HISTORY AND STATUTORY MISSION
Delaware’s Child Protection Accountability Commission (“CPAC” or “the Commission”) was statutorily created in 1997 as part of a comprehensive strategy, entitled the Child Abuse Prevention Act of 1997, to improve Delaware’s child protection system following the tragic death of a four year old boy named Bryan Martin. This act made significant changes regarding how Delaware investigates child abuse and neglect and how it fosters a child protection community of cooperation, accountability and multi-disciplinary collaboration. See 16 Del. C., Ch. 9. CPAC’s overall statutory mission is to monitor Delaware’s child protection system to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of Delaware’s abused, neglected, and dependent children. 16 Del. C. § 912(b). The statutory duties of the Commission are as follows:
(1) Examine and evaluate the policies, procedures and effectiveness of the child protection system and make recommendations for changes therein, focusing specifically on the respective roles in the child protection system of the Division of Family Services, the Division of Child Mental Health Services, the Office of the Attorney General, the Family Court, the medical community, and law enforcement agencies;
(2) Recommend changes in the policies and procedures for investigating and overseeing the welfare of abused, neglected and dependent children;
(3) Advocate for legislation and make legislative recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly;
(4) Access, develop and provide quality training to staff of the Division of Family Services, Deputy Attorneys General, Family Court, law enforcement officers, the medical community, educators, day-care providers, and others on child protection issues; and
(5) Review and make recommendations concerning the well-being of Delaware's abused, neglected and dependent children including, but not limited to, issues relating to foster care, adoption, mental health services, victim services, education, rehabilitation, substance abuse and independent living.
See 16 Del. C. § 912(b).
When CPAC began its work in 1997, its primary focus was on the caseloads of child protection workers, and the resulting turnover and inexperience of workers that compromised child safety. The Commission lobbied hard for the caseload standards and career ladders for workers, as well as partnered with the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (“Children’s Department” or “DSCYF”) for the creation of an overhire pool. The Commission also focused on building partnerships among law enforcement, prosecutors, and the Division of Family Services (“DFS”) to improve outcomes for Delaware’s children. In February of 2000, after the creation of the Office of the Child Advocate, staffing for the Commission was put in place. In 2001, the Commission’s membership and statutory duties were expanded to include a focus on well-being of children in the child protection system. Finally, in April of 2004, DFS asked CPAC to serve as Delaware’s federally required Citizen Review Panel under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. CPAC assumed that responsibility in July of 2004. As such, CPAC now plays an even greater role in reviewing the child protection system’s discharge of its responsibilities to Delaware’s children.
CARRYING OUT CPAC'S STATUTORY MISSION
The task of monitoring Delaware’s child protection system is a daunting one. At the close of Fiscal Year 2004, Delaware was actively serving 4,568 children within the Division of Family Services. Of those children, 175 were active with the Division of Child Mental Health Services (“CMH”), 181 were active with the Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services (“YRS”), and 96 were active with all three Divisions. As of June 30, 2005 (the last day of Fiscal Year 2005), the DFS had open cases with 5,153 children. Of those children, 181 were active with the CMH, 228 were active with the YRS, and 115 were active with all three Divisions.
For many of those children and their families, regular services, intervention and monitoring has been provided by the many agencies represented on the Child Protection Accountability Commission – the Attorney General’s Office, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the medical community, the Child Placement Review Board, the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, the Department of Education and the local districts, the Family Court, law enforcement, the Office of the Child Advocate, private providers and non-profit advocates. As these numbers continue to increase, the partners of Delaware’s child protection system work hard in a multi-disciplinary fashion to meet the needs of Delaware’s ever-challenging youth population.
As an accountability commission, CPAC is charged with gathering and acting on information to ensure all components of the child protection system are meeting the challenges presented by 5,153 children being served by Delaware’s system. This multi-disciplinary system has made great strides since the creation of CPAC in 1997; however, CPAC serves to ensure that those strides continue, as well as to address new issues that arise in this multi-faceted system. CPAC carries out its statutory mission by, among other things:
- Providing a public forum for the sharing of information and concerns about Delaware’s child protection system;
- Examining policies, procedures, statistical data, agency reports and other relevant information regarding the functioning of Delaware’s child protection system;
- Advocating for changes to policies and procedures where appropriate;
- Supporting initiatives of child protection system partners;
- Pursuing legislative initiatives;
- Planning and participating in trainings and other opportunities for multi-disciplinary communication and education;
- Working with system partners to gather additional relevant data illustrating the performance of Delaware’s child protection system, and acting on the information obtained to improve outcomes for children; and
- Reviewing individual cases of child abuse or neglect and issuing recommendations resulting from those reviews.