Point of Engagement (POE)

About This Program

Target Population: Children and families that come to the attention of Child Protective Services as the result of allegations of child abuse and neglect

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 17

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17

Program Overview

POE is designed to address the need for the efficient transition of cases from the “Front End” to the “Back End.” The program was developed from the results of an audit of Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers that found that the “Front End” of the DCFS system was fragmented. This fragmentation was most evident in the transition of cases from the investigation stage of a referral (“Front End”) to the case opening (“Back End”) and the adequacy of service provision during this period. Inefficient transitioning of families from the “Front End” to the “Back End” resulted in a large gap in service delivery that, in many cases, caused poor outcomes for families; including children remaining in the system for unnecessarily extended lengths of time. POE also enlists the support of community agencies to provide timely resources to families needed to either maintain their children in their homes or for timely permanency.

Program Goals

The goals of Point of Engagement (POE) are:

  • Reduced first entries into care
  • Increased reunification and other forms of permanency including adoption and legal guardianship
  • Reduced median length of stay in care
  • Increased numbers of voluntary family maintenance cases versus court-ordered family maintenance cases

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Point of Engagement (POE).

Essential Components

The essential components of Point of Engagement (POE) include:

  • Differential/Community Response: Referrals that are determined to be unfounded, but where the family is in need of services, are routinely referred to community agencies. These agencies link the families to services which will hopefully result in a lower likelihood of repeat referrals.
  • Alternative Response Services: Families are connected to contracted community providers who provide up to 6 months of services, including In-Home Counseling, to families whose allegation findings are deemed inconclusive but have either moderate or high risk.
  • Up Front Assessments (UFAs): These assessments are conducted when investigating social workers suspect mental health (MH) issues with parents; domestic violence (DV); or substance abuse (SA). Assessments are preferably conducted by a licensed staff member of a community provider who is skilled in assessing for the noted three problems. This is valuable information to the investigating social worker that helps determine the degree of severity in cases of DV, MH, or SA and helps assess the amount of parental cooperation with a treatment plan. This information is vital in assisting the social worker when making the decision to remove children from their families. UFAs are designed to help reduce the probability of children being removed from their families at the Front End.
  • Intensive Services Workers (ISWs): This is the social worker, skilled in crisis intervention ready to receive the case and service the family when the child(ren) is removed. When the family goes into crisis as the result of the disruption of the child(ren) being removed from the family, this social worker is assigned at the point of transition to literally begin assisting the family in reaching case goal plans that lead to faster reunification. The work of the ISW includes:
    • Getting families connected to community services that have been defined as essential to reunification
    • Establishing visitation plans
    • Receiving mental health assessments of the child(ren) to ensure appropriate placements
    • Being available to families (children and parents) while they are in crisis

    Further, the ISW is responsible for starting the concurrent planning work of getting birth records and social security cards and conducting due diligence searches for missing parents and many other details that delay adoptions if reunification is not possible.

  • Voluntary Services Worker: Similar to the ISW, this social worker is ready to receive the case from the investigating social worker, except in this circumstance, a voluntary case is opened when parents have agreed to DCFS intervention without the Juvenile Court being involved. This specialized services worker gets families connected to services right away and pays close attention to this family, sometimes making weekly visits until the problem(s) that brought the family to the attention of DCFS has been mitigated. Voluntary Services cases are designed to help contribute to a significant reduction in cases referred to the Juvenile Court.
  • Team Decision Making Meetings (TDMs): Team meetings are used for a variety of reasons, but the initial TDM is the point of engagement where the Emergency Response Investigator transitions the case to the Services Worker.
  • Multi-Agency Team (MAT) Assessments: All children removed from their families receive a MAT assessment which includes mental health, developmental, and educational assessments. The goals are to know the child’s treatment needs up front, ensure appropriate placement of the child; engage the family in the child’s treatment needs; and reduce placement disruptions.
  • Permanency Action Review Committee (PARC): Three months after the MAT Assessment, a PARC meeting is conducted to ensure the case plan goals are being met and that the case is moving toward permanency.
  • Family Preservation Services: Family Preservation services will be provided to families when it is determined that those services can help maintain children safely in their own homes or when it is determined that the services will support reunification.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Point of Engagement (POE) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Brought to the attention of child welfare services due to being allegedly abused or neglected

Parent/Caregiver Services

Point of Engagement (POE) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Alleged perpetrator of child abuse and/or neglect, lack of parenting skills, difficulty managing anger,and abusive behaviors including sexual abuse
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Services are for the entire family and, in many cases, for relative caregivers if relatives become primary caregivers. The services for both parents and children range from mental health services to counseling services. Many services are provided in an attempt to prevent abuse.

Recommended Intensity:

The contacts range from weekly to monthly with both county child welfare and contractor staff making contacts. Contacts usually range between 1 and 2 hours.

Recommended Duration:

There is an array of services which each have their own timeframes.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Adoptive Home
  • Birth Family Home
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

General resources required to run a child protective services operation are necessary for Point of Engagement. Additional required resources include: adequate staffing levels, family preservation services, prevention services, mental health services, domestic violence treatment services, substance abuse treatment services, faith-based services, etc.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

The qualifications vary, as for some services a Bachelor’s degree is adequate and, in still other circumstances, a Master’s degree is necessary.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Various locations

Number of days/hours:

One week and ongoing in-service training

Additional Resources:

There currently are additional qualified resources for training:

University of Southern California, California State Universities @ Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Dominquez Hills

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Marts, E. J., Lee, E-K., McRoy , R., & McCroskey, J. (2008). Point of Engagement: Reducing disproportionality and improving child and family outcomes. Child Welfare, 87(2) 335-358.

Type of Study: Historically controlled study
Number of Participants: Exact number not specified – qualitative portion had 4 focus group meetings and 17 individual interviews


  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were child welfare agency staff.

Location/Institution: Los Angeles County

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This article describes a service delivery model, Point of Engagement (POE), aimed at reducing the number of children enter the child welfare system. POE is a collaborative family- and community-centered approach initiated in Compton, a regional office in Los Angeles County that serves south Los Angeles, a predominantly African American and Hispanic/Latino area. The study involved two components: 1) a qualitative component involving 4 focus group meetings and 17 individual interviews with key staff from the child welfare agency office implementing POE and 2) retrospective analysis of child welfare outcomes data from the implementing office. The office implementing POE demonstrated a reduction in the number of children removed from their families, an increase in the number of children returned to their families within one year, and an increase in the number of children finding legal permanency. Limitations include limited data on the sample’s demographics, no presentation of statistical tests, and the lack of a contemporaneous control or comparison group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Casey Family Programs. (2011). Timely permanency through reunification: A breakthrough series collaborative. Seattle: Author.

Contact Information

Eric Marts, MPA
Agency/Affiliation: LA County DCFS
Phone: (626) 569-6814
Fax: (626) 572-2362

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2014

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: March 2016

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: December 2012