Differential Response Approach: An Analysis of Sta

Differential Response Approach in Child Protective Services: An Analysis of State Legislative Provisions

September 2010

This report was prepared by NCSL Children and Families Program staff Nina Williams-Mbengue (primary author), Kyle Ramirez-Fry (research and legislative tracking) and Kelly Crane (research and writing).

A number of States have authorized a “differential response” approach for child protective services (CPS). The approach allows CPS to respond differently to accepted reports of child abuse and neglect allegations, based on factors such as the type and severity of the maltreatment, number and sources of previous reports, and willingness of the family to participate in services. The National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR) describes core elements of differential response systems:

  1. Use of two or more discrete response pathways for cases that are screened in and accepted;

  2. Establishment of discrete response pathways is codified in statute, policy or protocol;

  3. Pathway assignment depends on an array of factors, such as the presence of imminent danger, level of risk, number of previous reports, source of the report, and/or presenting case characteristics, such as the type of alleged maltreatment and the age of the alleged victim;

  4. Original pathway assignment can change, based on new information that alters risk level or safety concerns;

  5. Services are voluntary in a non-investigative pathway;

    1. Families can choose to receive the investigation response or     
    2. Families can accept or refuse the offered services if there are no safety concerns;
  6. Families are served in a non-investigative pathway without a formal determination of child maltreatment; and,

  7. The name of the alleged perpetrator is not entered into the central child abuse registry for those individuals who are served through a non-investigative pathway.

Lawmakers in Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming have enacted measures authorizing or requiring the child welfare agency to consider or implement differential response approaches that meet the criteria described above.

This report, prepared for the QIC-DR, provides a statutory analysis of the major provisions identified in State differential response legislative enactments in those States. It is intended to present information for State policymakers, State child welfare agency administrators and others on the scope of State legislative activity around differential response as a component of the QIC-DR’s comprehensive needs assessment. It is hoped that this will be valuable information for policymakers and others seeking information and guidance on important statutory elements to consider for inclusion in legislation, policy and programs related to differential response.

The analysis is divided into 10 sections, corresponding to the 10 major provisions (described in the next section of this report) identified by National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) staff through a thorough review of the legislation. Each section discusses the provision and relevant policy implications. Following the analysis, the report presents a list of key questions for policymakers’ consideration when crafting differential response legislation.

To read the full report, click here.

Click here to view state enacted legislation around the Differential Response Approach. 


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