National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 4.2 Practices and Procedures

05/01/2003

While CPS agencies used a variety of practices and procedures in conducting investigations and alternative responses, the analyses revealed many areas where the two responses were similar. In terms of the scope of the responses, the components of the responses are similar but differ among some elements. Also, some components of policy and procedure apply to investigations only or only to alternative response. This section presents data on practices and procedures for both functions so that appropriate comparisons can be drawn.

More than one-half of the agencies (55%) always extended investigations to all children in the household; an additional 31 percent of agencies included all the household children in the investigation on a case-by-case basis (Table 4-4). The estimates and percentages for the alternative response are not provided because these data were missing for a large portion of agencies. Slightly more than one-half (51%) of the agencies made a separate determination of maltreatment for each child under investigation (Table 4-5).

Table 4-4:
Scope of Response
Scope Investigation
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Only children specified in referral 110
(50-160)
4%
Extend to all children in household, case-by-case 820
(640-990)
31%
Extend to all children in household in all cases 1,440
(1,200-1,690)
55%
Missing 240
(160-320)
9%
Total 2,610
(2,410-2,810)
100%

 

Table 4-5:
Child(ren) Considered for Determination
Children Investigation
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Only children specified in referral 180
(100-260)
7%
Separate determination for each child in household 1,320
(1,160-1,480)
51%
Inclusion decided on case-by-case basis 1,000
(810-1,190)
38%
Missing 100
(20-170)
4%
Total 2,610
(2,410-2,810)
100%

Most agencies always considered the severity of the case (94%) and policy-defined standards of evidence (90%) when making a determination at the conclusion of the investigation (Table 4-6). Approximately one-half of agencies always considered the family's need for services (57%) and the parents' willingness to cooperate (43%). The availability of services was always considered by 28 percent of agencies.

Factors Always Sometimes Rarely Never Missing Total
Table 4-6:
Factors Considered in Making Determination as Result of Investigation
Severity of case 94% 3% --- 2% 1% 100%
Policy-defined standards of evidence 90% 6% 2% 1% 2% 100%
Family's need for services 57% 27% 7% 8% 1% 100%
Willingness of parent to cooperate 43% 26% 12% 18% 1% 100%
Availability of services 28% 22% 15% 33% 2% 100%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 2,610 agencies.

Concluding a response varied between investigation responses and alternative responses (Tables 4-7 and 4-8). During the investigation, almost all agencies always notified perpetrators (85%) and entered the perpetrator's name into the Central Registry (80%). In contrast, under the alternative response, fewer than one-half of the agencies always notified perpetrators (45%) and entered the perpetrator's name into the Central Registry (41%).

Procedures Always Sometimes Rarely Never Missing Total
Table 4-7:
Procedures in Concluding Investigation
Notify perpetrator 85% 9% 2% 3% 1% 100%
Enter perpetrator in Central Registry 80% 12% 1% 5% 1% 100%
Notify reporter 30% 49% 11% 10% 1% 100%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 2,610 agencies.

 

Procedures Always Sometimes Rarely Never Missing Total
Table 4-8:
Procedures in Concluding Alternative Response
Notify perpetrator 45% 3% 2% 4% 46% 100%
Enter perpetrator in Central Registry 41% 5% 1% 8% 46% 100%
Notify reporter 21% 21% 8% 5% 46% 100%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 1,660 agencies.

In general, CPS agencies establish timeframes for completing an investigation or an alternative response (Table 4-9). The majority of agencies (81%) will close the case, once the timeframe for an alternative response has elapsed. However, the majority of agencies (84%) will not close an investigation even if the timeframe has been exceeded.

Table 4-9:
Cases Not Completed Within Required Timeframe
Procedures Investigation Alternative response
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Closed without a finding 50
(0-100)
2% 50
(0-90)
3%
Closed without finding of "undetermined" or "unsubstantiated" 120
(60-190)
5% 1,350
(1,160-1,540)
81%
Remains open with original worker until complete 2,180
(1,960-2,400)
84% 70
(10-130)
4%
Remains open, transferred to another worker until complete 20
(0-60)
1% --- ---
Missing 230
(120-340)
9% 200
(80-320)
12%
Total 2,610
(2,410-2,810)
100% 1,660
(1,460-1,860)
100%
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.

The survey revealed that there was a great deal of similarity in the actual activities conducted under investigation and alternative response (Tables 4-10 and 4-11).

When conducting investigations, nearly all agencies always reviewed prior CPS records (89%), interviewed or formally observed the child(ren) (98%), and interviewed the caregiver(s) (98%). Percentages were similarly high for agencies providing an alternative response — 80 percent always reviewed prior CPS records; 69 percent interviewed or formally observed the child(ren); and 73 percent always interviewed the caregiver(s).

Furthermore, during the investigation a majority of the agencies sometimes discussed the case with other CPS workers (73%), discussed the case with a multidisciplinary team (67%), visited the family with an appointment (61%), visited the family without an appointment (65%), conducted a family group conference meeting (57%), interviewed professionals known to the family (58%), and conducted criminal background checks on the alleged perpetrator (50%). Results were similar for alternative response procedures. A majority of agencies discussed the case with other CPS workers (75%), discussed the case with a multidisciplinary team (57%), visited the family with an appointment (63%) or without an appointment (66%), conducted family group conference meetings (55%), interviewed family members other than the caregiver (62%), and interviewed professionals known to the family (65%).

Not surprisingly, given that maltreatment is infrequently involved in cases receiving the alternative response, approximately one-fourth of the agencies never obtained or preserved physical evidence (24%), removed the child from harm (23%), or conducted criminal background checks on the alleged perpetrator (24%) during this response.

Activity Always Sometimes Rarely Never Missing Total
Table 4-10:
Investigation Activities
Review prior CPS records 89% 9% <1% --- 1% 100%
Discuss with other CPS workers 24% 73% 2% --- 1% 100%
Discuss with multidisciplinary team 10% 67% 16% 6% <1% 100%
Visit family with appointment 6% 61% 28% 4% 1% 100%
Visit family without appointment 34% 65% <1% --- <1% 100%
Conduct family group conference meeting 6% 57% 29% 7% <1% 100%
Interview or formally observe child(ren) 98% 1% --- --- 1% 100%
Interview caregiver(s) 98% 1% --- --- 1% 100%
Interview family members other than caregiver 56% 42% 1% --- 1% 100%
Interview reporter 43% 48% 7% 1% 1% 100%
Interview witnesses 65% 32% 1% --- 2% 100%
Interview professionals known to family 41% 58% 1% --- 1% 100%
Obtain/preserve physical evidence 50% 45% 3% 1% 1% 100%
Remove child harmed or in danger of harm 53% 39% 1% 6% 1% 100%
Conduct criminal background check on alleged perpetrator 32% 50% 10% 7% 2% 100%
1st Other 3% 2% --- --- 95% 100%
2nd Other 1% 1% --- --- 98% 100%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 2,610 agencies.

Local CPS agencies had few differences between the investigation and alternative response in terms of the instruments and tools used (Tables 4-12 and 4-13). Nearly three-quarters of the agencies (74%) used guidelines for establishing risk or safety during an investigation compared to 62 percent of the agencies using an alternative response option. Only a minority of agencies used formal assessment tools during the investigation or alternative response to gauge the extent of risk, safety, substance abuse, or domestic violence.

Activity Always Sometimes Rarely Never Missing Total
Table 4-11:
Alternative Response Activities
Review prior CPS records 80% 17% 1% 2% 1% 100%
Discuss with other CPS workers 19% 75% 5% --- 1% 100%
Discuss with multidisciplinary team 6% 57% 24% 11% 1% 100%
Visit family with appointment 15% 63% 13% 7% 2% 100%
Visit family without appointment 18% 66% 11% 4% 1% 100%
Conduct family group conference meeting 6% 55% 28% 9% 2% 100%
Interview or formally observe child(ren) 69% 23% 3% 3% 2% 100%
Interview caregiver(s) 73% 23% 1% 2% 1% 100%
Interview family members other than caregiver 25% 62% 8% 4% 2% 100%
Interview reporter 30% 35% 17% 13% 4% 100%
Interview witnesses 30% 42% 10% 16% 2% 100%
Interview professionals known to family 25% 65% 5% 2% 3% 100%
Obtain/preserve physical evidence 27% 36% 11% 24% 2% 100%
Remove child harmed or in danger of harm 46% 23% 4% 23% 3% 100%
Conduct criminal background check on alleged perpetrator 23% 34% 16% 24% 4% 100%
1st Other 1% --- --- 1% 98% 100%
2nd Other --- --- --- 1% 99% 100%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 1,660 agencies.

There was a great deal of similarity between the professional resources available to agencies during the investigation and alternative response (Tables 4-14 and 4-15).

Under investigation, nearly all agencies always had clinicians or psychiatrists (90%), domestic violence specialists (80%), substance abuse specialists (92%), and child fatality review teams (80%) available to assist. Similarly high percentages of agencies claimed such professionals were always available during the alternative responses.

In addition, under investigation, most agencies always had forensic specialists (62%), child advocacy centers (58%), or hospital-based sexual abuse trauma centers (58%) available to assist. Again, these professional resources were also widely available to agencies during alternative responses.

Instruments and tools Yes
Table 4-12:
Instruments and Tools — Investigation
Structured decisionmaking model 47%
Formal safety assessment instrument 37%
Formal risk assessment instrument 44%
Guidelines for establishing risk or safety 74%
Standardized substance abuse assessment instrument 13%
Standardized domestic violence assessment instrument 11%
Standardized parenting skills assessment 10%
Standardized child development inventory 11%
Standardized family support assessment 15%

 

Instruments and tools Yes
Table 4-13:
Instruments and Tools — Alternative Response
Structured decisionmaking model 27%
Formal safety assessment instrument 26%
Formal risk assessment instrument 30%
Guideline for establishing risk or safety 62%
Standardized substance abuse assessment instrument 12%
Standardized domestic violence assessment instrument 11%
Standardized parenting skills assessment 6%
Standardized child development inventory 9%
Standardized family support assessment 14%

 

Resources Always Sometimes Missing Total
Table 4-14:
Professionals and Group Assistance — Investigation
Clinicians or psychiatrists 90% 8% 2% 100%
Domestic violence specialists 80% 18% 2% 100%
Substance abuse specialists 92% 7% 1% 100%
Forensic specialists 62% 35% 4% 100%
Child advocacy centers 58% 39% 3% 100%
Hospital-based sexual abuse trauma centers 58% 39% 3% 100%
Child fatality review team 80% 16% 4% 100%
Citizen CPS review team 35% 60% 4% 100%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 2,610 agencies.

 

Resources Always Sometimes Missing Total
Table 4-15:
Professional and Group Assistance — Alternative Response
Clinicians or psychiatrists 88% 7% 5% 100%
Domestic violence specialists 80% 16% 5% 100%
Substance abuse specialists 91% 6% 3% 100%
Forensic specialists 57% 36% 7% 100%
Child advocacy centers 53% 43% 4% 100%
Hospital-based sexual abuse trauma centers 55% 39% 6% 100%
Child fatality review team 74% 19% 7% 100%
Citizen CPS review team 41% 53% 6% 100%
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
Note: Percentages are based on weighted total of 1,660 agencies.