The Children’s Services Unit is divided into Child Welfare (CW) and Child Protective Services (CPS). All services are available regardless of income.
Child Protective Services
Child Protective Services (CPS) has the responsibility of receiving and investigating reports of suspected child abuse and/or maltreatment of any child under the age of 18 years old. Reports are received from the State Central Registry and must be investigated within 24 hours by a caseworker. Caseworkers have 60 days to make a determination on the report.
During the investigation the caseworker must determine if there is credible evidence to substantiate the allegations. If so, the report is indicated as being true and protective services are continued. If the report is not substantiated it is considered unfounded. The report is sealed and kept on file until 10 years after the youngest child’s 18th birthday. This is also true for indicated cases.
Foster Care (FC)
Foster care is a service in which children are placed in certified foster homes, group homes or residential facilities approved by the state for the purpose of 24 hour care. All children in placement have the Commissioner as their custodian.
Children may be placed due to an emergency removal by CPS because of the risk of imminent danger. Other children are placed through the court system because they have been adjudicated a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS) or a Juvenile Delinquent (JD). In limited cases a child may be voluntarily placed in foster care by a parent who is temporarily unable to care for the child due to illness, incarceration or any other temporary inability to meet the child’s needs.
Casework counseling and referral to clinical and rehabilitative services are integral components of this service in order to meet the Permanency Plan to return the child to the natural parent. Finding qualified foster families who can provide the love and guidance that these children desperately require is a difficult task. The certification requirements are stringent to ensure the well being of the children placed in care. Thirty hours of classroom training are required and are provided by other voluntary agencies that social services works collaboratively with on shared cases.
Adoption Services (CW)
Adoption services are provided to all children under 18 years old who are legally free for adoption. Children become free for adoption when the natural parent’s rights have been terminated. Termination of parental rights can occur when the parent willingly signs legal documents, before a judge, surrendering the child for adoption. Termination of parental rights also occurs when a child is adjudicated by a Family Court Judge, as :permanently neglected or abused.” All “freed” children are under the guardianship of the Commissioner of Social Services.
“Freed” children 14 years of age and older may choose not to be adopted and remain in foster care under the Independent Living Program. With release to independence as their goal, children are taught basic life skills to enable them to be successful. They will remain in foster care until 18 years old, or with their consent until age 21.
Adoption homefinding is also a part of the adoption process. Adults who wish to adopt may apply free of charge. An intensive homestudy process and 30 hours of training are required. If the homestudy is approved, the applicants can then be matched with freed children across New York State who are photo listed in books which are referred to as the “Blue Books.”
Preventive Services (CW)
Preventive Services are intensive casework intervention coupled with referral to clinical services for families experiencing problems dealing with their child’s behavior with the purpose of preventing a foster care placement. This service is also provided to families whose child is in placement to reduce the length of time in foster care, as well as, to prevent a return to foster care following discharge.
Caseworkers assist parents to gain access to services, encourage them to begin treatment for drug abuse, alcohol addiction and emotional problems. They are encouraged to attend parenting skills classes and referred to services such as day care, medical providers, schools and job training programs.
Referrals come through CPS reports, Family court, Probation, other agencies, as well as, client requests. Services are offered regardless of income.
School Preventive Services
Under the supervision of the Director of the Youth Bureau, utilizing social service caseworkers, a county-wide school prevention program has been operating in all area schools. Intensive preventive services are offered in limited caseloads to referred students and families. Children targeted for this ongoing project are between 8 and 12 years old. The purpose is to reduce future PINS and JD placements, as well as, future foster care placements which may come through Child Protective Services.