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Part I: What is FAR?

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll be featuring a series on a hot topic within child welfare in Washington: Family Assessment Response (FAR). Today, we start with the basics, and eventually we’ll move into expected outcomes and our take on the issue. So please read along and share your thoughts!

What exactly is FAR?

You may have heard this buzz word in child welfare discussions in recent years. In essence, FAR, sometimes called Differential Response, is an alternative pathway for families who are reported for suspected child maltreatment. When there is no official finding of abuse or neglect, FAR allows children to stay at home while connecting families with services, concrete supports and community resources.

So when did this all start?

In 2012, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6555 was signed into law in Washington State. (Other states, including Minnesota and California, have been adopting FAR for several years.) In accordance with this law, DSHS Children’s Administration (CA) will be phasing in FAR across the state. In January 2014, CA offices serving Aberdeen, Lynnwood and selected areas of Spokane began implementing FAR. By 2016, FAR will be implemented across the state.

Who is eligible for FAR?

It is expected that two-thirds of families who interact with the child welfare system will be eligible for FAR. Serious physical abuse and sexual abuse cases are not eligible. Only reports of low-to-moderate risk, where children are not in danger at home or the information being reported does not place children at a high risk of maltreatment, will be directed to the FAR pathway.

How are families served with FAR?

Families, in collaboration with social workers, will assess their needs and strengths and may accept services or concrete resources to address issues of child maltreatment. Services or concrete resources may include support in finding adequate family housing, assistance in an employment search or financial support for essential bills (e.g., electricity, heat, etc.). Oftentimes, these are the types of issues that make it difficult to adequately parent a child. FAR gets at the root of these problems and keeps families together. However, it’s important to note that Children’s Administration workers will continue to investigate reports of abuse or neglect, when children are determined to be unsafe.

Return in a few weeks for Part II – we’ll discuss how the state prepared for roll-out, expected outcomes and more!

For more information about FAR, visit DSHS Children’s Administration.