While acknowledging the growing preference for new electronic–based media options, traditional news
media – radio, television and print – are still extremely important to communications in public
child welfare. Mass media are commonly the only way many individuals in the general public ever
learn anything about the public child welfare system. And while others such as advisory board
members, policy makers, judges, foster parents, professionals in other child and family-serving
organizations and law enforcement officials may have first-hand experience with an agency, they are
nonetheless influenced by the media as well.
Knowing that media coverage will inevitably range from positive to negative and since negative
media coverage can diminish public confidence in an agency, it is important to work to limit the
amount of purely negative coverage an agency receives.
Establishing good media relations proactively will greatly improve an agency’s chances of receiving
fair media coverage and therefore influence the public’s view of the agency in a positive way.
A public child welfare agency has an ethical responsibility to protect the confidentiality of the
children, youth and families involved, as well as to inform the media (and therefore public)
honestly about a situation. This requires maintaining a careful balance
between these often divergent interests.