National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Findings on Local CPS Practices. Variation by Administrative Structure

05/01/2003

Differences were examined across local agencies, based upon the administrative structure of CPS services.(4) In some States, the entire CPS program is managed by the State, while in other States, CPS is managed by county agencies. Three categories of agencies were studied--State-administered agencies, county-administered agencies, and State-administered agencies with strong county-level management structure.

Agencies in State-administered systems with a 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 such activities 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.

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 a strong county structure had specialized staff. Differences between State-administered agencies and county-administered agencies suggest 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.

In terms of the alternative response function, agencies in State-administered systems with strong county structure appeared more consistent in how they conducted alternative response than other types of agencies. These agencies had more required practices to perform before completing the alternative response.