National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. Chapter 4. Investigation and Alternative Response Practices


This chapter examines local agency practices and procedures in conducting investigations and alternative CPS responses. For the purposes of this study, the investigation response was defined as the process for determining whether child maltreatment has occurred or the child is at risk of maltreatment. An alternative response was defined as a response in which the agency assessed the needs of the child or family without requiring a determination that maltreatment had occurred or that the child was at risk of maltreatment.

The findings reported in this chapter examine the types of CPS agency responses, the features and activities of these responses, the role of workers and supervisors in the conduct of these responses, and difficulties encountered in carrying out the responses. Estimates of agencies with investigation response include those agencies that conducted investigations regardless of whether they had another response. Estimates of agencies with alternative response are based only on those agencies that conducted such responses.

Overall, the findings reveal that two-thirds of CPS agencies had an alternative response option available in addition to the investigation response. Further, CPS agencies often used similar approaches and practices and encountered similar obstacles in carrying out the response.