National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 8.1 Site Selection and Site Visit Methods


Sites were identified for visits based on their response to the Local Agency Survey (LAS) in which they indicated whether they had implemented significant changes within the prior months. Of those responding, 81 percent said they had implemented one or more changes. The number of changes ranged from 1 to 15 per site. Sites were assigned a "change weight score" by computing the product of the total number of changes and the number of functional areas with a change. This score represented both the number of changes in an agency and the breadth of the changes. The sites with the largest change scores were considered eligible for visits. Since a further selection criterion was that only one site would be visited in each State, the site with the highest score from a State was selected, and the others were dropped from the list. Of the 11 sites selected by this method, 3 could not participate due to scheduling or other types of conflicts.

Eight site visits were made to localities ranging from suburban communities to rural communities. Three of the sites were in county-administered child welfare systems; five of the sites were in State-administered child welfare systems. The sites were:

  • Brooks County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Brooks County, Georgia;
  • Butler County Children and Youth Agency, Butler County, Pennsylvania;
  • Catawba County Department of Social Services (DSS), Catawba County, North Carolina;
  • Children Youth and Family Division (CYFD), Fairfax County Department of Family Services, Fairfax County, Virginia;
  • La Crosse Human Services Department (LCHSD), La Crosse County, Wisconsin;
  • Children and Family Services Department (CFS), Ventura County Human Services Agency (HSA), Ventura County, California;
  • District 3 Department of Children and Families (DCF), Union County, Florida; and
  • Western Region of the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Utah County, Utah.

The objective of the site visits was to gain a deeper understanding of the changes in CPS practice being undertaken. Activities included interviewing key stakeholders in the CPS system and obtaining documentation of the reform efforts underway. Sites were asked specifically to discuss the changes that had been indicated in their LAS response and to identify any other changes that were related to conducting CPS. Interviews were held with individuals and focus groups. The interviews were focused on CPS rather than on the broader sphere of child welfare responsibilities. The following areas of change were discussed:

  • Organization and administration of CPS;
  • Investigation and assessment functions;
  • Improvements in working with families;
  • Community collaborations;
  • Attention to domestic violence;
  • Addressing substance abuse; and
  • Accountability.