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

05/01/2003

When different types of administrative structures were compared, agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure emerged as different from the other types of agencies in certain practices or approaches used during investigations and alternative responses.

Agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure had more expansive and flexible investigations than other agencies. These agencies were more likely to always extend the investigation response to all children in the household and to include certain activities, such as discussing the case with a multidisciplinary team, as part of the investigation. These agencies also faced fewer obstacles to timely completion of the investigation. Agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure rarely reported obstacles like preparing materials for the case or court record and handling language barriers.

In terms of the alternative response function, agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure appeared more consistent in how they conducted the response than the other types of agencies. These agencies had more required practices to perform before completing the alternative response. For example, CPS agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure were more often required to assess family needs, assess the underlying causes of maltreatment, and refer the family for further services before completing the response than the other kinds of agencies. Likewise, these agencies were more likely to routinely conduct procedures such as notifying the perpetrator of the determination and entering the perpetrator information into the Central Registry than other agencies. Agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure also more often discussed the response with a multidisciplinary team, conducted family group conference meetings, interviewed family members, and interviewed the reporter during the course of the alternative response.

For the alternative response function, county-administered agencies stood out in two ways. First, county-administered agencies were more likely to routinely use formal safety and risk assessment instruments as part of the alternative response when compared to the other agencies. In addition, these agencies were less likely to have access to certain professional resources such as Child Advocacy Centers or citizen CPS review teams during the alternative response.