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


State policies indicated that a decision protocol for forwarding cases for investigation was applied to the majority of cases. In 29 States (56.9%) there was one approach to decision making across cases. Of these States, 13 primarily relied upon the worker's decision with supervisor approval; 2 relied on the worker alone making the decision; 7 relied upon the supervisor making the decision; 5 relied upon a joint worker and supervisor decision; and 2 had other protocols.

In the majority of the remaining States, there were different protocols related to different case circumstances. For example most investigations might be decided by only the worker, unless the case was considered to be marginal, or the supervisor might review specific types of cases. Examples included screened-out cases, referrals for special service needs, immediate response referrals, cases where eligibility is in question, or cases where a mandated reporter makes reports.

In some cases, State policies described a procedure that fell into the "other" category. These "other" cases generally involved joint decisionmaking processes by two different child protection entities. Examples of different configurations of decisionmaking processes included:

  • A hotline operator makes the decision and a supervisor assigns a priority;
  • Quality assurance (QA) reviews are done for two samples of cases--one by a supervisor and one by a QA unit; workers' decisions may be overridden;
  • Supervisors review cases involving very young children or screened-out reports;
  • Joint decisionmaking between the State and the county, with the State having the final responsibility;
  • Decision to forward a case is made by a multidisciplinary team;
  • Cases in which a response priority is downgraded requires administrator approval;
  • Decision to forward is made by a child protective services counselor with supervisor approval; and
  • When a worker and supervisor disagree on whether or not to substantiate, a final decision is made by the district director or assistant district director.

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