Agency Assessment (Signature assignment)
The Illinois DCFS integrated assessment program was first established in 1964 and it was the first child welfare agency. It has due served vulnerable children and it houses the first juvenile court and among the first in establishing child welfare laws. It was launched in 2005 (Smithgall, et.al, 2009) where the IAP was initiated to provide clinically based assessments and upfront to children under the IDCFS custody who have standard cases which includes cases of adopted children who require placement in other homes, new cases not previously opened and Illinois DCFS case which has been re-opened following new findings.to partner licensed clinicians with childcare caseworkers so that they can provide adequate information on the children family strengths, the type of service they need and support systems. It is designed to achieve positive and better outcomes to the families involved in the child welfare services. The Illinois DCFS program provides case management, enhanced outreach, child care services and transportation. During it’s first of operation it served around 51,000 children in foster care and was the first child welfare agency to be accredited by the Council of Accreditation for Children and Family Services (Smithgall, et.al, 2009). It serves more than 14,000 day care centers, group homes, day care agencies and group homes.
The Illinois DCFS project in 2007 was funded by the Children’s Bureau grant and it involved the Integrated Assessment Project’s evaluation and extension which was hence designed to use ongoing efforts in intact family cases. The setting of Illinois DCFS is divided into Cook and Central, Chicago areas North Cook, Cook South Regions, Northern Down states, Southern and Central regions. These regions are located in both rural and urban areas, all with the aim of serving families with diverse ethnic, racial, and social economic needs and backgrounds. The general support and management functions of the Illinois DCFS are performed under the Central Office Level (Smithgall, et.al, 2009). The private sector has the highest percentage of more than 86% of the services and care offered to the Illinois children welfare. They provide their services through contracting with DCFS agencies.
In this agency I chose the investigator since the mandate worker who focuses on interviewing and sees the child, and talks to the child’s parents and any witness who is willing to be tested. Illinois DCFS investigators are supposed to make written records which are electronically entered into the investigation file for all of the contacts they investigated within 48 hours. It was also clear that every investigator has a supervisor who develops the plan for the investigation process. After the investigator has seen the child they conduct Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol (CERAP) which list the potential and unsafe threats and hence determines whether a safety plan or removal of the child from the parent is needed (Smithgall, et.al, 2009). The investigators have the power to remove the child in the care of their parents in case there is an emergency situation of dangerous abuse.
The main mission of the Illinois DCFS is protecting the children who are reported to be neglected or abused as well as increasing and providing the families capacity to efficiently and safely care for them, and provide appropriate and permanent families for those who cannot go back to their homes in order to maintain the wellbeing of the children and support child abuse prevention and early intervention and work with communities in order to fulfill this mission (Smithgall, et.al, 2009). The Illinois DCFS also ensures that allocation of limited resources is rational. In 2007, the Illinois DCFS conducted an internal review concerning the Integrated Assessment Program (IAP) with aim of identifying areas of success, recommendations, and current changes so as to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. Other days to day services include family support, and preservation services, foster family and kinship care, institutional, and transitional and independent living skills.
One of the perspectives in the Illinois DCFS agency is that the foundation for decision making. This perspective of decision making involves knowledge, individual skills, access to resources, analytical judgment, and limitations one experiences. The process of decision making is impacted by subjective experiences and emotions. In Illinois DCFS agency, there is a high probability of uncertainties in decision making since environmental and personal factors greatly influence judgment along with limited ability to gather information, inadequate knowledge and making predictions under emergency cases (Baker, 2016). In this case, some investigators do not report or take the report seriously and are involved in inadequate investigations and negative responses towards the reporters. Another perspective of the Illinois agency according to Baker (2016) is rescued children from neglectful and abusive families while the other perspective concerning their mission is supporting and preserving families that have been reported.
Social work values
Social workers attempt to promote human relationship, empowerment and social change by preventing and relieving suffering and hardships (Beckett, Maynard & Jordan, 2017). They have the responsibility of helping families, groups, the community, and individuals. The basic social work values include Human worth and dignity, service to all humanity, integrity, social justice and competence. The NASW Code of ethics (Reamer, 1998) has four sections the preamble which summarizes the core values and the mission of the social workers, the second section is NASW code of Ethics purpose which provide overview of the function of these codes, the third section deals with Ethical principles basing their information on social core values and work practice, and the fourth section deals with specific ethical standards the guide the conduct of social workers hence providing a basis of adjudication (Beckett, Maynard & Jordan, 2017).
The perspective of protecting children who are neglected or abused best fits the social work values (Baker, 2016). This agency values each natural child right for having basic needs in order to develop and survive and the natural right that they live with their parents and the parental rights to rear their children. But according to the societal laws some situations defined, the parents’ rights may be held limited so as to protect the child (Reamer, 1998). These conditions include child abuse and neglect which is the mistreatment of a child under the age of 18 since they lead to an increase in cases of mortality and morbidity in children.
The Illinois DCFS values include trust, compassion, accountability, responsiveness, relationships, and respect, empathy, and safety. Child-focused practice and family-centered and strength-based practices are the main implementing values that quide support and help the children and families who need the attention of DCFS.
Systems (Ecological theory)
Ecological systems theory offers a framework where community psychologists interact with individuals to examine their relationship with the wider society and community. The child’s environment affects the growth and development of that child. Different levels of environment include microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem that influence the development of children (Jack, 1997). Many families are involved in multiple occupational, social, economic, academic, and cultural contexts; child welfare workers are supposed to be trained and should include the systems ecological theory which is a foundational aspect of every social work practices and it views individuals as being embedded within their social context. The human dignity and worth value employs that every human being has the intrinsic right to self-fulfillment, to well-being, and to control their own lives and be consistent to others rights.
The microsystem is the immediate and small environment that a child lives in and how Illinois DCFS agency interacts with the child affects how they grow and are supposed to encourage and nurture their relationship with the children to enable better growth to the children. According to Bronfenbrenner (Jack, 1997) Mesosystem is the part of a child’s microsystem that works together to help the child. This includes caregivers who take an active and direct role in a child’s growth. And the exosystem is the other places or people the child will not interact with but largely affect her, and it includes the community and caregiver’s workplaces. The macrosystem includes cultural values, freedom from the national government and the economy which also may affect the child positively or negatively (Ryan, 2001). These systems guide the Illinois DCFS to determine the association between the organizational factors and each individual level factor hence the role of both the organization and individual caseworker impact outcomes for youth, family, and children. The DCFS strongly advises caseworkers to be fully engaged in their cases so that they can achieve high permanency either through reunification or adoption.
The person-in-environment perspective in social work is a guiding principle that outlines the benefits of understanding individual behavior depending on the strengths and not on the changes in individual behavior and environmental conditions (Ryan, 2001). Systemic conditions such as financial, social and physical influences contribute to conditions and impact individuals who receive and need services of Illinois DCFS. The main core systemic areas that this agency addresses are a systemic enhancement, quality assurance, and management with support services that are systemic (Jack, 1997). Also, the systemic nature of DCFS promotes and allows collaborative efforts in courts, stakeholders, community-based organization, families, and the service providers.
Strength perspective of practice is a social work theory that emphasizes on people strengths and self-determination. This is a client-led approach with a way of viewing clients as resilient and resourceful when offering the social service. In Illinois, the core practice model is based on the Strength approach and is anchored by trauma information and is family-centered (Saleebey, 2002). The Strength approach is also referred to as FTS and its vision statement is to partner with children’s families so that they can make decisions which will help achieve desired outcomes that will aid in acknowledging family’s importance, and building the strengths that can be demonstrated by parent, child, family and the whole community, while at the same time intervening and identifying the mitigating factors that affect children and families.
The strengths are identified during investigations and interviews, and interactions with the family. The Illinois DCFS understanding of the family’s strengths guides in evaluating the family’s progress and the services they need. Through the strength approach, the agency can determine the community, family, and friends who can aid the family in ensuring child welfare. The Illinois strength-based practice principles include; serving clients by collaborating with them and working with them rather than on their cases. The strength-based plan allows social workers to work with child’s parents in order prioritize and address the issue and then engage services that will meet family needs and, is also aimed at strengthening families by comprehensive assessment (Saleebey, 2002). Also, the strength-based perspective helps to improve individual outcomes such as the health and the quality of life. In a societal view, this approach promotes positive views and focuses on things away from judgment, and de-stigmatization of children in society and increased social support.
According to DCFS Child Abuse Hotline in the last four years, it received more than one million calls, coordinating and offering services that aim at children welfare. Discrimination is not tolerated in all population or community served by Illinois DCFS, despite underutilization. Also, in the population served there are those that require specific support services such as young parents in the society and also preservation services to troubled families to help them stabilize in crisis or risks.
In this agency, I did not encounter any value conflicts. This is because the child welfare professionals take into considerations the potential harm social, and intimate, non-professional relationships and contacts with clients, foster parents, colleagues and family members could have in their line of performance and judgment. And, documentation of professional work is truthfully and accurately done according to the legal requirements and the agency policy in order to ensure continuity and accountability in the provision of services to the clients.
As a social worker when I encounter issues that conflict with personal values I would use the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics since they guide and assist social workers to make decisions to the best interest of the client, despite the contradict in our personal lives (Reamer, 1998). Ethical dilemmas such as religious beliefs and the variety of background people are brought up in where the ethical values do not align with the codes of ethics. Also, in pregnant mothers, the social worker is supposed to tell the woman to have an abortion, offer the child for adoption, or be a single mother while a Christian social worker believes abortion is disrespectful of human life. As a social worker, I should be aware of the impacts and conflicts on personal values, religious and cultural practices, and ethical decisions. Hence to handle these issues that conflict with personal values as a social worker (Beckett, Maynard & Jordan, 2017), I should consult the code, then review the federal and state laws, seek supervision, consult the NASW and finally take time to process what I have learned.
Yes, I would like to work with Illinois DCFS in the future. It is a large, respected and nationally recognized child agency. This is because it has a strong positive working environment with good management and has great experiences. And since there are policies, procedures, and laws that guide decision making it would feel very interesting serving and improving children and families welfare. It offers employees competitive salaries such as paid personal days, paid holidays, retirement plans, and is also an opportunity agency which offers equal employment.
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