Ann Busche: How PHHS helps children and familiesThis article is the fourth in a series aimed at helping you get to know Public Health and Human Services.
By: Ann Busche, Budgeteer News
This article is the fourth in a series aimed at helping you get to know Public Health and Human Services.
PHHS is structured by program areas as follows: Adult Disabilities, Children and Family Services, Elderly Services, Financial Assistance and Public Health. So, in the spirit of getting to know PHHS, here are some details on the Children and Family Services division:
We won’t win any awards for the creative naming of our divisions, so you have probably guessed that this division works with children, from birth through age 18, and their families. Once again, we have categorized our services as mission critical, mandated and voluntary.
Within CFS, we consider the protection of children from physical, emotional, educational or sexual abuse and from physical, emotional, educational or medical neglect as mission critical. Providing for the safety of children is the No. 1 mission of PHHS.
Another mission-critical service that helps keep children safe is court-ordered ongoing child protection and family services.
With the rise in television shows with a focus on doctors and emergency rooms or crimes, detectives and attorneys, there are frequently story lines that involve children.
I always watch with interest to see how they portray “child protective services.” I find myself frequently thinking, Oh, that would never happen in the real world.
In the real world, social workers do not have the authority to remove children from their homes; law enforcement and judges alone have that authority.
If a child is in danger and immediate action is needed, social workers are accompanied by law enforcement and the child is placed in a shelter or foster home under a 72-hour emergency placement.
The social worker then needs to appear before the court within those 72 hours to arrange for a longer-term placement while we work with the parent(s) on a plan to reunify the child.
We want children to be raised by loving, caring adults who can attend to their child’s physical and emotional needs.
The CFS division also provides services that are considered mandated.
These are services the state has determined that counties must ensure are provided to citizens but can be delivered by county employees or through contracts with private or non-profit providers:
• Provide adoption and post-adoption services.
• Determine eligibility for the state’s child care assistance program and process payments to child care providers.
• License child care homes (not child care centers, the state licenses those).
• Recruit, train and license child foster care homes. Did you know that, on average, we have 400-plus children being raised or cared for by foster parents?
• Act as the local mental health authority and develop and coordinate children’s mental health services. Assess the needs of children with mental health concerns, then develop a plan of services to address those needs and monitor throughout. We call this “case management.”
• Help girls younger than 18 who become pregnant to develop a plan to finish high school, care for their baby and be a successful parent.
There are also services provided that are considered voluntary; these services help parents develop the skills they need to be keep their child healthy and safe, with the goal of not needing any child protective services in the future.
If you are worried about the health or safety of a child in St Louis County, please call us at 726-2012.
Ann Busche is the director of the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services department. Contact her at 726-2096 or firstname.lastname@example.org.