National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 8.2 Organizational and Administrative Changes


Several of the site visits provided detailed information on changes related to philosophy of service, organizational and functional structuring of work, training, and staffing. Some of these changes have affected the operations of the entire agency, while others have had more limited impact.

Many agencies reported having undertaken broad-based changes in their philosophy of service. For example, agencies in Fairfax County, Utah County, and Ventura County implemented changes in the overall philosophy of their programs to emphasize the provision of family-focused and family-friendly approaches to services.

Specific changes in the screening function were noted by the agency in Ventura County, which had contracted with a private agency to conduct screening. In La Crosse County, paraprofessional screeners received primary referral information; casework supervisors reviewed the information and made the decision to investigate or not. Staff in Butler County also addressed screening by implementing a specialized unit in order to improve the consistency of screening decisions rather than having this function performed by the staff who also conducted investigations.

Additional specialization of functions was reported by agencies in Butler County and Union County. In Butler County, a single, dedicated investigator handled all sexual abuse cases, which was thought to be critical because of the special expertise needed for these types of cases. The dedicated investigator also became part of a joint police and CPS investigative team. Similarly, the agency in Union County recently separated its generic CPS units into investigative and ongoing services units.

Other types of specialized staffing changes included those undertaken by the agencies in Catawba County, Ventura County, and Fairfax County. The agency in Catawba County created a half-time position for a family group conferencing coordinator; the agency in Ventura County reformulated its use of public health nurses who were part of the investigation units to re-emphasize their role as nurses rather than acting as if they were CPS investigators. Fairfax County planned to create a child custody intervention team to reduce the amount of time spent on allegations that were actually part of child custody cases.

In some sites, there was a different direction for change. The agency in Fairfax County integrated investigation and ongoing support functions. Staff members served on a team to improve continuity between intake and ongoing services. Further, these combined services units were moved out into satellite offices in order to be in a better position to meet community and family needs. Similarly, the agency in La Crosse County decided to make all CPS workers generic workers, and workers would share responsibility for intake, investigation, and case management.

Many agencies commented on the need for new training for workers as change has been implemented.