Vermont’s 2014 Child Protection Report Released Today

30 June 2015

Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Ken Schatz released the department’s annual report on child abuse and neglect in Vermont today. The data shows that many Vermont families are struggling, substance abuse continues to be a serious issue, young children are entering DCF custody in record numbers, and caseloads continue to rise.

Here are a few highlights from the 2014 Report on Child Protection in Vermont:

  •  Vermont’s Child Protection Line received a record 19,288 calls in 2014, up from 17,460 in 2013;
  •  Substance abuse was a factor in approximately one-third of the reports;
  •  5,846 reports were accepted for intervention in 2014, an increase of 27% since 2010;
  •  Of the 5,846 child safety interventions conducted:
    • 2,877 were child abuse investigations,
    • 1,688 were child abuse assessments, and
    • 1,281 were family assessments.  

There are currently 1,326 in DCF custody — an increase of 33% since the start of 2014; this increase was most significant for children under the age of six (68%). This upward trend is primarily being driven by parental opiate addiction, which reduces a caregiver’s ability to parent safely. In response to rising opiate addiction in Vermont, DCF’s Family Services Division added 18 social worker positions and increased its capacity to screen for substance abuse through contracts with community providers.  Governor Shumlin has also been aggressive about confronting the challenges posed by opiate addiction, increasing the availability of treatment and working to get more Vermonters into recovery. While much has been done to address substance abuse in Vermont, the number of children in state custody is a clear sign that more needs to be done.

“Vermont’s entire child protection system is being strained by the influx of reports, new child abuse and neglect cases, and record number of children entering state custody,” said DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz. “This has impacted all of our partners, including family courts, law enforcement, state attorneys, public defenders, and foster parents, as well as DCF’s Family Services Division. I am so proud of and thankful for our dedicated employees who do their best for families under very difficult circumstances.”  

This report comes as DCF has undertaken significant improvements based on reviews conducted by Casey Family Programs and the Vermont Citizen’s Advisory Board and feedback received from staff, community partners, and the public. These changes include:

  • Emphasizing child safety in the Family Services Division mission;
  • Implementing new policies requiring management consultation in cases of serious physical abuse;
  • Updating trainings on child safety and risk assessment in partnership with Casey Family Programs and the Children’s Research Center;
  • Implementing a comprehensive coaching program to support continual skill development; and
  • Improving DCF’s website to better inform the public about its policies and practices.

Vermont’s child protection system is poised to implement Act 60 of 2015 (S.9). This legislation calls for, among other things, better communication and coordination among professionals in the child protection system and the creation of a Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee.  DCF is undertaking the steps necessary to implement a mandatory six-month supervisory period for children reunified to a home in which they were abused or neglected and is working with Vermont’s Special Investigation Units to more effectively conduct joint investigations of cases of serious physical and sexual abuse.

The report is available online.

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