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April 2014Vol. 15, No. 4Differential Response in Illinois

In 2009, the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response selected three research and demonstration sites to implement and evaluate differential response (DR). As one of the sites, Illinois conducted an experimental design study in which families with screened-in maltreatment reports who met the State's eligibility for DR services were randomly assigned to the treatment group (DR) or the control group (investigation response). A total of 7,584 families participated in the study, with 41 percent of those assigned to the DR group and 59 percent assigned to the investigation response (IR) group.

The study team used three primary sources of data: administrative data from the Illinois Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS), case-specific reports completed by workers, and surveys completed by families. The following are examples of the study's findings:

  • Parent perceptions and child protective services: Parents in the DR group were more likely than parents in the IR group to feel hopeful, comforted, encouraged, and thankful after the initial worker visit and were less likely to feel angry, worried, stressed, disrespected, and discouraged.
  • Service provision: DR cases typically lasted longer than IR cases, and families in the DR group were more likely to report that the type and amount of services they received were enough to help them.
  • Cost analysis: The overall cost of DR cases (initial visit and follow-up) was much lower than the overall cost of IR cases.

Differential Response in Illinois: Final Evaluation Report is available on the Children and Family Research Center website: (6 MB)