National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts: Site Visits Report . Summary of Reform Trends


Site visits to local jurisdictions that were reforming their CPS systems identified several trends. Table 1–1, Summary of Site Reforms, provides a graphic summary of the main areas of change.

Understanding the impact of such changes on outcomes will require further evaluation. Many of the innovations are too young to be evaluated; others have not been evaluated for various reasons. In instances where changes are in different directions, it would be useful to have more systemic analysis of the impact of such reforms. For example, the relative merits of specialized versus generic staff providing CPS functions have been debated among CPS practitioners and managers since the inception of CPS, but have not been seriously evaluated.

County Organizational and Administrative Joint CPS and Law Enforcement Investigations Alternative Response and Other Approaches Changes in Working with Families Community Collaborations Attention to Domestic Violence Addressing Substance Abuse
Table 1–1:
Summary of Site Reforms
Brooks, GA   ü ü     ü  
Butler, PA ü ü     ü ü  
Catawba, NC ü ü   ü   ü  
Fairfax, VA ü   ü ü ü    
La Crosse, WI ü   ü   ü ü  
Ventura, CA ü     ü ü   ü
Union, FL ü ü     ü ü ü
Utah, UT ü     ü      

It is possible, however, to identify some impacts on the child welfare organization. Ventura County, California, for example, reduced turnover of line staff from 20 percent to 4 percent over a 2-year period. Those interviewed attributed this to better pay, ongoing training, support for workers in providing input to management, alternative work schedules, opportunities for advancement, and other factors.

Training and cross-training, when collaborations are involved, were reported to help sustain reform efforts because training helped staff to understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the goals of the reform efforts. Better pay was also cited as an assist in sustaining change — although it is not clear that it is sufficient without additional training. Ongoing support for workers was also reported to boost staff morale and commitment.

States and localities are motivated by several issues to reform CPS. States and localities are also being held more accountable for the interests of the community and to achieve desired outcomes for children. The Adoption and Safe Families Act requires States to move children through the system more rapidly to achieve permanency. At the same time, in some agencies caseloads are rising and many practitioners report that the number of cases with severely dysfunctional families continues to remain exceedingly high.

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