Research On Differential Response

The National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR) has released the final report from the Cross-Site Evaluation on Differential Response. Differential Response (DR) represents a different way of structuring a state’s child protective services system (CPS). DR allows CPS agencies to respond differently to child abuse and neglect based on the level of risk and needs of the family without compromising child safety. It is sometimes referred to as “dual track,” “multiple response system,” “alternative response,” and “family assessment response” in various jurisdictions. Lower risk cases may be directed to an alternate path while more serious cases will still be evaluated under the more traditional investigative response (IR).

The research represents the fourth major evaluation report coming out of the QIC-DR this year, following three individual site evaluation reports from Colorado, Illinois and Ohio. All of the reports are available on the website, under the “evaluation” tab. On Tuesday, July 29th from 12:00-1:30PM ET, Marc Winokur, Social Work Research Center, School of Social Work Colorado State University; Raquel Ellis, Westat; and Ida Drury, Colorado Department of Human Services, will be presenting a free webinar on the findings from their study of Differential Response in five counties in Colorado. Space is limited, so sign up early by visiting the website.

Part of the conclusion of the report states,

“In two of the three QIC-DR sites, the entire CPS system was impacted by the introduction of the new AR pathway. Most of the changes observed in Colorado’s and Ohio’s implementations of DR were not reserved for AR (alternate response) families, but rather the modifications became embedded into child welfare systems for all CPS families. The AR pathway, like the IR pathway, is guided by procedures and policies, and influenced by the skills and characteristics of caseworkers.

Although AR might be considered to be merely an alternative to IR, as its name implies, a fully implemented DR system may have deep impacts upon the community and its families; the CPS workforce; the policies, practices, and procedures guiding child protection casework; and the child welfare agency mandate. These impacts may not be solely in terms of different outcomes for those who have come to the attention of CPS, but rather may widen the reach and influence of CPS to other families who may be at risk or vulnerable. DR may indeed reshape the core mission of CPS.”

Some states have implemented their DR practices under more rigorous evaluation including the states of Ohio and Minnesota which included random control studies designs. There is no federal regulation or definitions as states implement this approach but the QIC-DR was a five year project funded by HHS and intended to help in that process.

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