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Child Welfare & Protection Concerns Every Citizen

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FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – Those who work in the field of child protection and welfare see traumatized children and their families every day. For those committed to caring for children involved in the dependency system, the safety of that child is critical. Over the last year the number of children entering the child welfare system has increased. We all know that something has to change.

During Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session, Governor Rick Scott has been joined by many Legislators in bringing a renewed focus to the issue of child welfare and protection. While our lawmakers discuss how best to revamp and improve the current system, those of us who work in the field applaud their efforts and are happy to see this issue moving to the forefront.

There’s no denying that removing a child from a detrimental situation is important, but it’s only the first step in getting them the help they need. That’s why we feel an overhaul must include all the professionals in the human service field – social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and child protection master’s degree. We must provide more appropriately trained individuals who then work with the child once he/she is removed from the home. It’s this second part – how we handle children once they are in protective custody – that is vitally important.

Nova Southeastern University’s, Institute for the Study of Human Service, Health and Justice is committed to improving child welfare. Through its academic programs and faculty research, NSU is working on this change. The Institute’s master of human services in child protection degree program is designed specifically to prepare effective practitioners and administrators to provide quality education in the child protection field.

All of these areas of knowledge within the program meet the qualifications for certification in child welfare through the State of Florida. The Child Protection program, developed in partnership with ChildNet, Broward County Florida’s Community Based Care (CBC) lead agency, aims to improve the quality of care and well-being of children and families.

We all agree that the renewed focus on this issue by our lawmakers in Tallahassee is welcome news. What we’d like to see is that their efforts reach all areas and result in system-wide changes that impact every phase of the child welfare services. After all, we owe our children nothing less.

About the Authors

Kimberly Durham, Psy.D., is the dean of NSU’s Institute for the Study of Human Service, Health and Justice. She has spent the last 23 years developing and overseeing human services, criminal justice, and health related research, clinical, and academic programs. In partnership with ChildNet, the Community Based Care lead agency in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Durham orchestrated the master of human services in child protection degree program, which met a critical need in the education and training of child welfare professionals.  Her graduate training was in the areas of clinical and counseling psychology, and she has served as community liaison for all NSU clinics for 15 years. Durham has served on numerous community councils, boards, and committees throughout her professional career.

Denise Crammer, Psy.D. is an associate professor with NSU’s Institute for the Study of Human Service, Health and Justice within the Division of Applied Interdisciplinary Studies. She is also the director of NSU’s master’s program in child protection. Dr. Crammer worked in the criminal justice field prior to coming to NSU. She graduated from NSU with her bachelor’s degree in community psychology.  She also has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from St. Thomas University as well as a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Miami Institute of Psychology. Dr. Crammer speaks nationally as well as internationally on Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. She is a member of ICSA, the consortium for Autism in Broward County Florida.