Section 2: Understanding the Child Welfare System

This e-training module provides an overview of the child welfare system.  It is designed to provide those who may not work within the child welfare system on a day-to-day basis with a general understanding of the system's broad goals and how it seeks to achieve them.  It is important to note, however, that while the term "child welfare system" suggests a singular system of child welfare, in fact there is a network of federal, state, Tribal, and public child welfare agencies that often work together as well as in collaboration with other child-serving public agencies, private agencies, and communities to fulfill different responsibilities and roles in providing support to children and families who have experienced maltreatment or are in need of child welfare services.

The module is divided into four main sections.  The first section, Child Maltreatment, describes the various types of maltreatment that can affect children, as well as the variety of factors that can increase or decrease their risk of being maltreated.  It also discusses how and when maltreatment should be reported to child protective services and the potential consequences of such reporting.

The second section, Child Welfare Goals, Legislation, and Monitoring, explains the three core goals of child welfare: a child's safety, permanency, and well-being.  It also describes key pieces of federal child welfare legislation that underpin the manner by which state child welfare systems work to achieve these goals and prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Finally, it describes the numerous collaborative efforts between federal and state governments that exist to monitor child welfare and ensure both compliance with all guidelines and continuous quality improvement. 

The third section, Case Process, provides a detailed, step-by-step look at how a case moves through the child welfare system once it has been reported to the child protective services agency.  The process begins with a case's referral and ends when the agency officially closes the case.

The final section, Additional Resources, provides links and online material for further information about the child welfare system.  It includes links to the Children's Bureau website and the Child Welfare Information Gateway, as well as a comprehensive bibliography of this module's source material.