Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How are CAP assessments different from assessments already completed by CA social worker?

CAP is not meant to replicate the work the CA social workers are already doing.  CAP is designed to assist social workers with more complex cases where additional assessment of family needs and assistance with service planning is required.  In addition to a structured interview, CAP utilizes standardized checklist measures to further assess factors which have been shown to be correlated to Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN).  CAP also employs motivational interviewing techniques to assess a caregiver’s perception of possible problems and their willingness to change.  Those familiar with motivational interviewing understand it is considered an actual brief intervention.
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  1. What do the standardized measures really measure and are the results reliable?

Each of the standardized checklists measures a factor that has been identified in research and practice as related to CAN. They have all been shown to be scientifically reliable and valid. However, the checklists are based on self-reports. This means that the scores are the result of answers the parents give. If parents answer as honestly as possible the results will be meaningful, if they do not, the scores will not reflect the real level of the problem. This is why standardized checklists are only one consideration; the scores must be put into perspective with other information. CAP never relies only on the results of the standardized measures. Another reason why CAP uses standardized checklists is to enhance parents’ confidence in the objectivity of the process.
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  1. Why does CAP recommend a few services instead of services for all identified problems?

Research suggests that fewer services tend to be more effective. When parents have to participate in many services, the benefit is reduced. This is because effective services focus on teaching new skills. When parents are attending many services, it’s more difficult to focus on practicing new skills. In addition, skills learned in an effective program tend to generalize to other problem/need areas. A good treatment for one problem will have a beneficial effect on others. For example, parenting stress, attachment/bonding difficulties and child behavior problems are all addressed when the parent participates in an evidence-based parenting program.

Another set of reasons for fewer services is to promote engagement and motivation. The families CA serves do not seek help voluntarily. Often they don’t agree that they have problems or are ambivalent about changing. When many services are recommended it sends a message that the family is perceived to have many problems. In addition, many families are already overwhelmed by their life circumstances. A requirement to attend many services imposes additional burdens. These factors can undermine willingness to change and create an adversarial relationship with the CA social worker.
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  1. Isn’t it important to address underlying problems/issues that may be contributing to the CAN?

Addressing every factor that leads to a specific behavioral problem is not really possible because all problems have multiple causes. Parents own history of abuse and neglect or adversity; their current social and economic circumstances; and their psychological problems and behavioral deficits all contribute to CAN. But research shows that most of the time focusing interventions on the specific problem behavior itself tend to have better results than attempting to address every single factor that may have contributed to the immediate problem.
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  1. What is the basis for CAP recommendations?

CAP keeps two things in mind when deciding which services to prioritize. One is clarifying the key problem/need area that contributed to the CAN and matching the main service recommendations to the CAN. For example, in physical abuse cases the most common explanation is ineffective parenting skills and negative perceptions of the child. An evidence-based parenting program will address these areas.

In some neglect cases, parental depression may be the key factor that leads to inadequate supervision, serious hygiene or household safety risks. In these cases, getting on medication might be a good solution.

The second consideration for CAP, is promoting motivation to change by allowing parents to identify the problems/need area based on the feedback from the assessment process. This approach is consistent with Solution Based Casework which emphasizes taking a collaborative approach with parents and focusing on what they think is important. In some cases parents’ views may be somewhat different than what CAP or CA social workers believe is most important. But the advantages of increasing parental engagement may outweigh the disadvantages of imposing unwanted services.
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  1. Wouldn’t families be better off than they were if they participated in a range of services?

There are a variety of services that could benefit families that are available in many communities. CAP and the CA are helping families when they make them aware of these services and offer to facilitate access. Headstart is a good example. This program can be helpful in a variety of ways including giving families a break from care giving and enhancing readiness to learn for children. But imposing such services as a requirement for closing a case when there is no direct evidence that it would make a difference in CAN could backfire and undermine a collaborative relationship between the family and the CA. A more helpful approach is to offer assistance in connecting to services instead of imposing them as requirements.
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  1. How does CAP contribute to safety?

There are two ways to look at safety; immediate safety and long-term safety.  CAP endeavors to work closely with the CA on both the immediate safety plan and longer term service planning. Developing an effective service plan that targets the problems/needs that led to the CAN reduces risk over time and ultimately increase child safety. CAP is more focused on helping develop a service plan to target the issues which led to CAN. Service recommendations favor evidence based practices and treatments which have been shown to be effective in treating the target problems/needs. When appropriate, CAP may also offer the CA social worker additional ideas to promote immediate safety.
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  1. How is CAP funded?

In 2007, the Governor’s Office asked CA for recommendations to increase child safety.  CA proposed a program that would improve the safety of children by guiding decision-making and safety planning in complex, high risk cases.  CA proposed to make this program available at the front end of a case, with the overall goal to reduce recurrence of child maltreatment. 

The proposal for a program to increase child safety was included in the Governor’s 2009/2010 budget and funded by the legislature. The budget proviso provided funding “…solely to contract with medical professionals for comprehensive safety assessments of high risk families receiving in-home child protective services or family voluntary services.  The safety assessments will use validated assessment tools to guide intervention decisions through the identification of additional safety and risk factors.” 

CA created a project team to develop the CAP structure and implementation plan. The project team was comprised of CA regional representatives; CA headquarters representatives from Policy and Practice Improvement, Indian Child Welfare, and Practice Model; and external representatives from Harborview Medical Center, Office of the Ombudsman, and the University of Washington Evidence Based Institute.
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