The Department was established by the state legislature in 1980 by merging children's programs previously administered by 4 different state agencies. The Director of DCYF is also a member of the RI Children's Cabinet, which addresses cross-departmental issues relating to children’s needs and services. We are one of a small group of states that integrate the 3 major public responsibilities for troubled children, youth and families in one agency: Child Welfare, Children's Behavioral Health, and Juvenile Corrections.
In 1984, the focus and activity of the Department changed with the addition of the Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS), creating capacity to receive and respond to allegations of child abuse and neglect on a 24-hour a day basis. Screening Units were added to the newly developed Division of Child Protective Services and In-home Units were added to the Division of Family Services.
In 1986, the division of Children's Mental Health was created to respond to the behavioral health needs of children. New programs and services were developed to meet these needs. These behavioral health services are available to children and their families in Rhode Island regardless of their status with DCYF.
In 1994, the Department decentralized to regions. The state was divided into four service regions. Family Service Workers were assigned to each of the four regions and each region had a Regional Director position established. for general child welfare purposes children and families are assigned to family service workers on a regional basis. the physical move to four regional locations was completed on July 1, 1999.
1997 brought the advent of a new Statewide Automated Information System (SACWIS). The system contains case, staff, financial and provider management information as well as policy and procedure functions. This system provides an electronic case record and eliminates substantial paperwork and delays. It permits line staff to directly and quickly access family, child and service information. It is increasingly used to provide aggregate case and performance data for policy and resource allocation decisions and trend and cross state outcome analysis.