Those who work in the field of child protection and welfare see traumatized children and their families every day. For those committed to caring for children involved in the dependency system, the safety of that child is critical. Over the last year the number of children entering the child welfare system has increased. We all know that something has to change.
During Florida’s 2014 legislative session, Gov. Rick Scott has been joined by many legislators in bringing a renewed focus to the issue of child welfare and protection. While our lawmakers discuss how best to revamp and improve the current system, those of us who work in the field applaud their efforts and are happy to see this issue moving to the forefront.
There's no denying that removing a child from a detrimental situation is important, but it's only the first step in getting them the help they need. That's why we feel an overhaul must include all the professionals in the human service field — social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and child protection master’s degree. We must provide more appropriately trained individuals who then work with the child once he/she is removed from the home. It's this second part — how we handle children once they are in protective custody – that is vitally important.
Nova Southeastern University’s Institute for the Study of Human Service, Health and Justice is committed to improving child welfare. Through its academic programs and faculty research, NSU is working on this change.
Our program offers classes to cover dependency legal processes, assessment, service planning and delivery, documentation and professional responsibility. We work with the child welfare system by broadening and advancing the knowledge and skills of caseworkers and administrators, using a multidisciplinary approach to instruction.
The Child Protection program, developed in partnership with ChildNet, Broward County’s community-based care lead agency, aims to improve the quality of care and well-being of children and families. Developing this program in partnership with ChildNet allowed for a greater alignment of theoretical foundations with the complex issues faced by professionals in the child welfare field today.
We all agree that the renewed focus on this issue by our lawmakers in Tallahassee is welcome news. What we'd like to see is that their efforts reach all areas and result in system-wide changes that impact every phase of the child welfare services.
Our children are our most precious resource and as such, we owe it to them to do whatever we can with our legislators to ensure they are protected.
Kimberly Durham, dean, and Denise Crammer, associate professor, NSU's Institute for the Study of Human Service, Health and Justice, Davie