Collaborative Assessment, Response, Engagement & Support (CARES) is an alternative, non-investigatory child protection response to reports made to the Statewide Central Register (SCR) of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. On reports where there is no immediate or impending danger to children and where there are no allegations of serious child abuse, CARES CPS's partner with families to assess child safety and family needs, encourage families to develop their own solutions to their challenges, and identify supportive resources to help care for and protect their children. CARES requires neither an investigation nor a determination that an individual may have abused or neglected a child.
ACS does not use CARES for every SCR report. ACS continues to investigate reports of alleged serious child abuse and maltreatment and where children are in immediate or impending danger of serious harm. However, investigations are often not necessary for families who may be in crisis or struggling and who want what is best for their children.
Although the CARES approach is unlike an investigative approach, CARES is still a child protective response, and CARES CPS's place child safety as their first priority in their work with families. If, while working with a family, a CARES CPS has serious concerns about the immediate safety of a child, ACS will switch to an investigative approach.
With CARES, CPS's work in partnership with families to address problems that could affect child safety. Visits from a CARES CPS are scheduled in advance, interviews with family contacts are made in partnership with the family, and there is no formal determination of whether child maltreatment occurred.
Parents love their children and want them to be safe. Sometimes parents need help to make that happen. CARES can provide this help. The CARES approach is family centered and family-led. It builds on a family's strengths and responds to their individual needs. CARES is also solution-focused. It is designed to connect families with the services they may need to strengthen and support their families and to prevent future involvement with the child welfare system.
CARES is structured to help families identify and connect to both formal and informal supports and services that meet their needs. This could mean finding and participating in group parenting sessions, talking to somebody about stress or anxiety, making child care plans with neighbors or family, finding after school programs for teens, or getting food from church food pantries.
CARES's goal is to help families build strong connections to their community's services and resources so they sustain those connections after their time with the CARES is completed.
CARES is one of ACS's core strategies for combating racial disparities in child welfare and promoting social justice. CARES is a collaborative, unintrusive response for families and does not require an investigation or a determination of allegations made by a reporter to the SCR. An individual who participates in and completes CARES following an SCR report will not have a record of the case that can be found by an employer.