(The following history is taken and adapted from an article, entitled "An Adult Protective Services Perspective" by Paula M. Mixson, in the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, Vol. 7. Issue 2/3, 1995, a special double issue on ethical issues and elder abuse and neglect, published by The Haworth Press (see p, 129 in this issue). Paula Mixson is Assistant to the Deputy Director of the Office of Adult Protective Services in the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services in Austin, Texas.
"Adult Protective Services," or APS, refers to publicly funded programs which investigate and intervene in reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of adults who are physically or mentally impaired and unable to protect themselves from harm. While this description seems relatively straightforward, understanding how APS workers might approach a case is more complex. Although APS programs now exist in every state, practices may vary greatly according to the specific law and policy of the particular jurisdiction responsible for the program. This phenomenon perhaps can be attributed to the fact that APS has developed relatively free from such constraining or unifying influences as might have been provided by federal regulation.
Origins of APS
APS in the United States appears to have originated in 1958 when the National Council on Aging created an ad hoc committee of social workers to "discuss the potential nationwide need for some type of protective service for elderly persons."(1) Concerned about the growing numbers of incapacitated and isolated older persons at risk due to lack of appropriate caregivers, the committee made recommendations which precipitated "a number of studies, conferences, and research projects and demonstrations.(2) By 1968, although the federal government had funded six protective service programs for the elderly in the interim, a US. Senate special committee identified fewer than 20 community protective services programs.(3)
The next milestone in the development of APS occurred in 1975 when Congress enacted Title XX of the Social Security Act to strengthen the delivery of social services in the states. In order to receive Title XX funds, states were required to provide protective services to children, elderly people, and adults with disabilities who were reported to be abused, neglected, or exploited. The enactment of Title XX marked a change in focus. Prior to that time, the little public policy that existed had been concentrated on "the seriously mentally and physically impaired older person,"(4) whereas the new Title XX included services for younger adults with mental and physical incapacities.
Anticipating further federal involvement in funding and regulation (as had happened with child protective …