National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 2.6 Conclusion


The findings presented above are intended to paint a broad picture and provide context for the more detailed aspects of CPS service delivery that are described in the following chapters. From the perspective of primary CPS functions, virtually all agencies are providing screening and intake, and all are providing investigation responses. More than one-half of the agencies are also providing some form of an alternative response to children and families where maltreatment is alleged, in addition to the primary investigation function. The average number of staff members in each agency is 26, of which 7 are social or caseworkers and 3 are supervisors.

Regarding the specialization of staff in performing the CPS functions, the degree of specialization depends on whether an alternative response function exists. A slight majority of agencies operate with specialized staff in their screening/intake and investigation functions. When an alternative response is available, the screening/intake and alternative response are not specialized quite as often. Also, for agencies that provide alternative response, fewer than one-half of all agencies are specialized so that the same workers are providing both investigation and the alternative response. However, when the numbers of children residing in counties served by agencies are considered, nationally more children reside in counties that are served by agencies with staff who specialize in all CPS functions. For example, 54 percent of all children reside in jurisdictions that are served by agencies where workers either specialize in screening/intake or who exclusively provide investigations. This latter finding indicates that in addition to the presence of alternative response, agency size is also a factor in the degree of specialization.

The findings also addressed questions about the numbers of services and the staffing resources available to agencies. On average, CPS handled 64 referrals per month, and completed 43 investigations and 16 alternative responses, if they offered this response.

Most agencies believe that their workloads are excessive. Almost 70 percent of agencies thought this was the case for at least one function, if not all three. Where only one function was involved, for 70 percent of agencies it was the investigation function. In contrast to the 70 percent of agencies that felt that excessive workload is a concern, three-quarters of the Nation's children resided in jurisdictions whose CPS agencies had this concern. Thus, on the basis of the population of children residing in jurisdictions served by the agencies, it appears that agencies in areas with larger child populations tended to report excessive workload as a concern more frequently than agencies serving jurisdictions with smaller populations.

Most agencies were allowed to provide services to any child and family regardless of the outcome of the investigation or alternative response or whether a child was found to be maltreated or not. Almost all agencies had a wide range of services that could be made available.