National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 2.3 Specialization of Staff Functions

05/01/2003

any agencies elect to have different workers or other staff specialize in providing the primary CPS functions; screening/intake and investigation. When an alternative response is provided, some agencies also have specialist staff perform this function. Nationally, a slight majority of agencies are specialized to at least some degree with respect to these functions.

With respect to the intake function, on average four social workers or caseworkers were exclusively assigned to the function and an additional four social workers or caseworkers were assigned to the function, but had other responsibilities. Less than one supervisor was exclusively assigned to the screening and intake function, and one supervisor was assigned who had additional responsibilities. Less than one other type of staff was assigned. In addition, two part-time staff were assigned across all categories of staff (Table 2-5).

Table 2-5:
Screening and Intake Staff Assignments
Position Average number of full- time workersa Average number of part- time workersb Average number of Staff
Estimate
(C.I.)
Estimate
(C.I.)
Estimate
(C.I.)
Workers who only conducted screening/intake 3
(<1-6)
<1
(<1-1)
4
(<1-7)
Workers who conducted screening/intake in addition to other responsibilities 3
(3-4)
<1
(<1-1)
4
(3-5)
Supervisors who only supervised screening/intake <1
(<1-1)
<1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-1)
Supervisors who supervised screening/intake in addition to other responsibilities 1
(<1-1)
<1
(<1-<1)
1
(1-2)
Other staff assigned to screening/intake <1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-1)
Total 9
(6-13)
2
(<1-3)
11
(8-15)
a Full time refers to the time spent on CPS activities
b Part time refers to the time spent on CPS activities

Slightly more workers specialize in providing investigations, compared to workers who are assigned also to other tasks in addition to investigation. An average of four workers were exclusively assigned to the investigation function and three were assigned to other responsibilities. The average number of social workers or caseworkers who were exclusively assigned to the investigation function was five with three additional staff who were also assigned other responsibilities. For supervisors, the average number exclusively assigned to investigation was less than one, with one additional supervisor assigned who had other responsibilities. Less than one other type of staff person, on average, was assigned to this function (Table 2-6).

Table 2-6:
Investigation Staff Assignments
Position Average number of full- time workersa Average number of part- time workersb Average number of staff
Estimate
(C.I.)
Estimate
(C.I.)
Estimate
(C.I.)
Workers who only conducted investigations 4
(3-6)
<1
(<1-1)
5
(3-6)
Workers who conducted investigations in addition to other responsibilities 3
(2-4)
<1
(<1-1)
3
(3-4)
Supervisors who only supervised investigation <1
(<1-1)
<1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-1)
Supervisors who supervised investigation in addition to other responsibilities 1
(<1-1)
<1
(<1-<1)
1
(1-1)
Other staff assigned to investigation <1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-1)
Total 10
(8-12)
1
(<1-2)
11
(9-13)
a Full time refers to the time spent on CPS activities
b Part time refers to the time spent on CPS activities

Most agencies indicate that in organizing the staffing across screening/intake and investigation functions, they have chosen to have staff specialize in these functions to at least some degree. Table 2-7 illustrates that combined 51 percent of agencies either have staff who exclusively perform one function only, or usually provide only one and temporarily are sometimes assigned to the other function. Of these agencies, 33 percent were specialized across these functions; and some agencies (19%) had workers switched between screening/intake and investigations on an as-needed basis. For 42 percent of agencies nationwide, staff routinely combined the screening/intake and investigation functions, and a small number of agencies (5%) employed some other process.

Compared to the number of agencies that specialize, almost all children nationwide were be living in under the jurisdiction s that were served by agencies whose workers are specialist providers of screening/intake or investigation functions. It was estimated that 57 percent of children were residing in areas served by a gencies where workers are exclusively providing either screening/intake or investigations. Another 22 percent of children were living in jurisdictions served by agencies that have specialist workers who are assigned to another function on an as-needed basis. In contrast, only 16 percent of children nationwide were estimated to be under the jurisdiction of agencies where personnel were not specialized (Table 2-7).

Table 2-7:
Assignments Across Intake and Investigation
Staff Agency Number of children residing in areas served by agencies
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Different workers for screening/intake and investigation 870
(700-1,050)
33% 41,492,000
(31,305,000-51,680,000)
57%
When needed, an intake worker can conduct an investigation, or an investigation worker can conduct screening/intake 490
(360-610)
19% 16,290,000
(9,035,000-23,544,000)
22%
Workers routinely conduct both screening/intake and investigation 1,090
(910-1,280)
42% 11,985,000
(7,662,000-16,309,000)
16%
Other 120
(70-180)
5% 2,865,000
(1,129,000-4,600,000)
4%
No response 30
(1-60)
1% 578,000
(<1-1,219,000)
<1%
Total 2,610
(2,410-2,810)
100% 73,210,000
(73,210,000-73,210,000)
100%

The pattern of staff specialization is similar for agencies that provide the alternative response function. One difference, however, is that most workers in agencies with alternative response are assigned to other responsibilities. An average of four caseworker staff were assigned exclusively to providing alternative response, and an additional four were assigned to this function who also had other responsibilities. There was less than one other type of staff member assigned and about one part time staff person assigned. On average, 11 staff were assigned to alternative response options (Table 2-8).

Table 2-8:
Alternative Response Staff Assignments
Position Average number of full- time workersa Average number of part- time workersb Average number of staff
Estimate
(C.I.)
Estimate
(C.I.)
Est imate
(C.I.)
Workers who only conducted this response 3
(2-5)
<1
(<1-1)
4
(2-6)
Workers who conducted this response in addition to other responsibilities 4
(3-4)
<1
(<1-1)
4
(3-5)
Supervisors who only supervised this response <1
(<1-1)
<1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-1)
Supervisors who supervised this response in addition to other responsibilities <1
(<1-1)
<1
(<1-<1)
1
(<1-1)
Other staff assigned to this response <1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-<1)
<1
(<1-2)
Total 10
(7-12)
1
(<1-2)
11
(8-14)
a Full time refers to the time spent on CPS activities
b Part time refers to the time spent on CPS activities

Among agencies that provide an alternative response, less than a majority assign specialist workers to screening/intake and the provision of the alternative response. Compared to screening/intake and investigations (Table 2-7, above), Table 2-9 provides similar data describing the pattern of staff allocation between areas where agency staff performed screening and intake and also alternative response. For many agencies providing an alternative response more staff (42%) were assigned to both functions. Fewer agencies were specialized (33%), even fewer assigned staff to either function on an as-needed basis (15%). With respect to national estimates of children, 64 percent were residing in a jurisdiction of agencies that used specialized staff to some degree (48% exclusively, and 16% with workers assigned temporarily), and 24 percent lived in areas served by agencies whose staff performed both screening/intake and the alternative response.

Table 2-9:
Assignments Across Intake and Alternative Response
Staff Agency Number of children residing in areas served by agencies
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Different workers for screening/intake and alternative response 550
(400-700)
33% 18,726,000
(8,541,000-28,912,000)
48%
When needed, an intake worker can conduct an alternative response or vice versa 260
(150-370)
15% 6,089,000
(2,386,000-9,792,000)
16%
Workers routinely conduct both screening/intake and alternative response 690
(540-850)
42% 9,557,000
(5,210,000-13,904,000)
24%
Other 130
(70-200)
8% 3,962,000
(1,307,000-6,618,000)
10%
No response 20
(0-40)
1% 945,000
(72,000-1,818,000)
2%
Total 1,660
(1,460-1,860)
100% 39,280,000
(24,111,000-54,450,000)
100%

For agencies with an alternative response option it was also possible to examine the degree to which workers specialized in providing the investigation and alternative response functions. Most agencies do not have specialist staff providing this function, and the same workers tend to provide both these functions. In more than one-half of the agencies (59%), workers performed both the investigation and alternative response functions, fewer agencies were exclusively specialized (21%), and fewer still switched staff between the two functions (11%), (Table 2-10).

Forty-five percent of children nationwide lived in jurisdictions where agency staff performed both responses, 33 percent where agencies employed specialized staff, 11 percent where agencies used staff who switched roles on an as-needed basis, and 8 percent where agencies used some other allocation method.

Table 2-10:
Assignments Across Investigation and Alternative Response
Staff Agency Number of children residing in areas served by agencies
Estimate
(C.I .)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Different workers for investigation and alternative response 350
(210-490)
21% 12,851,000
(6,839,000-18,864,000)
33%
When needed, an investigation worker can conduct an alternative response, or vice versa 190
(100-270)
11% 4,247,000
(1,121,000-7,373,000)
11%
Workers routinely conduct both investigation and alternative response 980
(800-1,160)
59% 17,582,000
(9,073,000-26,090,000)
45%
Other 120
(60-170)
7% 3,034,000
(394,000-5,674,000)
8%
No response 30
(0-50)
2% 1,566,000
(206,000-2,925,000)
4%
Total 1,660
(1,660-1,860)
100% 39,280,000
(24,111,000-54,450,000)
100%