National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 3.4 Conclusion


The findings indicate that many of the local CPS agencies shared some core practices when conducting the screening and intake functions. Also indicated is that CPS agencies had some flexibility in how they handled referrals.

Core practices shared by many of the local CPS agencies in conducting the screening and intake functions included the types of referral sources and the acceptance of referrals. Further, activities undertaken during the screening process were often similar among CPS agencies.

While CPS agencies received referrals from many sources, the most common sources were individuals, State or local hotlines, and schools. The second-most common source of referrals to CPS agencies was law enforcement. Responses to referrals made during weekend or evening hours were often conducted by on-call staff; however, agencies were more limited in accepting referrals from non-English speakers. A substantial minority of CPS agencies automatically accepted referrals from certain sources such as specific agencies or mandated reporters.

CPS agencies undertook a wide variety of activities during the screening process. Typical activities performed by the agencies often involved paperwork, such as searching CPS records for information on the alleged victims and perpetrators. Less frequently conducted activities were those that required direct contact with the child, family, or reporter.

While many CPS agencies shared several core functions in the screening and intake of referrals, they also had some flexibility in how they handled these referrals. This level of flexibility was evident in the use of multiple responses for both screened-out and screened-in referrals as well as collaboration with State hotlines to respond to the referrals.

A large majority of CPS agencies used multiple response options for screened-out referrals, including making referrals to other agencies. For all types of screened-in referrals, the most common response option was a CPS investigation; however, approximately one-quarter to one-half of agencies had multiple response options for screened-in referrals.

While approximately two-thirds of local CPS agencies received State hotline referrals, they retained some flexibility in handling these referrals. Close to one-half of CPS agencies indicated that their State hotline made recommendations as to their agency's response. However, most agencies were not bound to follow these recommendations, and many assigned their own priority status to the recommendation.