While CPS agencies used a variety of practices and procedures in conducting investigations and alternative responses, the analyses revealed many areas where the two responses were similar. In terms of the scope of the responses, the components of the responses are similar but differ among some elements. Also, some components of policy and procedure apply to investigations only or only to alternative response. This section presents data on practices and procedures for both functions so that appropriate comparisons can be drawn.
More than one-half of the agencies (55%) always extended investigations to all children in the household; an additional 31 percent of agencies included all the household children in the investigation on a case-by-case basis (Table 4-4). The estimates and percentages for the alternative response are not provided because these data were missing for a large portion of agencies. Slightly more than one-half (51%) of the agencies made a separate determination of maltreatment for each child under investigation (Table 4-5).
Most agencies always considered the severity of the case (94%) and policy-defined standards of evidence (90%) when making a determination at the conclusion of the investigation (Table 4-6). Approximately one-half of agencies always considered the family's need for services (57%) and the parents' willingness to cooperate (43%). The availability of services was always considered by 28 percent of agencies.
Concluding a response varied between investigation responses and alternative responses (Tables 4-7 and 4-8). During the investigation, almost all agencies always notified perpetrators (85%) and entered the perpetrator's name into the Central Registry (80%). In contrast, under the alternative response, fewer than one-half of the agencies always notified perpetrators (45%) and entered the perpetrator's name into the Central Registry (41%).
In general, CPS agencies establish timeframes for completing an investigation or an alternative response (Table 4-9). The majority of agencies (81%) will close the case, once the timeframe for an alternative response has elapsed. However, the majority of agencies (84%) will not close an investigation even if the timeframe has been exceeded.
The survey revealed that there was a great deal of similarity in the actual activities conducted under investigation and alternative response (Tables 4-10 and 4-11).
When conducting investigations, nearly all agencies always reviewed prior CPS records (89%), interviewed or formally observed the child(ren) (98%), and interviewed the caregiver(s) (98%). Percentages were similarly high for agencies providing an alternative response — 80 percent always reviewed prior CPS records; 69 percent interviewed or formally observed the child(ren); and 73 percent always interviewed the caregiver(s).
Furthermore, during the investigation a majority of the agencies sometimes discussed the case with other CPS workers (73%), discussed the case with a multidisciplinary team (67%), visited the family with an appointment (61%), visited the family without an appointment (65%), conducted a family group conference meeting (57%), interviewed professionals known to the family (58%), and conducted criminal background checks on the alleged perpetrator (50%). Results were similar for alternative response procedures. A majority of agencies discussed the case with other CPS workers (75%), discussed the case with a multidisciplinary team (57%), visited the family with an appointment (63%) or without an appointment (66%), conducted family group conference meetings (55%), interviewed family members other than the caregiver (62%), and interviewed professionals known to the family (65%).
Not surprisingly, given that maltreatment is infrequently involved in cases receiving the alternative response, approximately one-fourth of the agencies never obtained or preserved physical evidence (24%), removed the child from harm (23%), or conducted criminal background checks on the alleged perpetrator (24%) during this response.
Local CPS agencies had few differences between the investigation and alternative response in terms of the instruments and tools used (Tables 4-12 and 4-13). Nearly three-quarters of the agencies (74%) used guidelines for establishing risk or safety during an investigation compared to 62 percent of the agencies using an alternative response option. Only a minority of agencies used formal assessment tools during the investigation or alternative response to gauge the extent of risk, safety, substance abuse, or domestic violence.
There was a great deal of similarity between the professional resources available to agencies during the investigation and alternative response (Tables 4-14 and 4-15).
Under investigation, nearly all agencies always had clinicians or psychiatrists (90%), domestic violence specialists (80%), substance abuse specialists (92%), and child fatality review teams (80%) available to assist. Similarly high percentages of agencies claimed such professionals were always available during the alternative responses.
In addition, under investigation, most agencies always had forensic specialists (62%), child advocacy centers (58%), or hospital-based sexual abuse trauma centers (58%) available to assist. Again, these professional resources were also widely available to agencies during alternative responses.