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


The majority of States specified the use of risk and safety assessments as tools to guide decisionmaking on when and how to intervene to both keep children safe in the immediate future and to reduce long-term risk. Risk assessments have been used for a number of years to identify potential risks to a child that could result in harm at some point in the future. More recently, safety assessments have been developed to assess imminent risk of serious harm. State policies typically described using risk and safety assessments at more than one point during an investigation. (See tables 4-G and 4-H.)

  • Forty-two States (82.4%) specified the use of a risk assessment during an investigation;
  • Forty-two States (82.4%) specified the use of a safety assessment during an investigation; and
  • Thirty-five States (68.6%) specified both a risk and a safety assessment in policy.

Typically, risk and safety assessments were discussed in policy as being conducted as a part of the investigation. Some examples of other situations in which risk and safety assessments were specified included at case closure, during case planning, at any major decision point, or whenever circumstances suggest a child's safety is at risk. One difference between the use of an assessment for risk and safety was that the safety instrument seemed more likely to be used prior to reunification than the risk instrument. Some States had policies within the "other" category that defined timeframe requirements, such as safety must be assessed "within 7 days of a report," "within 24 hours after face-to-face contact," or "continuously through investigation."

In addition to the use of risk and safety assessments, 24 States (47.1%) identified the use of other standardized assessment requirements. (See table 4-I.) Most commonly used were family assessments focusing on family strengths and needs. Substance abuse evaluations were specifically mandated in three States.

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