Monday, June 22, 2009

Differential Response

At my office staff meeting last week, my boss mentioned that he was going to a meeting hosted by our child welfare agency about Differential Response. It made more sense for one of my co-workers to go with him, but he knows that I'm interested in child welfare, so he offered me the opportunity to go. I pointed out that it would just be for my own personal enrichment, and that my going wouldn't really add value to the office, but I still got to go.

It was definitely interesting to learn about Differential Response and the benefits that it can have for kids and families (even though from a short-term resource usage perspective, it looks like it potentially could require a realignment of agency resources as well as a diversion of resources from other families that don't have hotline calls about them). And then because I'm picky about things like this, it was interesting to see that the Agency Director had written out his introductory remarks, even though he was speaking only to other agency directors. I could tell that he was reading his remarks.

Most interesting, however, were the data. Agency Director provided May's CPS data. I left my notes at work, so this is approximate, but that's better so that you can't find me. (This is why I didn't earlier post the exact number of licensed foster homes in my jurisdiction. I'd learned it from the newspaper, so you could easily figure it out. And I'm super antsy about anonymity, since I don't actually self-censor very well.) In May, there were over 1000 hotline calls. More than 600 of those were investigated. I don't recall how many of the 600 were substantiated. 330-some were neglect cases. This was all very overwhelming for me, as I realized how many investigators there must be in CPS, but also as I realized that there are more substantiated abuse and neglect cases each month than there are licensed foster homes in my Big City. Obviously not all substantiated cases result in out of home placement. Still. That's a LOT of abuse and neglect. I'm hopeful that implementing Differential Response will help families more than the current system.


  1. Um... okay, just call me dumb. But what is Differential Response?

    I suppose I could go look it up...

  2. No, no, you're right. I shouldn't have been lazy when posting. Edited with a link to an explanation. Basically, what it means is that instead of investigating every case that isn't just screened out, there is another level of screening, and the more severe cases will get investigated (with all that entails, such as finding that could land a parent on a child protection registry that could harm employment possibilities until forever, court involvement, mistrust) -- such as sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, multiple reports -- while the other cases get a comprehensive assessment, services, and the like with it all being voluntary and doesn't have the stigma or other negative consequences that a formal investigation has.