National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 5.4 Conclusion

05/01/2003

While more CPS agencies claimed lead responsibility across all type of maltreatment for the screening function, very few had overall lead responsibility for the investigation and alternative response functions. The specific circumstances of the maltreatment also shaped the role of CPS agencies. CPS agencies shared lead responsibility more often for the more serious forms of maltreatment. CPS agencies shared lead responsibility for screening more often for physical abuse (29%) and sexual abuse (39%) than for neglect (19%) or other maltreatment. Similarly, while 65 percent of CPS agencies shared lead responsibility for severe physical abuse, the percentages for moderate physical abuse (47%) and at risk of physical abuse (12%) were much lower. CPS agencies were most likely to have lead responsibility when an investigation or an alternative response related to a perpetrator who was a family member or a relative. Approximately one-half of the agencies did not provide alternative response in cases that included foster parents, group home or institutional staff, or minors.

The findings also reveal a distinction between the role of law enforcement and that of other agencies in CPS work. Across different types of maltreatment, CPS agencies reported sharing lead responsibility with law enforcement more often than with any other type of agency. While nearly three-quarters of CPS agencies shared lead responsibility with law enforcement for physical and sexual abuse, fewer than 20 percent of agencies shared with other, nonlaw enforcement agencies for these types of maltreatment. The same pattern holds true for different types of perpetrators with more sharing of lead responsibility with law enforcement agencies. While 41 percent of CPS agencies shared lead responsibility with law enforcement agencies when the perpetrator was a family member or relative, just 3 percent shared with other agencies for this type of perpetrator. Together, these differences emphasize the significant role law enforcement agencies play in CPS processes. Law enforcement agencies are the only other agencies besides CPS agencies that can receive mandated reports of child maltreatment, enforce the applicable criminal law, and remove children from their parents, if they are being maltreated or are at risk of maltreatment.