article for November
Integrating Caregiver Protective
Capacities into Case Plans
Case plans are established and implemented
to change things. Yeah, everyone knows that, right? Case plans
may also be called treatment plans or service plans. Whatever
you call a case plan, its purpose is remediation—to end
up with results that remove the need for CPS intervention. Case
plans and safety plans are different, which we explained in our
December 2003 article. You can find it in the archived articles.
Case plans do not replace the need for a safety plan while children
remain unsafe. The purposes of these two plans are different
which is important for you to understand. These plans with their
different purposes can co-exist as efforts are expended in changing
that which makes a child unsafe.
We’ve noticed that sometimes case
plans can be quite broad, attempting to address every ill or
unmet need that exists within a family. While we don’t
take issue with the idea of treating a wide range of needs and
concerns, we know that there is no choice about whether to treat—to
change—safety related concerns.
ASFA Brings Focus to Ongoing CPS
The Adoption and Safe Families Act requires
you to address safety concerns in case plans:
[42 U.S.C. 675] as used in this part or part B of this
term “case plan” means a written document
which includes at least the following:
plan assuring that the child receives safe and proper
care and that the services are provided to parents,
child and foster parents in order to improve conditions
in the parents’ home, facilitate return of the
child to his own safe home
the status of each child is reviewed periodically but
no less frequently than once every six months by either
a court or by administrative review…in order
to determine the safety of the child, the continuing
necessity for and appropriateness of the placement,
the extent of compliance with the case plan, and the
extent of progress which has been made toward alleviating
or mitigating the causes necessitating the placement….
Sure, ASFA is not explicit about exactly
how safety concerns are to be addressed, but a fair interpretation
supports the responsibility to do so. According to this ASFA
provision, a case plan must at a minimum provide services that
make changes which result in a safe home. The interpretation
is that case plans address what has made a home unsafe. We’ve
pitched to you that the definition for “unsafe” is
the presence of present or impending danger and insufficient
caregiver protective capacities to mitigate the danger. So provision
(1) (B) above says that case plans must contain the ways and
means for improving conditions that make children unsafe. The
cause that necessitates a placement of a child is “the
child is unsafe.” Reconsider our definition for unsafe:
safety threats are present, and caregiver protective capacities
are diminished. So case plans must be established and implemented
in order that “a child being unsafe” can be resolved.
There are only two ways to resolve a child being unsafe: (1)
eliminate safety threats or (2) enhance diminished caregiver
If you’ve been reading our monthly
articles, you know that our answer to the ASFA requirement to
integrate safety concerns into case plans is to enhance diminished
caregiver protective capacities. In some instances, the safety
threat that exists within a family exists separate from a caregiver,
but the caregiver is unwilling or unable to manage the threat.
In some of those same instances, eliminating the safety threat
without addressing caregiver protective capacity does little
to assure that a similar or new threat won’t once again
result in a child being unsafe. Sometimes a safety threat actually
is the caregiver such as a caregiver that is out of control.
By enhancing the protective capacities of such a person, essentially,
you eliminate the safety threat since the threat and the diminished
protective capacity are inextricably related.
So, enhancing diminished caregiver protective
capacities is the most promising approach to meeting the requirements
as described in ASFA and, more importantly, achieving the safe
home as identified in ASFA as the desirable outcome. In recent
months, we’ve discussed the importance of assessing caregiver
protective capacities in order to arrive at what must change
in order to determine what will be addressed in a case plan.
The Protective Capacity Assessment—more a process than
an evaluation—is implemented collaboratively with caregivers
in order to arrive at conclusions about what must change. And,
in ASFA language, that could be elaborated on as what must change
in order to establish a safe home for a child. Since you and
a caregiver reach some mutual agreement about what must change,
what are some things that help you to do that?
Caregiver Protective Capacities
For starters, let’s get back in
touch with what we are talking about when referring to caregiver
protective capacities. Caregiver protective capacities are personal
and parenting behavioral, cognitive and emotional characteristics
that specifically and directly can be associated with being protective
of one’s young. There are a number of things that make
a personal characteristic a protective capacity:
The characteristic prepares the person
to be protective.
The characteristic enables or empowers
the person to be protective.
The characteristic is necessary or fundamental
to being protective.
The characteristic must exist prior to
The characteristic can be related to acting
or being able to act on behalf of a child.
Behavioral Protective Capacities
The caregiver has a history of protecting.
This refers to a person with many experiences
and events in which he or she has demonstrated clear
and reportable evidence of having been protective. Examples
The caregiver takes action.
This refers to a person who is action-oriented
as a human being, not just a caregiver.
The caregiver demonstrates impulse control.
This refers to a person who is deliberate
and careful, who acts in managed and self-controlled
The caregiver is physically able.
This refers to people who are sufficiently
healthy, mobile and strong.
The caregiver has/demonstrates adequate skill to fulfill caregiving
This refers to the possession and use
of skills that are related to being protective.
The caregiver possesses adequate energy.
This refers to the personal sustenance
necessary to be ready and able to perform the job of
The caregiver sets aside her/his needs in favor of a child.
This refers to people who can delay gratifying
their own needs, who accept their children’s needs
as a priority over their own.
The caregiver is adaptive as a caregiver.
This refers to people who adjust and make
the best of whatever caregiving situation occurs.
The caregiver is assertive as a caregiver.
This refers to being positive and persistent.
The caregiver uses resources necessary to meet the child=s basic needs.
This refers to knowing what is needed,
getting it and using it to keep a child safe.
The caregiver supports the child.
This refers to actual, observable sustaining,
encouraging and maintaining a child’s psychological,
physical and social well-being.
Cognitive Protective Capacities
The caregiver plans and articulates a plan to protect the child.
This refers to the thinking ability that
is evidenced in a reasonable, well-thought-out plan.
The caregiver is aligned with the child.
This refers to a mental state or an identity
with a child.
The caregiver has adequate knowledge to fulfill caregiving responsibilities
This refers to information and personal
knowledge that is specific to caregiving that is associated
The caregiver is reality-oriented, perceives reality accurately.
This refers to mental awareness and accuracy
about one’s surroundings; correct perceptions of
what is happening; and the viability and appropriateness
of responses to what is real and factual.
The caregiver has accurate perceptions of the child.
This refers to seeing and understanding
a child’s capabilities, needs and limitations correctly.
The caregiver understands his/her protective role.
This refers to awareness…knowing
there are certain solely owned responsibilities and obligations
that are specific to protecting a child.
The caregiver is self-aware as a caregiver.
This refers to sensitivity to one’s
thinking and actions and their effects on others—on
Emotional Protective Capacities
The caregiver is able to meet own emotional needs.
This refers to satisfying how one feels
in reasonable, appropriate ways that are not dependent
on or take advantage of others, in particular, children.
The caregiver is emotionally able to intervene to protect the child.
This refers to mental health, emotional
energy and emotional stability.
The caregiver is resilient as a caregiver.
This refers to responsiveness and being
able and ready to act promptly.
The caregiver is tolerant as a caregiver.
This refers to acceptance, allowing and
understanding, and respect.
The caregiver displays concern for the child and the child’s
experience and is intent on emotionally protecting
This refers to a sensitivity to understand
and feel some sense of responsibility for a child and
what the child is going through in such a manner to compel
one to comfort and reassure.
The caregiver and child have
a strong bond, and the caregiver is clear that
the number one priority is the well-being of the
This refers to a strong attachment that
places a child’s interest above all else.
The caregiver expresses love, empathy and sensitivity toward the child;
experiences specific empathy with the child’s
perspective and feelings.
This refers to active affection, compassion,
warmth and sympathy.
Remember that children are not safe because
caregiver protective capacities are diminished. As you consider
this list of twenty five protective capacities, you can imagine
that in many, if not most, cases involving child safety, several
of these protective capacities may be diminished. That produces
a serious challenge when collaborating with a caregiver during
a Protective Capacity Assessment to figure out where to begin.
Why are caregiver protective capacities
It can be helpful to you when getting
ready to reach a mutual agreement with a caregiver about where
to begin to consider why or how protective capacities have become
Some caregivers don’t know.
One reason caregiver protective capacities
might be diminished is the person simply doesn’t have the
knowledge necessary to be a protective parent. The lack of knowledge
may be related to limited information or limited experience.
Some caregivers deny the reality of the
world around them.
Such denial need not be pathological in
a mental disorder sense. Caregivers may deny realities in order
to give themselves permission to conduct their lives as they
Some caregivers are unable to fulfill
their essential needs.
While the range of unmet needs may be
somewhat extensive, fundamentally, you are likely to find among
some caregivers that their diminished protective capacities are
explained by their preoccupation with a couple of needs: (a)
the need to love and be loved and (b) the need to feel worthwhile
to themselves and others. Another way of thinking about this
is to combine these two needs into one—the need to be connected
in satisfying ways to others.
Some caregivers are isolated
and lack support.
While this may just as well fit within
the last item on needs, it is important enough to get its own
attention. All of us fulfill our needs by being involved with
other people. So we can conclude that some caregivers’ protective
capacities are diminished because they are disconnected or alienated
from others, or the people they are involved with are destructive
Some caregivers are irresponsible.
People are responsible when they go about
meeting their needs and fulfilling their roles in ways that do
not deprive others of the ability to fulfill their needs.
Some caregivers are not motivated.
We’d like to think that every person
who has a child of their own is motivated to care for and protect
that child. It’s not true. Some caregivers are highly motivated
in some areas of their lives, perhaps, but are specifically not
heavily inspired, influenced or stimulated to be effective parents
or to assure their child’s safety and well being.
Some caregivers have developmental and
Agreeably, many caregivers CPS encounters
are products of highly destructive childhoods and trauma that
pervade their lives. Here we have a problem of readiness and
preparation in the sense that such people who are damaged goods
are simply totally ill-prepared emotionally, intellectually and
socially to parent.
Some caregivers are experiencing developmental
or life crises.
While maybe not as often as other explanations,
sometimes people are experiencing an event or life circumstance
that reduces their effectiveness in general as a person and,
therefore, as a parent.
These are among the reasons or influences
that explain how caregivers’ capacities have become diminished.
So, when thinking about what to focus on in a case plan, thought
must be given to these kinds of things when planning how to approach
change—what the caregiver will do in order to enhance his
or her protective capacities. If you think about it, there are
two things to keep in mind: the diminished protective capacity
and what has contributed to the diminished protective capacity.
Criteria for Selecting Caregiver Protective
Capacities for the Case Plan
When commiserating with a caregiver, as
the Protective Capacity Assessment comes to a conclusion, bring
to mind and introduce into conversations some of the following
that may apply and help in deciding where to begin and what diminished
protective capacities to include in the case plan.
This refers to identifying among all diminished
protective capacities, which do you and the caregiver trust is
the closest to being the essential capacity in need of change,
the most significant capacity that both of you trust is the right
one to begin with?
This refers to a diminished protective
capacity that is vivid and impressive with respect to explaining
how it is that a caregiver is not protective. Among diminished
protective capacities, this is the one that you both agree undeniably
must be addressed.
This refers to the diminished protective
capacity that is definitive of difficulties of being protective.
You might think of it as the central explanation for why the
person is not protective. Another way of thinking of “most
defining” is that both of you agree that a diminished protective
capacity is actually reflective or representative of the person
This refers to a diminished protective
capacity that serves as the root or cause of other diminished
protective capacities. It is like observing that several protective
capacities are diminished, but they all seem initially influenced
or flow from a single one.
This criterion acknowledges that some
caregiver protective capacities are closely related. For instance,
you can see that empathy, love and bonding are closely related
protective capacities. It is possible that among some caregivers
that one diminished protective capacity actually represents a
sum of others. In our example, a parent who has difficulties
loving a child could have problems with bonding and empathy.
But the problems of love represent a sum of all of these.
Collaboration allows you to realize what
is of most interest to yourself and the caregiver. If there are
more than one diminished protective capacities, it may be simply
a choice of where to begin or what to address that is associated
This refers to considering among the diminished
protective capacities which might have prompt results; be easily
addressed; ripple into changing other diminished capacities.
This recognizes that diminished protective
capacities are not the same; do not have the same value; may
not have the same effect when diminished or when enhanced. What
is essential or vital is determined by larger things like hardest
to change; most likely to return a caregiver to full authority;
likely to result in greatest gain or greatest loss; contributes
most to being protective.
Sometimes the place to begin is where
a person feels the least challenged, threatened or feels less
personal risk or commitment.
This refers to diminished protective capacities
for which a person feels the least concern about addressing or
defending. This includes higher likelihood of openness and willingness
to approach change because of no felt need for maintaining status
There is a ruling principle in all of
this that should be applied as you talk through with a caregiver
what diminished protective capacity or capacities to select for
the case plan: Mutual Agreement. We emphasized that mutuality
is the cornerstone in this approach to ongoing CPS. Mutuality
demands equal standing between you and the caregiver and caregiver
self-determination. When employing these ideas expressed in this
criteria, as part of the conversation, keep in the mind the importance
of arriving together at what must change.