.

Over the past ten years we have been emphasizing child safety in Wisconsin through various initiatives. We are making a concentrated effort to assure consistency and thoroughness in safety planning among all county agencies at this time because of several major developments in federal law and state planning efforts. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires comprehensive safety assessments during the investigation of alleged child abuse and neglect. The recent Adoption and Safe Families Act carries the federal focus on child safety into treatment planning, service provision and case evaluation. In addition, the design for the statewide automated child welfare system includes structured formats for assessing child safety and developing effective plans to keep children safe. Finally, the Child Protective Services Investigation Standards, which already contain some requirements related to safety, are being expanded to incorporate all the standards related to safety which will be reflected in the automated system.

The child welfare field has become increasingly complex over the years. Work in this field can be very stressful and overwhelming, particularly considering the responsibilities child welfare staff have. The training offers a structure for making critical decisions regarding safety and offers a way for agencies to be accountable for those decisions. It also offers a common language and frame of reference that can be used to articulate safety issues in related arenas, such as the courts. The training will likely be a review for some staff. However, it is important that we establish a base of knowledge regarding child safety for all child welfare staff statewide. The training presents the assessment and planning protocols that will be part of the automated system and the Investigation Standards.

The training was piloted with several counties in the southern area of the state at the end of 1997. We apologize if some of you may have wondered if the initiative were being dropped, because of the amount of time that has passed since the pilot. We received very helpful input from these counties that we have been using to enhance the training and modify it to be more responsive to county needs. The training has been shortened from five days to three days. In addition, the revised training agenda allows social workers that specialize in either intake and investigations/initial assessments or ongoing services to attend just those days that pertain directly to their work. One-day follow-up sessions will be offered in each region several months after the training to give county staff an opportunity to raise questions and issues and share creative solutions.

The training is being conducted for all child welfare county staff in the Western Region in May and June. We will be arranging for this training in each area of the state, with the expectation that each county will have received the training by June of 1999. Expanded standards regarding safety assessment and planning will be issued by January of 1999. These will include additional standards for what must be documented in the case record relative to safety assessment and planning, but a specific format for documentation is not being required. A format will be offered at the training, which counties may use and may modify. At county request, state staff can assist with the development of formats for documenting safety assessments and plans, pending implementation of the automated system.

We are pleased to offer this training at no cost to county agencies. We will work with each region to select training sites and schedules that make the most sense for the counties involved. Questions regarding the safety training initiative can be directed to the Area Administration teams or to the person listed below.

Child Protective Services
1 W.  Wilson St., Room 465
P. O. Box 8916
Madison, Wisconsin 53708-8916
(608) 267-2073
cc Area Administrators/Assistant Area Administrators
DCFS Bureau Directors
County Departments of Developmental Disabilities Directors
Licensing Chiefs
Program Office Directors/Section Chiefs
Section Chiefs
Tribal Chairpersons/Human Services Facilitators

The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.