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Toward Safety, Permanence, And Ongoing Success

Thus far, I have focused on the new child protection
paradigm and its gradual emergence. A key to understanding the emerging
paradigm is holding a clear vision of child protection once the new paradigm
has fully emerged. In that new reality, child protection will be standards
driven, based on known best practices, and fully informed by generally accepted
guiding principles defining safety, permanence, and ongoing well being for
abused and neglected children.

It is important to point out the new child protection
paradigm does not replace earlier paradigms. Rather, it will emerge from the
earlier paradigms and incorporate their features into the new reality. For
example, there will still be rules and procedures within a bureaucratically
organized context. However, the rules and procedures will no longer represent
the “instruction book” for practice. They will, rather, simply serve as the
supporting structure for practice.

Practice itself will be outcomes driven and geared toward
reliance on continuous invention and the empowerment of workers. When the new
child protection paradigm fully emerges, outcomes will have transitioned to
consensus based standards, continuous invention to known best practices, and
empowerment to evidence delimited professional judgment. At that point, workers
and child protection practices will be governed by generally accepted guiding
principles and practice will be regulated by competent professional oversight.

With the above serving as the foundation of the new child
protection paradigm, our understanding of what is meant by “child protection”
changes. In the traditional paradigm, “child protection” primarily refers to
“safety” for abused and neglected children. The point of child protection is to
keep children from harm’s way. In the emerging paradigm, safety is
insufficient. Workers must additionally secure permanence for abused and neglected

Within the context of safety, children need stable,
lasting relationships and connections with adults who can and will maintain
those relationships and connections throughout the child’s life. Contemporary
child protection has significantly transitioned to incorporate this type of
permanence for children. This is seen through an increasing emphasis on
supporting and working with birth parents, placing children with relatives when
they cannot remain with birth parents, and pursuing adoption when appropriate
relatives are not forthcoming. The transition toward incorporating safety with
permanence is also seen in the trend reducing reliance on residential and
foster care for children, acknowledging that neither represents permanence.

In the new child protection paradigm, the transition from
safety to permanence is understood as but a partial response to the needs and
best interest of abused and neglected children. Assuredly, children must be
kept safe and must have permanence secured for them. Beyond that, though, their
ongoing success must be secured as well. This certainly includes their
successful physical growth and development including but not limited to their
physical health. It also includes their emotional growth and development, their
moral growth and development, their social adjustment and growth, and their
educational and intellectual growth and success.

The ongoing success of children is complex and
multidimensional. Nonetheless, in the new child protection paradigm, the
ongoing success of abused and neglected children will stand as a practice
pillar no less than do safety and permanence. A commitment to achieving safety,
permanence, and ongoing success for each child each time will represent a
cardinal guiding principle for all child protection practice.

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