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

05/01/2003

Both State-administered and county-administered agencies also had more staff specializing in investigations when compared to State-administered agencies with strong county structure. The number of full-time caseworker or social worker staff who were only assigned investigations for both State-administered and county-administered agencies averaged five workers, while for State-administered agencies with strong county structure the average was two, which was a statistically significant difference when compared to both State- and county-administered agencies.

There were two supervisors assigned to other responsibilities in addition to investigation in county-administered agencies compared to one in State-administered agencies, each of which averaged five full-time workers who only conducted investigations (Table 7-1).

Table 7-1:
Investigation Staff by Agency Structure
Statistical comparison Full-time workers who only conducted investigations Supervisors who supervised investigation in addition to other responsibilities
Estimate
(C.I.) *
Estimate
(C.I.)
A State-administered 5
(3-7)
1
(1-1)
B County-administered 5
(3-7)
2
(1-2)
C State-administered with a strong county structure 2
(1-3)
1
(1-2)
* The 95 percent confidence interval (C.I.) indicates that, if the study were to be repeated with the same methodology 100 times, 95 of the replications would produce an estimate within the interval.
b-c: T = 2.063, p < 0.05
a-c: T = 2.040, p < 0.05
a-b: T = -2.796, p < 0.01

State-administered agencies have a higher percentage of workers that strictly specialize in conducting either screening/intake or investigations compared to county-administered agencies, and the percentage of specialized workers in State-administered agencies with a strong county structure fall between. On the other hand, county-administered agencies appear to have a greater percentage of staff that fill in and perform other functions when needed. For the screening/intake and investigation function 43 percent of State-administered agencies were estimated to have specialized staff members, while 23 percent of county- and 32 percent of State-administered with strong county structure had specialized staff. Staff routinely switched between functions if needed for 24 percent of county-administered agencies, 21 percent of State-administered agencies with strong county structure, and 13 percent of State-administered agencies. Roughly comparable percentages of agencies had staff who performed both functions; State-administered (37%), county-administered (45%), and State-administered agencies with strong county structure (46%). Differences between agencies were not found to be significant in terms of child population (Table 7-2).

Table 7-2:
Screening/Intake and Investigation by Agency Structure
Staff State-administered County-administered State-administered with a strong county structure
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Different workers for screening/intake and investigation 480
(340-610)
43% 220
(160-290)
23% 170
(70-280)
32%
When needed, an intake worker can conduct an investigation, or an investigation worker can conduct screening/intake 140
(70-210)
13% 230
(160-300)
24% 110
(30-190)
21%
Workers routinely conduct both screening/intake and investigation 410
(300-520)
37% 430
(350-520)
45% 250
(130-380)
46%
Other 60
(10-100)
5% 60
(30-90)
6% 10
(<1-30)
2%
No Response 10
(<1-30)
1% 20
(<1-30)
2% <1
(<1-<1)
<1%
Total 1,100
(970-1,220)
100% 960
(890-1,030)
100% 550
(350-750)
100%
X2 = 15.756, p < 0.05  

Despite similarities in the numbers of staff that are specialized, county-administered agencies have more workers who are also assigned other responsibilities besides screening and intake compared to State-administered agencies. Among those social workers or caseworkers who also were assigned other responsibilities in addition to screening and intake, the average number for State-administered agencies was three, for county-administered agencies the average was six, and for State-administered agencies with strong county structure the average was four. The difference between State administered and county-administered agencies suggests that county agencies might not have specialized in the screening and intake function to the same degree that State-administered agencies did. In general, it appeared that at least one-half of the staff assigned to this function at either the caseworker or supervisory level was assigned to other responsibilities.3

As with screening/intake and investigations, the pattern of State-administered agencies having higher percentages of workers that specialize is repeated in comparing specialization of workers performing screening/intake versus alternative response, with State-administered agencies with strong county structure falling in the middle. For instance, more State-administered agencies (43%) had specialized staff compared to county-administered agencies (21%), and State-administered agencies with strong county structure (31%). A greater proportion of State-administered agencies with strong county structure (28%) used staff on an as-needed basis compared to State-administered agencies (12%) or county-administered agencies (13%). A higher proportion of county-administered agencies (48%) used staff in both functions than State-administered agencies (39%) and State-administered agencies with strong county structure (36%), (Table 7-3).

Table 7-3:
Screening/Intake and Alternative Response by Agency Structure
Staff State-administered County-administered State-administered with a strong county structure
Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent Estimate
(C.I.)
Percent
Different workers for screening/intake and other response 330
(230-430)
43% 120
(60-180)
21% 100
(30-180)
31%
When needed, an intake worker can conduct an other response, or an other response worker can conduct screening/intake 90
(30-150)
12% 70
(30-110)
13% 90
(30-160)
28%
Workers routinely conduct both screening/intake and other response 300
(220-380)
39% 270
(210-340)
48% 120
(30-220)
36%
Other 40
(<1-80)
5% 80
(40-120)
14% 20
(<1-40)
5%
No Response -- -- 20
(0-40)
4% -- --
Total 760
(640-870)
100% 570
(480-660)
100% 550
(350-750)
100%
X2 = 21.107, p < 0.01