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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the challenges facing child protective services (CPS) in protecting children, focusing on: (1) problems confronting CPS units that affect the system's capacity to protect children from abuse and neglect; (2) state and local responses to these problems; and (3) opportunities for the federal government to assist in improving the system's capacity to respond to the needs of abused and neglected children.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services 1. The Secretary of Health and Human Services should use the current research agenda, allowed under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, to facilitate better targeting of future funding for those areas that support local efforts to explore collaborative partnerships with other community agencies.
Closed - Implemented
HHS regularly reviews its research agenda and the priority areas identified as important in child abuse and neglect to determine how limited discretionary dollars could be used to explore the full scope of child abuse and neglect within the child welfare arena. As a result of this process, HHS funded a cadre of research projects that emphasize building community partnerships to respond to child abuse and neglect as part of its overall research strategy. These projects include 18 school-based child maltreatment service projects, which emphasize community partnerships utilizing the school community, that will contribute to the knowledge base of abuse prevention, identification, intervention, and collaborative treatment efforts. In addition, a 3-year project was established to develop a national network of programs to strengthen families in partnership with their communities.
Department of Health and Human Services 2. The Secretary of Health and Human Services should develop new cost-effective strategies to disseminate and deliver the results of these local efforts and other related work through the National Clearinghouse and the National Resource Center.
Closed - Implemented
The National Clearinghouse and the National Resource Center for Child Maltreatment have engaged in a variety of activities to meet the needs of child protective service (CPS) audiences, including developing a series of annotated bibliographies reflecting the latest research and literature on CPS reforms, expanding access to information regarding prior research and local initiatives related to CPS and community-based initiatives via CD-ROM, and expanding the outreach and dissemination activities of the Child Welfare Specialist at the Clearinghouse. In addition, the Resource Center distributed the results of an expert panel on CPS decisionmaking and provided technical assistance to states on key child welfare issues and collaborative efforts.
Department of Health and Human Services 3. The Secretary of Health and Human Services should develop specific techniques, such as regional seminars, white papers, and on-site technical assistance, to promote community-based approaches to CPS.
Closed - Implemented
HHS held national child welfare state liaison officer meetings featuring full-day sessions on CPS reform, including community partnership projects developed by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. The Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) designated a staff member to take the lead on CPS reform issues and OCAN plans to work collaboratively with federal and non-federal partners to advance the CPS reform agenda, particularly as it relates to new requirements in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. In addition, HHS hired a national technical assistance provider to assist designated local service delivery sites in enhancing the role of CPS in community collaborative relationships.

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