Special Efforts Being Made in California to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

California is pursuing the use of predictive analytics to foresee and prevent child abuse. With a $300,000 grant from CDSS and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a team of researchers led by the Children’s Data Network at the University of Southern California is building and testing a data analytics tool to help child abuse investigators more accurately gauge the risk of maltreatment when a report of child abuse or neglect is made. CDSS Deputy Director Greg Rose, who oversees the state’s foster care system, says that the state’s new predictive risk modeling project is designed to give social workers better information about past child welfare cases when they first field a call about child abuse and neglect. [Recommendation 2.1]

AB 992 (Arambula), the Baby Wellness and Family Support Home Visiting Program, is currently under consideration by the state legislature. If passed, it would provide $100 million for home visits from nurses or social workers for new mothers living in poverty. [Recommendations 7.1a, 7.1h, 7.1j]

Local effort in Contra Costa County: The County’s child welfare agency is using a standardized assessment tool starting at the hotline intake unit and throughout the life of the case, to achieve greater consistency in assessment of children and families. This tool relies strongly on data and research to guide the decision-making process, yet allows for additional factors to be considered. [Recommendation 7.3a]

Local effort in Fresno County: Prevention programs called Differential Response and Neighborhood Resources Centers are being established in seven locations throughout the county to assist families who have been reported to be at risk, but who do not meet the threshold for a finding of abuse and/or neglect. [Recommendation 7.1]

Local effort in Los Angeles County: The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) launched E-SCARS, the Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Report System to ensure more rapid response to serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse. E-SCARS is a web-based system that allows secure electronic transmission of data and reports between law enforcement, district attorneys and DCFS. [Recommendation 6.1]

Local effort in Los Angeles County: Prevention and Aftercare (P&A) services are coordinated, community-based services designed to prevent maltreatment and increase protective factors for children and families. Services can be accessed by families at any point in the child welfare continuum, from primary prevention to families who have successfully exited the system. Contracts were designed with flexibility, so that services meet the unique needs of each Service Planning Area. Some of the services are evidence based and/or evidence informed, but this is not a contract requirement. There is no cost to the families for the services provided, and the only eligibility requirement is that the family reside in LA County. The P&A contract requires that the community agencies assess each family and develop an individualized case plan to meet each family's unique needs. Two countywide P&A contracts provide culturally informed services to the Asian Pacific Islander community and the American Indian community. [Recommendation 7.1]

Local effort in Los Angeles County: Los Angeles County is planning to review the last five years of child death and critical incident reports within the Department of Children and Family Services to determine risk factors for child fatality. [Recommendation 2.1b]

Local effort in Monterey County: Monterey County is building a Roadmap to Strengthen Child Well-Being: a four-phased project grounded in the CECANF recommendations and the American Public Human Services Association’s (APHSA’s) Organizational Effectiveness Framework. According to the Monterey County Department of Social Services (DSS), Monterey County was the first in the nation to use the Commission’s recommendations as a basis for local strategic planning and action. The County began to develop its roadmap following the murders of two children and the severe beating of another child in 2015. There were several CPS and law enforcement reports of harm that lead to foster care or court dependency prior to the fatal abuse incident. After learning of the deaths, DSS reached out to APHSA, and together they conducted a critical incident review. This led to the identification of issues within DSS and changes to the DSS system. However, DSS Director Elliot Robinson and APHSA staff realized that to truly achieve their goal, they would need to go beyond a siloed assessment of the child welfare system and better address the social and economic stressors affecting child and family well-being. They recognized that addressing the root causes of violence and maltreatment would be more effective in the long term to prevent child maltreatment injuries and fatalities. Thus began the County’s efforts, in partnership with APHSA, to develop a roadmap to child well-being.

In Phase One, which began in April 2016, an Executive Advisory Team was formed, composed of cross-section leaders at all levels of the organization, state and community, in collaboration with national experts on the interplay between family violence and child abuse and neglect fatalities, as well as effective community-based system of care assessment methods and interventions. The team identified three key areas—collaborative/coordinated service delivery, community engagement, and data and information sharing—as critical components for the development of a successful roadmap.

In Phase Two, Organizational Effectiveness Implementation Teams were formed for each of the three key areas. Each team gathered information, assessed the current state of affairs and developed recommendations for the roadmap. Phase Three included development of the implementation and monitoring plan. The County is now in Phase Four, in which community partners are engaged and workgroups are designing and implementing the recommendations. As of November 2017, three major areas of work are in process to address two goals:

  • Enhance the current system by designing services and resources that are available within the community for preventive measures. Work in process includes establishing a nurse family partnership program and strengthening knowledge of child abuse and neglect reporting
  • Create spaces and places for community engagement throughout Monterey County; develop a Community of Care of adults involved in children’s lives; share information with diverse populations, including undocumented and indigenous communities

Work in process includes creating a community-driven Community Navigator program for Monterey County

Local effort in Sacramento County: A blue ribbon commission organized in Sacramento County was charged with making recommendations to reduce the disproportionate number of African American children dying of maltreatment. The commission is currently working on an implementation plan that focuses on the six Sacramento neighborhoods that account for the majority of deaths. Implementation will involve collaboration across family service systems, as well as community, family and youth engagement.  Also, the Steering Committee on Reduction of African American Child Deaths is a community-driven body of dedicated individuals working to reduce deaths among African American children by between 10-20% by 2020 in Sacramento County. The Committee was established by a resolution of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, and its ultimate charge is to provide coordination and oversight of efforts, create a strategic plan, monitor implementation, evaluate, and report on progress toward reducing the disproportional number of African American child deaths. The Steering Committee’s efforts focus on four issue areas:

  • Homicide related to child abuse and neglec
  • Third-party homicide
  • Deaths related to perinatal conditions
  • Infant sleep related deaths. [Recommendation 4.2]

Local effort in San Diego County: The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) seeks to improve family strengthening efforts through the use of predictive analytics. Through a project with MITRE Corporation, the county is using data from across HHSA to determine factors that are more likely to be predictive of fatalities and near fatalities due to child abuse and neglect. It will use these factors to improve family strengthening services provided throughout HHSA to reduce child abuse and neglect fatalities and near fatalities. [Recommendation 6.1]