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

05/01/2003

In terms of the scope of the investigation response, agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure appeared to be more flexible and expansive than other agencies. State-administered agencies with a strong county structure more often (67%) extended the investigation to all children in the household in all cases when compared to agencies in State-administered (51%) and county-administered systems (54%), (Table 7-15).

Table 7-15:
Scope of Investigation Response*
Scope State-administered County-administered State-administered with strong county structure
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Only children specified in referral 30
(0-60)
3% 60
(20-110)
7% 10
(0-30)
2%
Extend to all children in household, case-by-case 350
(230-480)
32% 290
(240-350)
31% 170
(70-270)
31%
Extend to all children in household in all cases 550
(420-690)
51% 520
(440-600)
54% 370
(190-550)
67%
Missing 160
(100-220)
14% 80
(40-130)
9% --- ---
Total 1,100
(970-1,220)
100% 960
(890-1,030)
100% 550
(350-750)
100%
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
* X2=15.28, p<.05

The analyses revealed some differences in the procedures agencies used at the conclusion of their investigations. Agencies in State-administered (80%) and county-administered (85%) systems were somewhat more likely to always enter the perpetrator information into the Central Registry than were agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure (72%), (Table7-16). The same patterns appear with regard to notifying the reporter at the conclusion of the investigation, more agencies in State- and county-administered systems (30% and 36%, respectively) always made this notification when compared to agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure (17%).

Table 7-16:
CPS Agencies that Always Conducted Procedures When Concluding Investigation
Procedure State-administered County-administered State-administered with strong county structure
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Enter perpetrator information in Central Registrya 870
(760-990)
80% 820
(750-880)
85% 390
(210-580)
72%
Notify reporterb 330
(220-440)
30% 350
(270-430)
36% 90
(30-160)
17%
a X2=27.13, p<.001
b X2=62.2, p<.001
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.

These analyses also found a few differences in the frequency of specific investigative activities. Certain activities were much more common for agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure. For example, a greater proportion of agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure (19%) always discussed the case with a multidisciplinary team than did agencies in State-administered (5%) or county-administered systems (10%), (Table 7-17). Similarly, it was more common for agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure to always interview the reporter and to always interview witnesses when compared to State- and county-administered agencies.

Table 7-17:
CPS Agencies that Always Conducted Investigation Activity
Activity State-administered County-administered State-administered with strong county structure
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Discuss with Multidisciplinary Team a 50
(0-100)
5% 100
(50-150)
10% 100
(30-180)
19%
Interview reporterb 450
(320-580)
41% 300
(230-370)
31% 370
(210-540)
67%
Interview witnessesc 680
(550-810)
62% 610
(530-690)
63% 410
(230-600)
75%
Interview professionals known to familyd 480
(340-620)
44% 330
(250-400)
34% 260
(130-380)
47%
Conduct criminal background check on alleged perpetratore 530
(410-640)
48% 190
(130-240)
19% 110
(40-180)
20%
a X2=19.82, p<.05
b X2=22.94, p<.01
c X2=14.34, p<.05
d X2=13.25, p<.05
e X2=23.99, p<.01
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).

Other investigation activities were also more common for State-administered agencies. Agencies in State-administered systems (44%) and those in State-administered systems with strong county structure (47%) always interviewed professionals known to the family more often than did agencies in county-administered systems (34%), (Table 7-22). Finally, more State-administered agencies (48%) always conducted criminal background checks on the alleged perpetrator than did agencies in county-administered systems (19%) or in State-administered systems with strong county structure (20%).

Only one difference by administrative structure emerged in how often agencies used different instruments or tools during the investigation. County-administered agencies (4%) were less likely to always conduct standardized domestic violence assessments as part of the investigation when compared to other agencies (15% for both State-administered and State-administered with strong county structure), (Table 7-18).

Table 7-18:
CPS Agency Use of Standardized Domestic Violence Assessment Instruments During Investigations*
Instruments and tools State-administered County-administered State-administered with strong county structure
Estimate
(C .I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Always 170
(80-250)
15% 40
(10-70)
4% 80
(10-140)
15%
Sometimes 890
(760-1,020)
81% 900
(810-980)
93% 470
(310-640)
86%
Missing 40
(0-80)
3% 20
(0-40)
2% --- ---
Total 1,100

(970-1,220)

100% 960

(890-1,030)

100% 550

(350-750)

100%
Note: Numbers in italics are based on 10 or fewer agencies.
* X2=10.55, p<.05

The analyses also uncovered evidence that agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure had fewer resources during investigations. In State- and county-administered systems both domestic violence specialists and substance abuse specialists were almost always available during investigations. While 81 percent of agencies in State-administered systems and 85 percent of agencies in county-administered always had access to domestic violence specialists, this was true for 69 percent of agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure (Table 7-19). Similarly, 91 percent of State-administered agencies and 97 percent of county-administered agencies always had substance abuse specialists available during investigations, compared to 84 percent of agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure. One exception to this pattern was related to access to hospital-based sexual abuse trauma centers. While 71 percent of county-administered agencies always had access to these centers, 46 percent of State-administered agencies and 60 percent of agencies in State-administered with strong county structure reported such widespread access.

Table 7-19:
CPS Agencies that Always Used Professional and Group Assistance During Investigations
Type of assistance State-administered County-administered State-administered with strong county structure
Estimate
(C.I .)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Domestic violence specialistsa 880
(760-1,010)
81% 820
(740-900)
85% 380
(230-530)
69%
Substance abuse specialistsb 1,000
(870-1,130)
91% 930
(870-1,000)
97% 460
(270-650)
84%
Hospital-based sexual abuse trauma centersc 500
(370-630)
46% 690
(620-750)
71% 330
(200-470)
60%
a X2=11.4, p<.05
b X2=15.04, p<.01
c X2=12.42, p<.05
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).

When examining the obstacles to timely completion of investigations, fewer barriers were found for agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure. Just over one-half of the agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure (52%) rarely cited the need to predict what might happen to the child as an obstacle to completing the investigation. This compares to 24 percent for agencies in both State- and county-administered systems (Table 7-20). The same pattern emerges for difficulties related to preparing materials for the case record, preparing materials for the court record, and handling language barriers. For these obstacles, agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure rarely faced the obstacle compared to State- or county-administered agencies.

Table 7-20:
CPS Agencies that Rarely Had Obstacles to Timely Completion of Investigation
Obstacles State-administered County-administered State-administered with strong county structure
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Predicting what might happen to the childa 260
(170-350)
24% 230
(170-300)
24% 290
(150-420)
52%
Preparing materials for case recordb 310
(200-420)
28% 210
(160-260)
22% 240
(130-350)
43%
Preparing materials for court recordc 330
(220-430)
30% 300
(240-370)
31% 310
(170-450)
57%
Handling language barriersd 580
(460-690)
53% 510
(430-590)
53% 400
(220-570)
72%
a X2=27.63, p<.001
b X2=20.6, p<.01
c X2=24.23, p<.01
d X2=17.68, p<.05
Note: Percentages are not additive because agencies were included in each applicable row (category).