National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 8.9 Summary of Reform Trends


Site visits to local jurisdictions that were reforming their CPS systems identified several trends. Table 8-1 provides a graphic summary of the main areas of change.

County Organizational and Administrative Joint CPS and Law Enforcement Investigations Alternative Response and Other Approaches Changes in Working with Families Community Collaborations Attention to Domestic Violence Addressing Substance Abuse
Table 8-1:
Summary of Site Reforms
Brooks, GA   ü ü     ü  
Butler, PA ü ü     ü ü  
Catawba, NC ü ü   ü      
Fairfax, VA ü   ü ü ü    
La Crosse, WI ü   ü   ü ü  
Ventura, CA ü     ü ü   ü
Union, FL ü ü     ü ü ü
Utah, UT ü     ü      

Understanding the impact of such changes on outcomes will require further evaluation. Many of the innovations are too new to be evaluated; some have not been evaluated for other reasons. In instances where changes are in different directions, it would be useful to have more systemic analysis of the impact of such reforms. For example, the relative merits of specialized versus generic staff providing CPS functions have been debated among CPS practitioners and managers since the inception of CPS, but have not been seriously evaluated.

It is possible, however, to identify some impacts on the child welfare organization. The agency in Ventura County reduced turnover of line staff from 20 percent to 4 percent over a 2-year period. Those interviewed attributed this to better pay, ongoing training, support for workers in providing input to management, alternative work schedules, opportunities for advancement, and other factors.

Training and cross-training, when collaborations are involved, were reported to help sustain reform efforts because training helped staff to understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the goals of the reform efforts. Better pay was also cited as an assist in sustaining change — although it is not clear that it is sufficient without additional training. Ongoing support for workers was also reported to boost staff morale and commitment.

States and localities are motivated by several issues to reform CPS. States and localities are also being held more accountable for the interests of the community and for achieving desired outcomes for children. At the same time, the number of referrals alleging child maltreatment requiring a response by the local agency continues at a high level. Thus agencies are looking for ways in which to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of their responses to the needs of children and their families.