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Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect
Series: Issue Briefs|
Child Welfare Information Gateway. |
|Year Published: 2008|
Differential response has been a positive development in child protection. Evaluations demonstrate that:
- Children are at least as safe as in traditional practice.
- Parents are engaging in services.
- Families, caseworkers, and administrators are supportive of the approach.
While past evaluations shed some light on the effectiveness of this reform, the field needs to continue collecting and analyzing data to improve understanding of how the practices associated with differential response affect outcomes for children and families. Questions for further research may include:
- How vulnerable to further maltreatment are children in families that do not voluntarily participate in services?
- Is there sufficient follow-up for families initially identified as low to moderate risk to prevent more serious situations from developing?
- By engaging parents more comprehensively in making sustainable changes, are children safer in the long term?
- How can States address infrastructure issues, such as worker caseloads and the availability of community resources, to support implementation of this approach?
- How does differential response affect the child welfare agency's ability and willingness to build and sustain partnerships with community agencies to support families?
Jurisdictions implementing differential response still face hurdles. For example, collaboration and coordination with other agencies and broader community stakeholders is an area likely to receive more attention as CPS shares more of the responsibility for the protection of children with local communities. In addition, limited resources—including services, supports, and time for caseworkers to facilitate connections to these resources—will be a continuing challenge.
Nonetheless, building from lessons learned, States and agencies continue to move forward, refining existing differential response systems and expanding into new jurisdictions. And, as they do, they draw upon flexible, family-centered practices and community resources to more effectively strengthen our nation's families and promote the safety and well-being of children.
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