National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Review of State CPS Policy. Accepting the Referral or Enlisting Another Agency


When a referral is received, a number of options may be defined in policy for appropriate action based on screening criteria. The three most common pathways specified as outcomes of the screening decision were for the case to be accepted for investigation, referred to another agency, or screened out. (See table 3-F.)

Forty-five States (88.2%) indicated that reports could be referred to other agencies. Examples of cases to be referred cases to outside agencies included:

  • Requests for information;
  • Report of maltreatment where the alleged perpetrator is not in a caretaking role;
  • Other service needs;
  • Case involves a criminal investigation;
  • Case does not pertain to child abuse or neglect; and
  • Agency receiving report does not have jurisdiction.

Thirty-two States (62.7%) indicated that a possible outcome of screening was to refer the case to another part of the child welfare agency. Criteria for referring cases to other child welfare units included:

  • Requests for information;
  • Service needs, but no safety issues; and
  • Reports that do not pertain to child abuse or neglect.

Twenty-two States (43.1%) had provisions for sharing case information with other agencies (most commonly law enforcement). Thirteen States (25.5%) identified the assignment of a case to an alternative response as an option at the point of screening. Nine States (17.6%) identified screening outcomes that fell into the "other" category, such as, insufficient information to identify the child or family, maltreatment types that do not fall within the child protection mandate, and identification of an Indian child.

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