IL, MAY 14, 1998 -- Repeat child abuse has declined significantly since
the implementation of an assessment tool designed to help workers identify
risks to children in their homes, says a newly-released report to the
Illinois General Assembly. This was accomplished without increasing
the number of children being taken into DCFS custody, the study says.
Studies cited in the third annual report on the DCFS Child Endangerment
Risk Assessment Protocol (CERAP), noted a 28 percent decline in the
rate of recurrence of abuse or neglect to children since the Illinois
Department of Children and Family Servicesí implementation of the
Protocol in 1995. The CERAP includes a checklist of risk factors used
to assess whether a child is in immediate danger of harm.
to the report, 93 percent of intact family cases reported for child
abuse or neglect had CERAP checklists used during the investigation.
The report noted the assessments were also performed in 87 percent
of substitute care cases that were closed. But the CERAP was found
to be most often used during investigations, before cases are closed,
and prior to returning a child home.
Advisory Committee praised the Departmentís high rate of CERAP
usage, but directed the Department to focus additional attention on
improving compliance rates. The Committee also advised DCFS that its
monitoring of the training and certification of new hires, both in
the Department and private sector, is crucial to the Protocolís
report is great news," said Governor Jim Edgar, whose Task Force
on Family Preservation recommended and developed the Protocol on which
the Legislature based Public Act 88-614.
Task Force members, to legislators, to the caseworkers and investigators
in the field -- all of them can take pride in knowing they helped
make life safer for thousands of children," Edgar said.
Act 88-614 was passed with the intent of standardizing the process
of assessing harm to children found to be abused or neglected. The
Act grew out of a recommendation from the Task Force formed in the
wake of the tragic death of three-year-old Joseph Wallace at the hands
of his mentally-ill mother, Amanda Wallace, in 1993. The Act requires
workers who make decisions about whether to leave children in the
care of an abusive parent or to return the child to an abusive parent
to be trained and certified in the use of the Protocol.
more than 7,000 DCFS and private agency workers have received CERAP
training and certification.
Committee, legislatively-mandated to provide evaluation reports to
the General Assembly each year, noted in its report that the CERAP
has been the driving force behind dramatic improvements in a short
period of time. Research by the Committee showed the decline in recurrence
of abuse or neglect to children could not be accounted for by policy
changes, lower caseloads, substitute care placement rates, or statistical
changes seen at the national level.
ask a great deal of our social workers and court personnel when we
ask them to predict with absolute accuracy the future likelihood that
a child will be injured," said Advisory Committee Chairman Richard
H. Calica, who is also Executive Director of the Juvenile Protective
CERAP has provided a definition of what can reasonably be expected
from our state social workers who carry our burden and concern for
the safety of children. While itís never possible for them to
predict with 100 percent accuracy, our current results are very impressive
(and) the credit lies with the administration and staff of DCFS,"
of risk factors is used within 24 hours after an investigator first
sees the alleged child victim, and whenever circumstances suggest
the childís safety may be in jeopardy. The same assessment must
also be performed by caseworkers at regular intervals and immediately
prior to returning a child home.
have built upon the accomplishments of the first two years to ensure
that CERAP is effective throughout the life of our involvement with
the family," said DCFS Director Jess McDonald. "But the
most important factors in the Protocolís success can be tied
to the training of staff and their support of its use in the field.
It is a testament to their work that we are seeing fewer repeat cases
of abuse or neglect."
noted that the 28.6 percent decrease in recurrence was largely due
to CERAPís high usage rate by investigators and caseworkers.
It also noted that when no CERAP assessment was completed within five
days of an abuse or neglect report, the likelihood of a recurrence
of maltreatment was more than double. It found that having more than
four family problems identified increased the odds of children being
reinjured by almost three times, while having an unsafe CERAP judgment
made by a worker almost doubled odds of a second indicated report
within 60 days.
will be extended into the next year to identify special risk factors
which distinguish families at highest risk from others.
findings and recommendations of this report verify the importance
of the CERAP, and show us in concrete terms how this tool is helping
to protect our most vulnerable citizens," said Director McDonald.
"Now we must do an even better job of using the Protocol to protect
every child, throughout every critical step of the child welfare process."
was prepared by the CERAP Committee with assistance from staff of
the American Humane Association, DCFS, and the Children and Family
Research Center from the School of Social Work at the University of
Illinois-Chicago. Copies may be obtained by contacting the DCFS Office
of Communications at 312-814-6847, or by visiting the DCFS web site