Demand for child protective services continues to grow
The number of children and families needing intervention and help continues to grow, according to recent data released by the Division of Child Safety and Family Services. During the six months from April through September 2013, 21,775 reports came into the CPS hotline that needed investigation. That is higher than any six month period during the past six years and includes the reports that were originally designated as “NI”. CAA has broken down the most recent data into a series of charts – and the numbers are alarming.
Serious physical and sexual abuse remain a smaller fraction of the overall problem. Child neglect has been the driving force behind the growth in reports to the CPS hotline; 7 out of ten reports during this six month period were based on neglect. Neglect can lead to serious and harmful consequences when children don’t have the basic food, shelter, medical care and supervision they need. Neglect can often be addressed and corrected with connections to services in the community, professional support to parents, behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, and parenting education.
With the loss of many of these effective strategies during the recession, the challenges to our evolving CPS system continue to grow:
- In November 2013, there was a backlog of more than 10,000 inactive CPS cases that had no activity in more than 60 days.
- The number of children living in foster care ballooned to 15,439 in January 2014.
- Despite the higher number of children removed from their families, the net number of licensed foster homes grew by only 2 between April and September 2013.
The new Department of Child Safety and Family Services will need the vision, policies, and resources to respond to child abuse and neglect reports in a much more timely way with strategies that reach families before small problems grow into big crises.