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February 2010Vol. 11, No. 1Survey Examines States' Differential Response

A snapshot of the differential response practices, models, and child protective services (CPS) structures currently in use across the country is presented in a new publication, Online Survey of State Differential Response Policies and Practices Findings Report. The report, prepared by the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR), presents the results of a web-based survey that looked at the degree to which States have implemented differential response (DR) models in their child protection services.

The survey was conceived as a follow-up to a 2006 study conducted by American Humane and the Child Welfare League of America. This earlier study identified the following core elements of the DR model:

  • CPS uses more than one discrete response.
  • Multiple responses are available for reports of maltreatment that are screened in and accepted.
  • A pathway assignment is determined by the presence of imminent danger, level of risk, and existing legal requirements.
  • Families can be reassigned to different pathways in response to findings from initial investigation or assessment.
  • The establishment of multiple responses is codified in statute, policy, and/or protocols.
  • Families in the assessment pathway may refuse services without consequences, as long as child safety is not compromised.
  • There is no formal determination of maltreatment for families in an assessment pathway, and services may be offered to such families without any such determination.
  • No person in an assessment pathway can be listed as a child maltreatment perpetrator in the State’s central registry.

The questions in the survey looked at the reasons States implemented DR, funding of DR programs, and the extent to which a State's DR program incorporated the elements identified in the national study.
Completed surveys from 40 States and jurisdictions revealed that 18 States had implemented a DR model. Overall, States with self-defined DR appear to be incorporating the core elements of a DR model as identified in the 2006 national study. These DR models include the following:

  • A separate pathway for screened-in and accepted reports of child maltreatment
  • Assignment to an alternate pathway(s) based on the level of risk and/or case characteristics.
  • Codification by law in most States and evident in policy and protocols in nearly all States

The questions used in the survey are included in an appendix. The report is available online: (374 KB)