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A: Rules <<>> Outcomes <<>> Principles

At the basic practice level, Rules guide child protection practice. This guidance is primarily in the form of “how to” instructions incorporated in laws and administrative code at the federal and state levels.

In addition to the legislative prescriptions and administrative guidance, “how to” rules are also incorporated within the standards promulgated by various professional organizations. Examples include the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the Council on Accreditation of Services to Children and Families (COA), and the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO). Child protection workers practice in accord with explicit legislative and administrative instructions combined with the promulgated standards to which their agencies subscribe.  For example, public child protection agencies are required (by rule) to receive and screen all reports of suspected child abuse or neglect within their service area.

At the intermediate Practice level, rules combine with outcomes to shape practice. This broader perspective is primarily in terms of data-based performance criteria. Practice conforms to both the rules and the expected outcomes.

These outcome criteria may be absolute, e.g., 90% of investigations completed within thirty days of the first report of a suspected incident. They also may be relative, e.g., the average completion time for investigations initiated by the agency not exceeding the statewide average by more than ten days.

Whether the criteria are absolute or relative, they serve as touchstones whereby practice is evaluated. As such, they represent the expected outcomes for a specific program or service.

At the advanced level, practice expands beyond data-based outcomes to incorporate principles guiding practice. This guidance is primarily in the form of basic truths or assumptions shaping decisions, choices, and practice. These guiding principles are not fully provable or disprovable. Rather, they are held to be largely self-evident.

Examples of guiding principles include;

 “A stable, nurturing family is the optimal environment for children to grow and develop.”
 “The adverse effects of abuse and neglect on children are cumulative and persisting.”
 “Over time, appropriate, quality services are less expensive than inappropriate or inadequate services.”

How it works:

In the new paradigm, for example, investigations are conducted in accord with specific, prescriptive rules, are completed within thirty days of first report, and assure children and families receive timely, appropriate, quality services.

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