• March 2007
  • Vol. 8, No. 2

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How Alternative Response Systems Connect Families to Services

As part of the Assessing the New Federalism project, the Urban Institute recently published a study examining the ways families connect to services offered by alternative response (AR) systems in Kentucky and Oklahoma. These States initiated AR systems to meet the needs of families at low risk for child maltreatment. In place of full-scale investigations, families received strengths and needs assessments and referrals for services.

To better understand how families connected to services after referrals were made, researchers interviewed child welfare administrators, caseworkers, community services providers, and families in rural and urban counties in the two States. They focused on the procedures, structures, and relationships that govern the way agency workers assess needs, make referrals, and follow up with clients.

Four findings highlighted the challenges in connecting families to services through AR systems:

  • Connecting families to services was complex and not necessarily well planned by agencies; for instance, while guidelines often existed for assessments, there were fewer guidelines for referral and follow-up practices.
  • The exchange of information between agencies and service providers was often minimal.
  • Service networks had key gaps, and child welfare clients were not necessarily given priority.
  • Follow-up to see if families accessed services was rare.

The complete study, Families' Connections to Services in an Alternative Response System, by Erica H. Zielewski, Jennifer Macomber, Roseana Bess, and Julie Murray, is available on the Urban Institute website:

www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/311397_Families_Connections.pdf (282 - KB)

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