The article below outlines a positive approach to educating a public and service providers to what is working and what needs improvement to insure a better practices approach to serving the needs of abused and neglected children in your community.

Getting more people involved in gathering and disseminating information about the issues of child abuse and what can and should be done to protect and serve vulnerable children has to be a good thing.

After many years as a volunteer guardian ad Litem it is clear to me that most folks don’t have a very good concept of the needs of abused and neglected children. It is also obvious that abused and neglected children are not being well served in our nation today.

Too many of them do not receive the help they need and are going lead dysfunctional lives. They hurt themselves and the community they live in.

Supporting positive change for the hardworking people that do the work to improve the lives of abused and neglected children and appreciating that results will always be a product of effort and an efficient application of resources is sound policy.

The focus must remain on improving the quality of services to children, and not politics and name calling.

This process can add accountability and provide a positive source of insight and overview of the complex system of children, courts, foster and adoptive parents, and service providers.

The downside is that if the panel is not well constructed and well managed, it can become a negative force of unsupportive, nonconstructive people that will not help build a more effective child protection system in your community. Be certain to bring only positive well meaning people that care about the needs of children on to your panel.

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Child-welfare panel forms

The citizen review group will evaluate the treatment of child-abuse cases in Lebanon and 12 other counties.
By JOHN LATIMER Staff Writer
Updated: 07/15/2010 10:46:48 AM EDT

A citizen review panel representing Lebanon and 12 other counties is organizing with a mission of evaluating and improving the services provided to victims of child abuse.
The South Central Region Citizen Review Panel already has a handful of members and is looking for volunteers to represent Lebanon County, said its chairman, Sheldon Schwarz. The term is for two years and requires a commitment to attend meetings scheduled every other month in Mechanicsburg, where the panel will discuss and evaluate the policies and procedures the counties’ have in place to treat child-abuse victims.

A background in a related profession is beneficial but not necessary, Schwarz said. The current panel of eight members represents a wide variety of experiences.

“This is open to any citizen interested in protecting the rights of neglected and maltreated children,” he said. “We are not looking for employees of the (child-welfare) system. We are looking for anyone who cares about children and is committed to do something about it.”

The review panel is the first of eight regional panels being established across the state in accordance with the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. In addition to Lebanon, the South Central Region Citizen Review Panel represents Adams, Bedford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Mifflin, Perry and York counties.

Gov. Edward Rendell authorized the formation of the review panels in 2006 to make the state eligible for federal grants and other funding to benefit child-abuse services. Guidance and financial support for the panels is provided through a grant to the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program, which is administered by the University of Pittsburgh. The training program has offices in Mechanicsburg, where the South Central Region review team meets.

The review panel is overseen by a policy board appointed by the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program, Schwarz said. However, it is an independent entity that does not answer to the Department of Public Welfare or any other state agency. At year’s end, a report containing recommendations for improvements to the child-welfare system is produced and provided to the state, he said.

At this point, the review panel’s focus and goals are still being formulated, Schwarz said. Panels already working in some states evaluate their local systems by reviewing child abuse on a case-by-case basis, but he favors taking a different approach.

“We are still very much on the ground floor,” he said. “We are charged with finding what can be done to improve the system and make it more responsive to abused and neglected children. … For me, I would personally like to look at the broader picture — at the overall legislation and regulations in place to see if they are working well at the county level.”

Those interested in applying for a position on the South Central Region Citizen Review Panel or have questions are asked to call the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act coordinator at 795-9048 or e-mail PACRP@PITT.EDU.; 272-5611, ext. 149