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February 2010Vol. 11, No. 1A Curriculum for Differential Response

The California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC) at the University of California at Berkeley has developed Differential Response and Alternative Response in Diverse Communities: An Empirically Based Curriculum, intended for title IV-E graduate social work education programs and for the continuing education of child welfare agency staff. Students and staff learn about problems with the traditional child protective services (CPS) screening and referral process and the potential benefits of differential response.

In California, differential response offers a more tailored response for families reported to CPS, especially those families who would be screened out but might benefit from community and/or child welfare services. The CalSWEC curriculum describes the application of this approach in Contra Costa and Alameda counties and outlines the implications for policy and practice. The goals and objectives of the curriculum are based on the CalSWEC Curriculum Competencies for Public Welfare, and each module includes an instructional guide and questions for classroom discussion.

The curriculum's module on practice issues explores provider strategies and lessons learned regarding all aspects of differential response services, including client engagement and provision of social support, providing referrals to community resources, and helping to meet basic needs. Another module examines how to assess diverse communities for their readiness for differential response and includes information about racial disproportionality in child welfare, cultural competence, and case studies of six neighborhoods in which differential response was introduced.

Differential Response and Alternative Response in Diverse Communities: An Empirically Based Curriculum, developed by Jill Duerr Berrick et al., is available on the CalSWEC website: (1.26 MB)