When people think about protective services, they usually think about child welfare. While children do receive protective services from social workers, there are other populations that benefit from protective services. Older adults and adults with disabilities receive protective services from programs operated either at the state or county level. Adult protective services programs investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation committed against these two populations. Exactly what abuse, neglect and financial exploitation mean and how they are investigated vary by state.
One major factor that distinguishes child welfare from adult protection is that by and large children and families cannot refuse protective services while many adults can. This poses unique challenges to adult protective services. Unless an alleged victim lacks the legal capacity to consent, protective services are provided at the victim’s permission.
The National Adult Protective Services Association is a professional organization with members who work to protect citizens who are older or have disabilities. Its emphasis on academic research and professional development is a major asset to the field.
NAPSA was founded in 1989 under the name National Association of Adult Protective Services Administrators (NAAPSA). Since its inception, NAPSA has had three goals: “ to advance the field of Adult Protective Services, raise awareness of elder and adult abuse, and advocate on behalf of those victims.” By 1995, it had incorporated into a private, non-profit organization. In 2011, it founded the National APS Resource Center.
NAPSA’s mission “is to strengthen the capacity of APS at the national, state, and local levels, to effectively and efficiently recognize, report, and respond to the needs of elders and adults with disabilities who are the victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, and to prevent such abuse whenever possible.”
The organization accomplishes its mission through several major activities. NAPSA operates the National APS Resource Center which conducts research, provides training, offers technical assistance and facilitates communication among APS professionals. Ultimately, the Center’s research is meant to help shape practice in adult protective services jurisdictions. Not only does the Center study adult protective services work; it looks at other fields to see where practices can be adapted to adult protective services. The Center is funded by a grant from the US Administration on Aging.
NAPSA puts on an annual conference and summit on financial exploitation. The conference is one of the premier adult protective services training events in the US. The conference boasts “nationally known and respected professionals who share their expertise on cutting-edge issues applicable to APS practice and other disciplines.”
Members of the public are usually aware of child abuse but know little about abuse of senior citizens and adults with disabilities. People can easily see the heinous nature of maltreatment of children, but they don’t think about other vulnerable people. NAPSA raises awareness about abuse, neglect and exploitation of senior citizens and adults with disabilities through various means including education, advocacy and testimony before Congress.