Jason – Part 1

This month's featured ShadowBox scenario is from a collection of child welfare scenarios created for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Welcome to our featured scenario of the month! We use this format to share a unique scenario that highlights an interesting problem, an emerging topic, or a new scenario format. As you read through the scenario, think carefully about how you would handle the situation – what stands out to you, what do you think is going on, and what would your priorities be if you found yourself in this situation? We suggest recording your choices and decision rationale so that you can compare your decisions with the experts at the end of the scenario.

This month’s featured ShadowBox scenario is from a collection of child welfare scenarios created for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Read on to find out how you stack up against expert decision makers for Part 1 of this two-part scenario.

Part 1 – The Situation

You are a child welfare frontline investigator. You receive a report that was initiated by a call to the telephone hotline. Susan called the hotline late yesterday afternoon and alleged that Mary, Susan’s mother, is physically abusive and intimidating toward Susan’s son, Jason, age 15. Jason lives with his Grandmother, Mary, but Susan is concerned for his safety. Susan’s report alleges that Mary punched Jason in the face last week after she told him to clean his bedroom and he refused. According to Susan, this was not the first time Mary has used physical force with Jason. Susan alleged that Mary has threatened to shoot Jason if he ever hits her back, and that he is afraid of his grandmother. Susan also reported that Mary has gone out of town for days at a time without leaving Jason any money for food.

The background information on this family indicates that Susan, age 32, is Jason’s biological mother. Jason lives with his maternal grandmother, Mary, who is his legal guardian. Mary is 53 and a retired Corrections Officer. Court records indicate that Mary obtained guardianship of Jason when he was an infant. Susan now lives in another state with her third husband, Stanley, and has two additional children: Stanley, Jr., age 9 and Jaden, age 6. Susan indicated in her report that she and Mary are at odds about how to raise Jason and where he should reside. She has been actively seeking custody of Jason.

You call your supervisor to check in. She’s read the family history and lets you know there have been two prior investigations. The first report was made two years earlier when Jason’s school reported that Jason was not going to school and that he was failing due to poor attendance. That report was closed, unfounded. 

The most recent investigation occurred six months ago. Jason’s school counselor initiated the investigation by reporting concerns that Jason was skipping school, hanging out on the street during school hours, and drinking alcohol. The report was closed, unfounded, and Mary and Jason were referred to voluntary preventive services. 

Decision Point #1

What is the most important information to obtain right away? 

From the list below, indicate whether each item is:

  • Information that is urgent to obtain
  • Important information that is not urgent to obtain
  • Information that is not important at this time
UrgentImportant, not urgentNot ImportantOptions
A) Records of Jason’s school attendance
B) Information about Mary’s care and discipline of Jason
C) Whether or not there is a gun in the home
D) Details about the custody issues and disagreement between Mary and Susan
E) How were the prior allegations addressed?
F) An assessment of Susan and Stanley’s home
G) Jason’s perspective on the incident and any injuries

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

The Scenario Continues…

You first call Susan to obtain more information. She confirms the concerns she raised in her hotline report. She also tells you that she has filed a petition with Family Court to terminate Mary’s guardianship rights. Susan says she gave custody of Jason to Mary when she was 17 because she did not have any health insurance. She also tells you that she has two younger children that are in her care, and that she wishes she had not agreed to her mother having guardianship of Jason. She wants Jason to live with her again, and she reports that Jason told her he wants to live with her, too. Susan recounts the same concerns she shared with the hotline (i.e., Jason is afraid of his grandmother Mary, Mary punched him in the face, Mary leaves him alone, Mary threatened to shoot Jason if he ever hits her back).

You ask her about Jason’s behavior and how he is doing in school. She does not seem to know very much, and continues to talk about what a terrible parent Mary is, and how much better off Jason would be if he lived with her. 

Decision Point #2

What are your biggest concerns?

Rank the following options (1 = most concerning, 6 = least concerning).

Rank Issue
A) The allegation that Mary threatened Jason with a gun
B) The claim that Mary leaves Jason home alone for extended periods of time
C) Reports of Mary using physical discipline with Jason
D) Jason’s inconsistent school attendance
E) Possible use of alcohol by Jason
F) The custody disagreements between Susan and Mary

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

Join us next month for Part 2 of this scenario!