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The Transition to Community Integration

Above, I introduced the notion of “centeredness.” As we saw there, the child protection paradigm transitions from the traditional staff centered approach to incorporate a client centered approach at the intermediate transitional level. The paradigm then transitions to the advanced level where child protection is fully success centered. At this level, child protection is neither staff nor client driven. It is instead driven by a continuous focus on the shared success of the client and child protection workers as they strive to keep the child safe while achieving permanence and ongoing success for the child.

In the continuing emergence of the new child protection paradigm, centeredness is an increasingly important feature. Just as the paradigm transitions from staff to client to success centeredness, it similarly transitions from program centered to family centered to community integrated. At the program centered, traditional level, services and resources are delimited by the specific program to which the child is attached or for which the family is eligible. The client receives those services or resources the program provides. At the intermediate level, services and resources are family driven. The family receives those services and resources the family believes to be in its best interest.

In the new, emerging child protection paradigm, centeredness shifts to the community. The community becomes a place where children and families can fully participate in assuring that their needs are met, their vulnerabilities are managed, their problems are resolved. It is a place where young children are safe and nurtured and older children are at home, in school, and out of trouble. It is a place where both families and children succeed. When they do not succeed, the services and resources are there in the particular mix most appropriate for each child and each family.

Revisiting the same transition, think about a particular program associated with child protection. That program offers defined services to identifiable clients. The program is at the center of the helping circle and clients move into and out of the helping circle. We find this arrangement at the traditional level of practice. Next, think about a family. When it receives focus, is at the center of the helping circle, it may receive services and resources from several programs, depending on the family’s specific needs and interests. Various programs and associated staff move into and out of the helping circle. Now consider an arrangement where the community is itself the helping circle. The services, resources, and supplemental guidance children and families need from time to time are equally available to and accessible by all members of the community.

If a child or family need special or supplemental services or resources (either self-identified or community-identified), the needed array materializes. Think of it as a meta program, uniquely designed to respond to the individual interests and circumstances of the particular child or family. The development of one-stop services centers are a long step toward realizing this new reality. Families know about and easily access the services mall where they can get the exact help they need. When managed well, each customer has a personal shopper (case manager) who makes sure each client gets exactly what he (or she) needs.

If the exact services or resources are not immediately available, the personal shopper locates them at another mall and has them brought to the customer. “If we do not have exactly what you need, we will find it for you.” At this level, child protection has fully transitioned from program centered practice, past family centered practice, to actual community integration. Each member of the community either has or can access the exact services and resources he (or she) needs to succeed.

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