National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts: Site Visits Report . Organizational and Administrative Changes


Several of the site visits provided detailed information on specific changes related to philosophy of service, organizational and functional structuring of work, training, and staffing. Some of these changes have affected the operations of the entire agency, while others have had more limited impact.

Many agencies reported having undertaken broad-based changes regarding their philosophy of service. For example, Fairfax County, Virginia, Utah County, Utah, and Ventura County, California, implemented changes to the overall philosophy of their programs to emphasize the provision of family-focused and family-friendly approaches to services.

Specific changes to the screening function were noted for Ventura County, California, which had contracted with a private agency to conduct screening. In La Crosse County, Wisconsin, paraprofessional screeners received primary referral information; casework supervisors reviewed the information and made the decision to investigate or not. Staff in Butler County, Pennsylvania, also addressed screening by implementing a specialized screening unit in order to help improve the consistency of screening decisions rather than having this function performed by the staff who also conducted investigations.

Additional specialization of functions was reported by Butler County, Pennsylvania, and Union County, Florida. In Butler County, Pennsylvania, a single, dedicated investigator handled all sexual abuse cases, which was thought to be critical because of the special expertise needed for these types of cases. The dedicated investigator also became part of a joint police and CPS investigative team. Similarly, the Union County, Florida, agency recently separated its generic CPS units into investigative and ongoing services units.

Other types of specialized staffing changes included those undertaken by Catawba County Department of Social Services, North Carolina, Ventura County, California, and Fairfax County, Virginia. Catawba County created a half-time position for a family group conferencing coordinator; Ventura County reformulated its use of public health nurses who were part of the investigation units to re-emphasize their roles as nurses rather than acting as CPS investigators. Fairfax County planned to create a child custody intervention team to reduce the amount of time spent on allegations that were part of child custody cases.

In some sites, there was a different direction of change. Fairfax County, Virginia, integrated investigation and ongoing support functions. Staff members served on a team to improve continuity between intake and ongoing services. Further, these combined services units were moved into satellite offices in order to better meet community and family needs. Similarly, La Crosse County, Wisconsin, decided to make all CPS workers generic workers who would share responsibility for intake, investigation, and case management. Many agencies commented on the need for new training for workers as change has been implemented.

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