Child Welfare Services Overview


There are many critical elements of a well-developed society, and child welfare is one of them. In the United States, current child welfare problems are rooted in the past and include the debates between children’s and parents’ rights or family preservation and adoption (Mignon, 2017). There are three areas in child welfare history: before 1875 (no child protection efforts), between 1875 and 1962 (private child protection), and after 1962 (governmental participation in child care) (as cited in Mignon, 2017). Not all children were lucky to have loving parents, and many orphans suffered from abuse. Specific child protection services existed in the 1800s, but they did not offer coordinated services. Mary Ellen Wilson’s case changed the history of child welfare when it was discovered that the girl was physically abused (burned and cut) by her guardians (Mignon, 2017). The outcome was the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, created in 1874. From that moment, each state paid attention to child care, which promoted social change like the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Family First Prevention Services Act in 2018.

A child welfare system aims at recognizing specific conditions and attitudes inherent to human relationships. Today, the government is concerned about child abuse which is defined as injury, death, physical or emotional harm to a child through parents’ or caregivers’ actions or action absence. Abuse can be physical or sexual, and the latter includes any sexual contact with a child for a financial purpose or personal gratification (Zeanah & Humphreys, 2018). Child neglect is another public health concern associated with parental or caregiver’s failures to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs (Zeanah & Humphreys, 2018). Some children become the victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), and commercial sexual exploitation (O’Brien et al., 2017). All these forms of abuse are dangerous for children, and the American government develops acts and laws to promote high-quality protection.

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Child Welfare State Agency

Each state has a solid governmental backup for promoting child welfare and protection. The California Health and Human Services Agency is responsible for providing its citizens with a variety of services. The California Department of Social Services is one of its departments, the mission statement of which is to serve and protect vulnerable children and adults, preserve families, and encourage independence and responsibility (California Department of Social Services, n.d.a). There is the Child Welfare Policy and Program Development Bureau within this department. Its vision statement is to analyze, develop, and implement policies and regulations to support child protection and early interventions (California Department of Social Services, n.d.b). For example, the Safely Surrendered Baby Law was proposed in 2000 and came into effect the next year. The number of abandoned children has considerably decreased up to 80% since 2001 (California Department of Social Services, n.d.c). The agency’s current steps and strategies include policy development and technical support to counties, control of in-home services, and educational treatment to enforce school attendance, strengthen well-being, and increase community services. The main idea is to offer quick help and an overall analysis of the state in terms of maltreatment and neglect.

Child Welfare Bias

Despite the intention to protect all vulnerable populations, even the most experienced social service departments have to deal with certain barriers and hardships in the welfare system. For example, Slack et al. (2017) found that low-income families need supporting work and welfare services because child maltreatment is hardly reported or recognized, and children continue suffering from neglect. African American and American Indian (Native American) families demonstrate the highest rates of maltreatment, which is explained by adoption prevention and strong cultural values (Zeanah & Humphreys, 2018). Finally, the child welfare system requires the evaluation of needs among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. This group of people has recently come into contact with the representatives of child welfare services (McCormick et al., 2016). Their reasons to ask for help vary from running away to parental refusal to accept their sexual orientation and provide care. LGBTQ youth cannot report on their family problems because they think that conflicts are rooted in what they are and forget to admit what they have to get as society members.


The United States is one of the most democratic nations around the globe. Americans are free to follow their dreams and recognize their needs at an early age. However, governmental support and control should play an important role in human relationships. Therefore, when the child welfare system requires changes, evaluation is necessary. To improve service delivery and outcomes, it is recommended to focus on the differences between vulnerable populations and never unite the expectations of African Americans, Native Americans, children from low-income families, or LBGTQ youth. These groups have unique characteristics and backgrounds, and governmental organizations must support them thoroughly. System improvement is not a single step but a combination of tasks that have to be completed gradually. The United States has chosen the right direction, and such ideas as expanding programs to prevent maltreatment and support families in need, strengthening the role of caregivers, and educating children are enough. Instead of thinking about how to help children within the child welfare system, it is high time to consider what can be done not to allow them to enter this system at all and know or experience abuse or neglect in their lives.


California Department of Social Services. (n.d.a). About CDSS. Web.

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California Department of Social Services. (n.d.b). Child welfare protection. Web.

California Department of Social Services. (n.d.c). Safely surrendered baby. Web.

McCormick, A., Schmidt, K., & Terrazas, S. (2016). LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system: An overview of research, practice, and policy. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 11(1), 27–39. Web.

Mignon, S. (2017). Child welfare in the United States: Challenges, policy, and practice. Springer Publishing Company.

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O’Brien, J. E., White, K., & Rizo, C. F. (2017). Domestic minor sex trafficking among child welfare – involved youth: An exploratory study of correlates. Child Maltreatment, 22(3), 265–274. Web.

Slack, K., Font, S., Maguire-Jack, K., & Berger, L. (2017). Predicting child protective services (CPS) involvement among low-income U.S. families with young children receiving nutritional assistance. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(10). Web.

Zeanah, C. H., & Humphreys, K. L. (2018). Child abuse and neglect. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 57(9), 637–644. Web.

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