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Increasing Complexity:

With the inclusion of children, parents, and the Children’s Safety Net into the child protection system, the narrow perspective of a self-perpetuating loop is clearly insufficient. Added to this increasingly complex perspective are the important roles of the courts. (See the intervention cycle described in the first addendum to this introduction.) The agency is accountable for investigating reports of suspected abuse and neglect and for providing remedial services to parents. However, in most jurisdictions, the agency is not authorized to remove children from their homes when parents object to the removal. Rather, the agency must seek a court order and may proceed only based on such an order. The agency then must again seek a further order of the court to return the child to the parents when services are completed. If it determines that the parents cannot or will not make the necessary changes for their children to return home, the agency must then seek a court order either transferring custody to relatives or terminating all parental rights and ordering permanent custody of the child to the agency. Additionally, parents may, on their own initiative, seek a court order transferring custody of their children to the agency. Typically, this happens when parents decide that they cannot or no longer want to deal with the challenges presented to them by their unruly or delinquent adolescents. Finally, if the agency does receive permanent custody of a child and identifies a suitable family to adopt that child, both the adoptive placement and the adoption finalization must be approved by the court.

Beyond the inclusion of the courts in the child protection system, other people and organizations are included as a result of children being removed from their parents. Included here are grandparents and other relatives, foster and adoptive families, youth shelters, group homes, and other specialized facilities developed for the out-of-home care of children. At a minimum, then, the child protection system includes:

  • Congress
  • Federal rule-makers
  • The state legislature
  • State rule-makers
  • The courts with local jurisdiction in juvenile matters
  • Foster and adoptive families
  • Other specialized facilities
  • The Children’s Safety Net including the agency
  • Grandparents and other relatives
  • Parents and their children
  • Schools
  • Police
  • Neighbors
  • Social service agencies

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