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Toward Principle-based Practice

In the traditional, bureaucratically organized, closed structure
child protection paradigm, actions and decisions are based on the authority of
the individual

taking the action or making the decision. This authority
derives from the next level above the individual. Thus there is an authority
hierarchy regulating

and directing practice.

The local agency itself has authority that derives from
state and federal laws and administrative code. The result is that services
are, for the most part,

based on rules and the associated authority derived from
those rules.

As the paradigm expands into the intermediate level,
action is based on assessment and planning. The expansion is from what is
supposed to happen to what

needs to happen, from how it is supposed to be done to
how to achieve the desired outcomes.

When action is based on assessment and planning instead
of rules and authority, the associated behavior and actions are less
predictable and less consistent.

There is also more variability from location to location
and from worker to worker. The outcomes for individual children, then, may be
better or worse,

depending on which local agency provides the needed
services and which worker is providing the services. This lack of services
equity has to be weighed

against the improved outcomes for some but not all

Practice expands in the advanced child protection
paradigm beyond the authority derived from rules and hierarchical structures,
beyond assessment and planning.

Rights and responsibilities represent the authorizing
structure for practice. Both agencies and workers are extended rights,
including the right to deliver

defined services to specified clients. These rights are
typically conveyed as licenses, accreditations, or certifications issued by
units of government

or professional organizations. These rights are
accompanied by responsibilities including minimum professional qualifications,
ethics requirements, and

practice standards. Specific rules and outcomes represent
the contextual environment for principle-based practice.

The authority derived from organizational position and
from associated rules and procedures expands to incorporate practice and
associated activities primarily

authorized through assessment and planning with specific
children and families. It then proceeds as directed and constrained by the
rights and responsibilities

of both the clients and the workers.

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