National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Review of State CPS Policy. Alternative Response


Just over half of the States had policies for an "alternative response" that did not involve conducting an investigation. These responses were typically applied to only a subset of referrals, and the options were not available statewide for many States. Most policies indicated that families served under alternative response would not be included in Central Registries. Indeed in some, a finding of maltreatment would not be made.

There was even greater variation in alternative response policies among States than in investigation policies, reflecting more discretion given to the worker. Eleven States specified that child safety was a purpose of the alternative response; nine States identified family preservation or strengthening as a purpose of the response. Only three States discussed the role of law enforcement in conducting an alternative response compared to almost all States including policy on involving law enforcement in investigations.

Current literature reveals that alternative response is by far the most visible domain of reform in CPS.6 From a policy perspective, the relative lack of specificity and the high degree of variation among States in the components of alternative response policy raise the issue of whether there should be a goal of reaching more consistent and explicit policy for this type of CPS response.

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