National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 2.4 CPS Activity and Workload


The average volume of services for CPS agencies sets the context for the level of response effort that CPS agencies must support. Nationally, the number of referrals received per agency was estimated to average 64 per month. The average number of completed investigations was estimated to be 43 per month and involved 93 children. An estimated 16 alternative response cases were processed each month that involved 32 children (Table 2-11).

Table 2-11:
Volume of Work Per Month
Function Average number
Number of referrals for screening/intake 64
Number of completed investigations 43
Number of children in completed investigated 93
Number of completed alternative responses 16
Number of children in completed alternative responses 32

The staff workload of CPS agencies is often of concern in that excessive workload may lead to inadequate services and jeopardize the safety of children. The following discussion describes the perceptions of agencies with respect to workload concerns.

Most agencies perceive that they are currently operating with excessive workloads. In addition, more than three-quarters of the Nation's children were residing in jurisdictions served by agencies with excessive workload in one or more CPS functions. Table 2-12 shows the estimated number of agencies with one or more of the three CPS functions (screening/intake, investigation, and alternative response) that reported excessive workloads. For most agencies (69%), workload was perceived as excessive for one or more functions, but for almost one-third of the agencies (31%) excessive workload was not a current concern. Of those agencies with workload concerns, one-third (33%) had issues concerning the three functions, one-fifth (21%) had issues with one of the three functions, and 15 percent had issues with two functions.

Table 2-12:
Workload Concerns
Workload Function
Screening and Intake Investigation Alternative Response
Percent Estimate
Percent Estimate
Excessive workload for function 100
20% 360
70% 50
Excessive workload not a concern for function 420
80% 150
30% 180
No Response -- -- -- -- 280
Total 520
100% 520
100% 520

More than one-half (53%) of children were under the jurisdiction of agencies with excessive workload across all CPS functions, 14 percent under the jurisdiction of agencies with excessive workload in one function, and 10 percent under the jurisdiction of agencies with excessive workload in two or more functions.

Among agencies with workload concerns for only one CPS function (Table 2-13), investigation was the most often indicated as a source of concern (70%), followed by screening (20%), and alternative response (10%).

Table 2-13:
Subset of Agencies Indicating Only One CPS Function Where Excessive Workload is a Concern
Concern Agency Number of children residing in areas served by agencies
Percent Estimate
Excessive workload for all functions 810
33% 34,445,000
Excessive workload for one function 520
21% 9,327,000
Excessive workload for multiple (but not all) functions 360
15% 6,717,000
Excessive workload for no functions 750
31% 14,940,000
Total 2,430
100% 65,429,000