DSS launches program to handle child maltreatment and neglect

by Carol Thompson

The Oswego County Department of Social Services has launched a new family assessment response program to handle child maltreatment and neglect.

The Family Assessment Response, or FAR program, provides an alternative to traditional investigations of child protective reports.

“Family Assessment Response focuses on the child’s safety, but relies on the family members working with the caseworker to identify the family’s strengths and needs,” said Oswego County DSS Commissioner Gregg Heffner. “Family members commit to taking an active role in identifying and receiving community-based services. FAR is based on the belief that parents love their children and want them to be safe. Sometimes parents need help to make that happen.”

DSS received approval to develop a Family Assessment Response program late last year. The first unit began accepting cases in March and a second team was launched in June.

Federal, state and local laws require that child protective services take action on each report of abuse, neglect or maltreatment that the agency receives. Historically, the investigation would focus on fact-finding and identification of the victim and a perpetrator.

Rachael Pelow, who serves as the Family Assessment Response Supervisor said when child protective workers are notified about concerns in regard to a child’s safety, an initial safety assessment is conducted.

“The criteria for referral to the FAR unit are based on state law. Certain reports, such as sexual misconduct, assault against a child or abandonment of a child, are not eligible for a FAR assessment,” she said.

“When a case is referred to FAR, we immediately schedule an appointment with the family,” Pelow said. In partnership with the families, we focus on the safety of children and family strengths to address concerns. We do not focus on the details of a specific incident to prove or disprove that maltreatment or neglect occurred”

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