The first step in designing the LAS was to map the functions, activities, and components that encompass the work of CPS agencies into a list of topics. The topical list was organized by CPS function, but also included issues of policy, implementation, problems, and solutions. Once the topical list was developed, candidate questions were developed for review. The candidate questions in each topical area included some that had been tested and utilized in other surveys of CPS and other areas of child welfare. These questions were either adopted in their original form or adapted to meet the needs of this study.
The final data collection instrument was comprised of five modules. The first module inquired about the overall administration and organization of CPS. The next two modules focused on the two primary functions of CPS agencies — screening and investigation. The screening module included questions about the process by which the agency receives a referral concerning the welfare of a child and how the determination is made whether and how to respond to the referral. The investigation module included questions about the process by which the agency determines whether child maltreatment has occurred and/or the child is at risk of maltreatment.
The fourth module only applied to those agencies that have an alternative response option in addition to investigation. The fifth module included questions about the future directions of the CPS agency's administration and procedures. The agencies were instructed to have the most knowledgeable person complete each module.
Prior to finalizing the survey instrument, the LAS was pilot tested with nine agencies and reviewed by a number of experts in CPS practices. The comments and suggestions from the pilot test and expert review were incorporated into the final survey instrument.