- » Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect
Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect
Series: Issue Briefs|
Child Welfare Information Gateway. |
|Year Published: 2008|
Issue briefs include a review of research and policies to bring together current information with examples of promising practices.
During the past several decades, child protective services (CPS) agencies have been challenged by large volumes of child abuse and neglect reports, growing caseloads involving increasingly complex problems, and limited resources (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997; Shusterman, Hollinshead, Fluke, & Yuan, 2005). At the same time, there has been growing recognition that "one size does not fit all" in responding to child maltreatment reports. As a result, State and local CPS agencies have introduced significant reforms to child protection systems. One such reform is differential response, in which CPS agencies offer both traditional investigations and assessment alternatives to families reported for child abuse and neglect, depending on the severity of the allegation and other considerations.
The introduction of differential response has been driven by the desire to:
- Be more flexible in responding to child abuse and neglect reports
- Recognize that an adversarial focus is neither needed nor helpful for all cases
- Understand better the family issues that lie beneath maltreatment reports
- Engage parents more effectively to use services that address their specific needs
This issue brief provides an overview of differential response and highlights lessons learned through research and experience. The brief was written primarily for child welfare administrators and policymakers, particularly those who may be considering implementation or expansion of differential response. It also may be useful to CPS caseworkers, community partners who work with vulnerable children and families, and others interested in strategies to improve child protection.
Table of Contents
1. Defining Differential Response
2. Why the Growing Interest in Differential Response?
3. Experience in the Field
4. Evaluation Findings
5. Opportunities for Improving Child Welfare Practice
6. Guiding Principles for Implementation
For More Information
This issue brief reflects a review of selected research efforts and recent literature on differential response. A list of references and other resources is presented at the end of the brief. To highlight key issues, this brief draws from a few sources in particular:
- Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) and Children's Bureau reports from the National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts (Literature Review, Review of State CPS Policy, and Findings from Local CPS Practices) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001, 2003a, & 2003b)
- National Study on Differential Response in Child Welfare, published jointly by American Humane and the Child Welfare League of America (Merkel-Holguin, Kaplan, & Kwak, 2006)
- Differential Response in Child Welfare, a special issue of the American Humane journal, Protecting Children (Merkel-Hoguin, L., Ed., Volume 20, Numbers 2 & 3, 2005)
- Mallon & Hess' (Eds.) book, Child Welfare for the Twenty-First Century: A Handbook of Practices, Policies, and Programs (2005)
- National Child Welfare Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice's Spring 2001 issue of Best Practice, Next Practice (Schene, 2001)
- ASPE study summarizing Alternative Responses to Child Maltreatment: Findings from NCANDS (Shusterman, et al., 2005)
This issue brief was developed by Child Welfare Information Gateway, with contributions from Patricia Schene, Ph.D., of Patricia Schene and Associates, LLC. This document is made possible by the Children's Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The conclusions discussed here are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views or policies of the funding agency.
Suggested Citation: Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2008). Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.