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Raising Awareness on Neglect and Overreporting in the Child Welfare System

June 24, 2024

By: Jenny Pearlman, Chief Policy Officer at Safe & Sound

I recently had the honor of presenting at a webinar hosted by CalTrin titled Spotlight on Neglect. It was an inspiring and collaborative experience, and I was joined by my esteemed peers from Prevent Child Abuse (PCA) America, as well as their Arizona and Virginia PCA affiliates. Together, our goal was to raise awareness about the high correlation of poverty and allegations of neglect and the fact that providing families with the resources and supports they need can keep families safely together without unnecessary child welfare involvement.

During my presentation, I highlighted some critical points that we need to keep in the forefront of our minds. One of the most striking is that 45% of allegations of abuse and neglect in California are for neglect, and only 1 in 9 allegations is substantiated. This shows alarming overreporting of children into the child welfare system—especially African American, Native American, and Latino children. The majority of these reports are related to poverty or other parental circumstances where families could be supported and strengthened through community services and resources, rather than experiencing the trauma of a child protective services investigation.

At Safe & Sound, we are honored to be at the forefront of the work in California to reform policies and practices that perpetuate overreporting. Additionally, through efforts such as our leadership of the Family Services Alliance, we aim to ensure that families receive the support they need without unnecessary and traumatic interventions from the child welfare system.

A key milestone in our work was involvement in the successful advocacy for AB 2085, a bill, effective in January 2023, that prohibits mandated reporting based on economic disadvantage. This is a significant step towards addressing the root causes of overreporting and ensuring that families are not unfairly targeted due to their economic circumstances.

In addition to our legislative efforts, Safe & Sound has played a leadership role in launching a statewide task force to reform mandated reporting. The recently presented recommendations from this task Force include a bold proposal: that mandated reporters no longer be required to report general neglect. This package of recommendations is designed to:

  • Limit the overreporting of families whose needs can be met outside of child protective services.
  • Eliminate inaccurate reports by mandated reporters.
  • Address racial disproportionality within the child welfare system.
  • Reallocate investments from the child welfare system to community supports.

These initiatives are crucial for creating a more just and effective system that truly supports and strengthens families. By shifting the focus from punitive measures to supportive community services, we can help ensure that children and families thrive without the fear and trauma associated with unnecessary child protective services involvement.

As we continue this vital work, I am grateful for the dedication and collaboration of our partners at PCA America and its affiliates. Together, we are making strides towards a more equitable and supportive child welfare system. Thank you to everyone who participated in the webinar and for your ongoing commitment to protecting and uplifting our children and families.

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