National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. 9.1 Functions and Roles of CPS Agencies


A primary goal of the LAS was to gain a better understanding of the functions performed by CPS agencies. The findings revealed that almost all of the estimated 2,610 local CPS agencies in the nation performed screening and all of them conducted investigations. Two-thirds of CPS agencies also were estimated to perform some type of alternative response as part of their work. Alternative response was defined as a function of the agency that assesses the needs of the child or family without requiring a determination that maltreatment has occurred and/or that the child is at risk of maltreatment. However, agencies indicated that this definition was not the critical distinguishing characteristic of these alternative responses. Rather, two-thirds of agencies make a distinction among responses based on the type and severity of the alleged maltreatment.

Nationally, local agencies were responsible for screening of child abuse or neglect referrals for almost all children and were responsible for investigating child abuse or neglect for all children. However, just over one-half of children lived in jurisdictions served by agencies with alternative CPS responses. The difference between the percentage of agencies offering alternative responses (two-thirds) and the percentage of children under the jurisdiction of such agencies (just over

one-half) suggests that alternative responses were more often used in smaller agencies. Given their size, these agencies may have been able to operate more flexibly or be case-specific in response to allegations of maltreatment.