Alternative Responses to Child Maltreatment: Findings from NCANDS. How do outcomes differ between children who receive an alternative response and children who receive an investigation response?

07/01/2005

This research compares children who received alternative response with those who received investigations on two variables pertaining to the course of action following a report  whether children or their family members received services, if children were placed, and whether they experienced an additional report of maltreatment within 6 months and, if so, how the CPS system responded. Findings illustrate that these two groups differed on these outcome variables.

Services

Similar to previous findings in Missouri (Loman & Siegel, 2004a), and Virginia (Virginia Department of Social Services, 2004), in-home services were provided more often to children and families in the alternative response track. These findings may support the notion that families who are engaged using a less adversarial approach may be more inclined to utilize services that are offered. Moreover, if cases assigned to alternative response are those that present less pressing needs, this trend may also reflect that more services are available to address the needs of these families compared with what is available for families presenting more serious needs. Children were more likely to be placed in foster care if they received investigations, similar to earlier findings in Virginia (Virginia Department of Social Services, 2004), Texas (Chipley et al., 1999), and Minnesota (Loman & Siegel, 2004b). This studys finding reinforces the idea that more serious cases, with more pressing safety concerns are likely to be referred for investigation.

Reentry or Reresponse

Rereporting did not seem to be influenced substantially
by the existence of an alternative response.

Overall findings from earlier studies suggest that child safety is not compromised when alternative response is provided rather than a traditional investigation, and that children involved in alternative response systems are less likely to experience a subsequent report or investigation (Chipley et al., 1999; English et al., 2000; Loman & Siegel, 2004a; Loman & Siegel, 2004b; Virginia Department of Social Services, 2004; Center For Child And Family Policy, 2004). The findings from this research demonstrate that the rate of recurrence within 6 months was comparable for children who received an alternative response and those who received an investigation, or, in the case of Oklahoma, the rate of reentry was lower.

If children received an investigation as their initial response from CPS, the likelihood of their receiving an alternative response was lower for a second report, but not at all out of the question. Among children who were found to be victims, fewer than 5 percent were referred to alternative response for a subsequent report in most States; although in Missouri and New Jersey  with their high overall rate of alternative response  9 and 11 percent of victims were subsequently referred to alternative response. Similarly, among nonvictims in New Jersey, 13 percent were subsequently referred to alternative response while in other States this rate was less than 10 percent.

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