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Toward Principle-based Practice

In the traditional, bureaucratically organized, closed structure child protection paradigm, actions and decisions are based on the authority of the individual

taking the action or making the decision. This authority derives from the next level above the individual. Thus there is an authority hierarchy regulating

and directing practice.

The local agency itself has authority that derives from state and federal laws and administrative code. The result is that services are, for the most part,

based on rules and the associated authority derived from those rules.

As the paradigm expands into the intermediate level, action is based on assessment and planning. The expansion is from what is supposed to happen to what

needs to happen, from how it is supposed to be done to how to achieve the desired outcomes.

When action is based on assessment and planning instead of rules and authority, the associated behavior and actions are less predictable and less consistent.

There is also more variability from location to location and from worker to worker. The outcomes for individual children, then, may be better or worse,

depending on which local agency provides the needed services and which worker is providing the services. This lack of services equity has to be weighed

against the improved outcomes for some but not all children.

Practice expands in the advanced child protection paradigm beyond the authority derived from rules and hierarchical structures, beyond assessment and planning.

Rights and responsibilities represent the authorizing structure for practice. Both agencies and workers are extended rights, including the right to deliver

defined services to specified clients. These rights are typically conveyed as licenses, accreditations, or certifications issued by units of government

or professional organizations. These rights are accompanied by responsibilities including minimum professional qualifications, ethics requirements, and

practice standards. Specific rules and outcomes represent the contextual environment for principle-based practice.

The authority derived from organizational position and from associated rules and procedures expands to incorporate practice and associated activities primarily

authorized through assessment and planning with specific children and families. It then proceeds as directed and constrained by the rights and responsibilities

of both the clients and the workers.

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Please send comments or questions to Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. || and visit