Differential response, also called alternative response, encourages community agencies to participate in supporting families who are considered low risk, allowing child protection services to focus on the more serious cases in which abuse and neglect have been confirmed. This approach recognizes that variations in families' needs and strengths require different approaches. Assessments are done to help agencies develop strategies for identifying child and family needs and concerns and tailor its response accordingly. Resources include State and local examples.
Child Welfare Information Gateway
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Differential Response in Child Protective Services
National Conference of State Legislators (2019)
Provides a statutory analysis of the major provisions identified in State differential response legislative enactments in those States.
Differential Response and the Safety of Children Reported to Child Protective Services: A Tale of Six States (PDF - 768 KB)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of Human Services Policy (2016)
Discusses results from a study that sought to determine whether children who have higher rates of alternative response are more or less likely to be rereported to protective services and/or confirmed to have been victims of subsequent abuse or neglect.
Alternative Response Resource Guide (PDF - 857 KB)
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (2018)
Provides information for caseworkers and supervisors working with families who are eligible for alternative response. The guide discusses ways caseworkers can work collaboratively with the family while keeping child safety paramount.
An Alternative Response to Child Protection in Nebraska (PDF - 718 KB)
Voices for Children in Nebraska (2017)
Explains how Nebraska has reformed policy and practice to allow for a more collaborative response that meets the individual needs of families when the risk to children is deemed to be low to moderate.
Differential Response Program
Colorado Department of Human Services (2019)
Assesses children for safety through family and community partnerships and collaborates with families to facilitate behavioral change. The organizational processes and practices contained within the differential response are also explained.