Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume Two. 7.1 Investigating Worker Interviews in Kentucky, New Jersey, and Tennessee

09/01/2002

Investigating workers were asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire as quickly as possible after random assignment. (102) Workers were asked a series of questions about the allegations, the investigation, and the results of the investigation. In New Jersey and Kentucky, cases came into the study through ongoing workers as well as investigation units, whereas in Tennessee all cases came from investigation units. Table 7-1 shows the number of completed questionnaires and response rates for cases coming from investigating workers (75% in Kentucky, 50% in New Jersey, and 70% in Tennessee). The content of the questionnaire filled out by Philadelphia intake workers was considerably different; therefore those data are presented in a separate section.

Table 7-1
Counts of Investigating Worker Questionnaires
Site Number of cases randomly assigned Percent referred from investigation units (%) Responses from workers in investigation units
N %
Kentucky 358 62 164 75
New Jersey 470 53 126 50
Tennessee 153 100 107 70

Table 7-2 provides some data on the timelines and frequency of contact in the investigation of the alleged maltreatment. Depending on the state, an average of one to three days passed between the date the complaint was received and the date the worker first contacted the family. There was greater variation in the number of days between the date the complaint was received and the date the investigation was completed; an average of about 40 days in Kentucky (75% completed in 56 days), 12½ days in New Jersey (75% completed in 13 days), and just under 29 days in Tennessee (75% completed in 27 days). (103) On average, investigating workers in each of the three states reported making about 3 visits to the home where they met with one or

Table 7-2
Timelines and Frequency of Contact in the Investigation of the Alleged Maltreatment
  Kentucky New Jersey Tennessee
N Mean s.d. N Mean s.d. N Mean s.d.
Number of days from complaint to first talking with the family 147 1.43 3.05 119 3.34 10.34a 104 1.88 3.85
Number of days from complaint to completion of investigation 108 43.37 46.56 102 12.52 20.86 32 28.75 37.11
Number of visits to the home where worker met with one or more members of the household 148 3.20 2.25 119 2.97 1.85 104 2.85 3.32
a The large standard deviation here is primarily due to 3 cases where the first contact with the family occurred 57, 63, and 72 days after the complaint was received. Excluding those three cases, the mean for NJ is 1.77 days (s.d. = 3.21).

more members of the household (the average number of visits was slightly higher in Kentucky and lower in Tennessee).

Table 7-3 provides responses by state for each of the questions asked in the investigating worker interview. When asked who filed the recent complaint, investigating workers in all three states frequently cited school personnel, medical or public health personnel, and law enforcement personnel. Other frequent sources of complaints in Kentucky included social service agency personnel, relatives, and neighbors. In New Jersey, other frequent sources of complaints included social service agency personnel and self-reports by the caretaker. In Tennessee, other frequent sources of complaints were relatives and a category labeled "someone else" which included juvenile court. The source of the complaint was contacted in 83 percent of the investigations in Kentucky, 68 percent of the investigations in New Jersey, and 89 percent of the investigations in Tennessee.

Besides the source of the complaint, investigating workers were asked whether they obtained information from law enforcement, a hospital, clinic or doctor, school, or other agency. In all three states, schools were the most frequent sources of information for investigations (56% in Kentucky, 67% in New Jersey, and 45% in Tennessee). Information was obtained from law enforcement in 32 percent of investigations in Kentucky, 46 percent in New Jersey, and 19 percent in Tennessee. Information was obtained from hospitals, clinics or doctors in 35 to 45 percent of investigations, and from other agencies in about 20 to 30 percent of investigations. (104)

Table 7-3
Investigating Worker Questionnaire
  Kentucky New Jersey Tennessee
N % N % N %
Who filed the recent complaint (cumulative % > 100)
Medical or public health personnel 25 15 23 18 27 25
School personnel 51 31 37 29 22 21
Child care personnel 3 2 1 1 1 1
Law enforcement personnel 29 18 26 21 10 9
Social service agency personnel 16 10 15 12 7 7
Caretaker 13 8 15 12 5 5
Child victim 2 1 5 4 0 0
Other household member 1 <1 3 2 1 1
Relative(s) not in household 17 10 9 7 14 13
Neighbor(s), other non-relative(s) not in home 19 12 9 7 8 8
Anonymous person 4 2 4 3 2 2
Someone else 5 3 2 2 12 (105) 11
Don't know 3 2 1 1 1 1
Law enforcement took part in the investigation 44 27 38 30 28 26
Allegation(s) involved the following harm to a child
Physical harm (other than sex abuse) 83 51 72 57 60 56
Sex abuse 10 6 3 2 7 7
Drug presence in newborn 2 1 2 2 6 6
Alcohol presence in newborn 0 0 1 1 0 0
Alleged harm (in 5a) was confirmed by a physician
Physical harm 3 2 11 9 25 23
Sex abuse 1 <1 2 2 2 2
Drug presence 2 1 1 1 6 6
Alcohol presence in newborn 0 0 1 1 0 0
You or someone else from your agency contacted source of recent complaint 136 83 86 68 95 89
You or another worker visited the home 151 92 123 98 100 94
Talked to the child's caretaker 161 98 125 99 107 100
Found it difficult to gain admission to the home 15 9 8 6 11 10
You obtained information from
Law enforcement 53 32 58 46 20 19
Hospital, clinic, or doctor 63 38 57 45 36 34
School 92 56 84 67 48 45
Other agency 51 31 27 21 21 20
Total N 164   126   107  
Table 7-3,
continued Investigating Worker Questionnaire
Contact with individuals involved in the investigation:
The perpetrator
By phone only 1 <1 0 0 4 4
In person only 33 20 37 29 19 18
By phone & in person 120 73 63 50 69 65
Did not talk to individual 5 3 21 17 12 11
The caretaker
By phone only 1 <1 1 1 4 4
In person only 32 20 39 31 17 16
By phone & in person 127 77 77 61 85 79
Did not talk to individual 1 <1 4 3 1 1
Child(ren) in complaint
By phone only 0 0 1 1 1 1
In person only 113 69 80 64 78 73
By phone & in person 34 21 32 25 11 10
Did not talk to individual 14 9 12 10 16 15
Neighbor(s)
By phone only 13 8 2 2 6 6
In person only 15 9 6 5 11 10
By phone & in person 11 7 8 6 5 5
Did not talk to individual 113 69 92 73 74 69
Relative(s)
By phone only 43 26 11 9 22 21
In person only 20 12 34 27 20 19
By phone & in person 47 29 21 17 30 28
Did not talk to individual 50 31 51 41 34 32
Complainant(s)            
By phone only 52 32 31 25 27 25
In person only 19 12 19 15 13 12
By phone & in person 57 35 32 25 29 27
Did not talk to individual 34 21 37 29 35 33
Perpetrator denies all or most charges: 75 46 64 51 55 51
Worker provided services (other than monitoring): 120 73 89 71 76 71
Worker made referrals to services: 153 93 119 94 103 96
Actions taken concerning removal of child(ren):
You or another worker removed child(ren) 16 10 14 11 7 7
You or another worker asked police or authorities to remove child(ren) 9 6 1 1 2 2
Police or other authorities removed child(ren) without being asked to do so by social worker 12 7 4 3 6 6
The child(ren) were not removed 117 71 97 77 90 84
Total N 164   126   107  

In all three states, approximately one quarter to one-third of investigations involved participation of law enforcement.

Investigating workers were asked whether the allegations involved one of four specific types of maltreatment: physical harm, sexual abuse, drug presence in a newborn, and alcohol presence in newborn. In all three states, approximately 50 to 60 percent of the investigations involved allegations of physical harm, whereas less than 10 percent involved sexual abuse, and 1 percent or less involved alcohol presence in a newborn. Drug presence in a newborn was alleged in 6 percent of investigations in Tennessee and 1 to 2 percent of investigations in Kentucky and New Jersey. (106)

For each of the four specified types of alleged harm, investigating workers were asked whether the alleged harm was confirmed by a physician. Investigating workers responded affirmatively in 2 percent or fewer of the cases in Kentucky, regardless of type of harm. In New Jersey, alleged physical harm was confirmed by a physician in 9 percent of the investigations, alleged sexual abuse in 2 percent of investigations, alleged drug presence in 1 percent, and alleged alcohol presence in 1 percent. In Tennessee, 23 percent of investigations involving alleged physical harm were confirmed by a physician. Two percent of Tennessee investigations involving alleged sexual abuse were confirmed by a physician, 6 percent of drug presence in a newborn cases, and in none of the cases did a physician confirm allegations of alcohol presence in a newborn.

When asked about contact and visits to the home, over 90 percent of investigating workers in all three states reported that they or another worker visited the home and that they talked with the child's caretaker. In fewer than 10 percent of the investigations in each state was it reported to be difficult to gain admission to the home. As shown in the table, the perpetrator and caretaker were most frequently contacted both by phone and in person, whereas children were contacted in person in 64 to 73 percent of investigations, by phone and in person in 10 to 25 percent of investigations, and not at all in 9 to 15 percent of investigations.

When asked whether the perpetrator denied all or most of the charges, the investigating worker responded affirmatively in 46 percent of the investigations in Kentucky, 51 percent in New Jersey, and 51 percent in Tennessee.

Workers in all three states reported providing services (other than monitoring) in approximately 70 percent of the investigations. They reported making referrals to services in over 90 percent of investigations.

Finally, investigating workers were asked about actions taken concerning removal of a child or children form the home. Children were removed from the home, either by a worker or by police, in approximately 17 percent of the investigations in Kentucky, 14 percent in New Jersey, and 13 percent in Tennessee. An additional 1 percent of investigations in New Jersey, 2 percent in Tennessee, and 6 percent in Kentucky involved a request by the worker for the police or authorities to remove children from the home. According to the investigating workers, children were not removed from the home in 71 percent of investigations in Kentucky, 77 percent of investigations in New Jersey, and 84 percent of investigations in Tennessee. The number of placements suggested by investigating workers seemed higher than expected given the evidence from analysis of administrative data on placements. Therefore, these cases were reviewed and cross-checked with other data sources.

All 65 cases (19 in NJ, 33 in KY, and 13 in TN) in which an investigating worker indicated either a request was made or action was taken to remove a child from the home were reviewed and cross-checked with available caseworker interviews, caretaker interviews, and administrative data. This additional analysis was done to address two primary concerns: undetected inappropriate referrals (cases in which we were not aware that all identified at-risk children were out of the home at the time of random assignment) and placements that were not captured in the analyses based on administrative data. Table 7-4 provides a breakdown of these cases by experimental group and the status of the findings. In summary, there do not appear to be any inappropriate referrals among these 65 cases. As for cases in which a placement occurred that was not included in any of the placement outcome analyses detailed in the main report, there are at most 9 cases in Kentucky (6 control group (3 of which are relative placements) and 3 FPS (1 relative placement)); and 3 cases in New Jersey (2 control group (both relative placements) and 1 FPS). No such cases were found in Tennessee.

Table 7-4
Cases in which the Investigating Worker Indicated Removal (N = 65)
Placement Status Kentucky New Jersey Tennessee
C E C E C E
Investigating worker knew about a placement that occurred during the investigation but before the IW form was completed (All of these placements were recorded in the administrative data) 3 - 3 - 4 5
Administrative data shows a placement occurred after the date that the investigating worker form was completed. (107) 7 2 4 2 - 2
Relative placements (In KY and TN, additional analyses were run that included known relative placements not reflected in the administrative data- the number in parentheses is the number of relative placements identified by investigating workers that were not included in those additional analyses) 4 (3) 2 (1) 4 - - 1(0)
No additional confirmation of any placement (a request may have been made without action or children may have been temporarily removed for a short period of time but not officially placed in care) 5 4 4 2 - -
A child in the home appears to have a placement. (number in parentheses indicates the number of cases in which no placement is recorded in the administrative data for any member of this case) 3 (2) 2 (2) - 1 (0) -  
Undetermined / conflicting information (number in parentheses indicates the number of cases in which no placement is recorded in the administrative data for any member of this case) 1(1) - - 1(1) - -
Total 23 10 13 6 4 8
Note: C = Control Group, E = Experimental Group

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