Differential response is a system reform that enables child protective services (CPS) to differentiate its response to reports of child abuse and neglect based on several factors. The CPS system selects the initial response (investigation or assessment) based on a number of factors. Differential response is an area of CPS reform also referred to as dual track, multiple track, or alternative response. Resources include State and local examples.
Community Factors in Differential Responses of Child Protective Services
McCallum & Cheng (2015)
Public Health Nursing, 33(2)
Child and Family Services Review Information Portal
Provides an overview of differential response system as part of the Understanding the Child Welfare System e-learning module
The Differential Response Implementation Resource Kit (PDF - 1,526 KB)
Casey Family Programs (2014)
Provides information on the differential response implementation processes of jurisdictions across the United States. The toolkit includes additional tools and resources that can assist jurisdictions with their planning processes.
Differential Response in Child Protective Services
National Conference of State Legislators (2015)
Provides an overview of the core elements of differential response as well as an analyses of state differential response legislative enactments. The analysis is divided into 10 sections, with each section discussing a specific provision and relevant policy implications.
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 (2016)
Shares the findings of a study that sought to determine whether children in counties with higher rates of alternative response (AR) in their child welfare systems use are more or less likely to be re-reported to child protective services and and/or confirmed to have been victims of subsequent abuse or neglect. The study used data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System to examine differences in county AR utilization rates for the six States that used differential response systems from 2004 to 2013.
Special Issue: Differential Response (PDF - 436 KB)
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (2016)
APSAC Advisor, 28(2)
Focuses on the use of differential response (DR) in child welfare agencies throughout four articles. The first article focuses on the potential risks DR poses for children; the second article examines the legal framework of child protection in the United and the differences between DR and child protection investigation; the third article describes the experiences of Minnesota early adoption of DR and the formation of the Governor’s Task Force on Child Protection; and the article in the journal reports findings from a study explored track assignment patterns and re-report rates in 13 States operating DR programs.