National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 3.2 Processing Referrals

05/01/2003

he screening and intake module examined how CPS agency processed referrals, the available response options, and the activities that were performed during screening and intake. The majority of agencies (83%) conducted their own screening activities (Table 3-6). For 14 percent of agencies, the State hotline performed screening.

Agency Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Table 3-6:
Screening and Intake Agency
Local agency screens 2,170
(1,980-2,360)
83%
State hotline screens 370
(250-490)
14%
Missing 70
(20-120)
3%
Total 2,610
(2,410-2,810)
100%

CPS agencies had a variety of response options for both screened-out and screened-in referrals. Screened-out referrals could be either referred to another agency — such as law enforcement (84%) or a community-based agency (75%) — or closed without further action (72%), (Table 3-7).

Referral options Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Table 3-7:
Response Options for Screened-Out Referrals
Refer to police or sheriff's office 2,180
(2,010-2,350)
84%
Refer to local community-based agency 1,950
(1,780-2,130)
75%
Call recorded but no further action 1,880
(1,700-2,060)
72%
Other response 510
(370-640)
19%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 2,610 agencies.

Once a referral was screened in, the majority of CPS agencies referred to the CPS investigation response for new referrals, for referrals concerning children who already had an open investigation, for children who had been previously referred, and for children in foster care (Table 3-8). In nearly one-half (44%) of agencies, multiple response options were available when the referral concerned a child or household with an open investigation, while in approximately one-fourth of the agencies there were multiple response options for new referrals and children who had been previously referred. This indicates that there may be considerable flexibility even within the same agency in how referrals were handled.

Types of Screened- In Referrals Referral to another agency CPS investigation response Alternative response Various options available Missing Total
Table 3-8:
Response Options for Types of Screened-In Referrals
New referral <1% 74% 1% 23% 1% 100%
Open investigation 1% 50% 3% 44% 1% 100%
Prior substantiated <1% 72% 3% 24% 1% 100%
Prior unsubstantiated <1% 69% 4% 25% 1% 100%
Foster or substitute care 4% 50% 2% 42% 1% 100%
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 2,610 agencies.

More than three-quarters of agencies (86%) always searched for previous CPS records for the children who were alleged to be victims of maltreatment previously; 81 percent of agencies always searched for information on the alleged perpetrator (Table 3-9). While these activities are supposed to be uniformly carried out by all CPS agencies, the survey responses indicate that not all agencies follow this practice. Safety assessment tools were always used by more than two-thirds of agencies (69%). Screening and intake staff at one-third to one-half of CPS agencies sometimes searched other records, called collateral contacts, called family members, and established the credibility of the reporter. It is interesting to note that 37 percent of CPS agencies always visited the family during the screening process while 31 percent never visited the family.

Activity Always Sometimes Rarely Never Missing Total
Table 3-9:
Screening Activities
Search CPS records for child(ren) 86% 7% 1% 1% 6% 100%
Search CPS records for alleged perpetrator 81% 11% 2% 1% 6% 100%
Search CPS records for reporter 12% 20% 38% 24% 6% 100%
Search other records 38% 43% 8% 5% 6% 100%
Use a safety assessment tool 69% 5% 5% 14% 7% 100%
Call collaterals 19% 60% 8% 7% 6% 100%
Call family members 11% 51% 19% 13% 7% 100%
Visit family 37% 6% 19% 31% 7% 100%
Establish credibility of reporter 15% 37% 25% 18% 6% 100%
Other 3% 2% --- 1% 94% 100%
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 2,610 agencies.