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


In policy, the overall goals of alternative response were to provide a response option to those families whose situations did not meet the mandate or criteria for CPS involvement, to serve low-risk or low-severity situations, or to ameliorate family situations. State policies also disqualified certain types of cases from receiving an alternative response, including those that involved criminal offenses, sexual abuse, or instances of significant physical injury or endangerment. (See table 5–C.)

The majority of these programs stipulated that family assessments should be conducted and services should be provided. (Responses were not mutually exclusive.)

  • Fourteen States (70.0%) stipulated in policy that family assessments were a part of the alternative response;
  • Thirteen States (65.0%) stipulated in policy that services were part of the response; and
  • Eight States (40.0%) mentioned that alternative response served also as early intervention with families.

Policy in some States gave direct guidance on the relation of the alternative response to the investigation response. Some examples are below.2

  • Four tracks (statewide):
    • Resource Linkage Track: Referrals do not meet screening criteria; worker links caller to a community resource, which may assist the caller in meeting the needs of the family;
    • Law Enforcement Track: For noncaretaker cases, worker can provide assistance, such as interviews of children and referrals to community resources;
    • FINSA Track (Family In Need of Services Assessment): Supervisor or designee uses the Level of Risk Matrix; cases must be low risk. Emphasis is on partnering with the family and community to establish a community network, family support system to meet the needs of the family and prevent future incidents; and
    • Investigation Track: For all moderate- or high-risk referrals. Emphasis is on obtaining evidentiary information to support disposition. In some cases, the finding may be “unable to locate.”
  • Three tracks (five counties):
    • Track A: Full service (assessment and evaluation by CPS worker for most severe indicators);
    • Track B: Safety check by CPS worker; and
    • Track C: Diversionary track—referral to community agency for response (low-risk cases). This track also includes family assessment and treatment.
  • Three tracks (statewide):
    • Investigation Track: Determines if abuse or neglect took place and provides interventions designed to stop abuse;
    • Prevention Track: For cases with no allegations of abuse or neglect, but with identified risk factors that indicate the need for services to prevent abuse or neglect; and
    • Assessment Track: Evaluates family strengths and needs. Assessment services determine whether there are safety issues, and provide services to increase their ability to resolve foreseeable risks to the child.

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