In December 2009, the State of Illinois was selected by the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR) as one of three sites to implement and evaluate Differential Response (DR). This report presents the final findings of the outcome evaluation and cost analysis, which compared the newly implemented family assessment child protective services (CPS) response (known as "DR" in Illinois) to the traditional investigation response to answer three research questions: 1) How is the assessment response different from the investigation response in terms of family engagement, caseworker practice, and services provided? 2) Are children whose families receive an assessment response as safe as or safer than children whose families receive an investigation? 3) What are the cost and funding implications to the child protection agency of the implementation and maintenance of a differential response approach? The report provides an overview of the development and proliferation of Differential Response over the past two decades, summarizes previous research, and provides descriptions of both the traditional investigation response (IR) and the new differential response (DR). A description of the research design and data collection instruments is offered. Findings are presented that compare the two CPS responses (IR and DR) with regard to parent engagement and satisfaction; service provision; child safety and family well-being; and costs per-case. Download
In December 2009, following a competitive application process, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was selected as one of three research and demonstration sites funded by the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR) to implement Differential Response (DR). Based on the Children and Family Research Center's extensive knowledge and experience in evaluating child safety and child protective services (CPS) practice, CFRC Director Tamara Fuller was asked to write the grant application to the QIC-DR and serve as the lead evaluator for Illinois' Differential Response four-year research and demonstration project.
Differential Response, which was implemented statewide in Illinois on November 1, 2010, allows DCFS to take a more flexible, supportive approach to helping families in need. Child protection systems that employ a Differential Response approach offer both traditional investigations as well as a less adversarial, assessment-based alternative to families reported for child abuse and neglect, depending on the severity of the allegation and other considerations. The introduction of Differential Response was driven by a desire to: recognize that an adversarial focus is neither needed nor helpful in all cases; understand better the family issues that lie beneath the maltreatment reports; and engage parents more effectively to use services that address their specific needs.
Recent reforms in child protection systems (CPS) in several countries have placed an increased emphasis on engaging parents in the initial assessment and service planning process. CPS workers, however, face multiple barriers to successful engagement with parents, including parents' preconceived notions of CPS and their subsequent fearful or angry responses to the initial visit. This qualitative study sought input from 40 parents involved in CPS regarding the strategies that workers used to successfully engage them in the child protection intervention. Three major themes about worker skills emerged from the analysis of the interview transcripts: parents were more positively engaged with CPS workers who they perceived as competent, who utilized positive communication skills, and who provided them with either emotional or concrete support. These findings have clear implications for CPS worker training; especially for CPS agencies that do not require CPS workers to have social work degrees. Additional implications for CPS agencies, such as the need for realistic worker caseloads and effective community outreach, are discussed.
Family perspectives are often overlooked when data is collected in child welfare proigram evaluations. To elicit the family voice from caregivers involved with Child Protective Services in Differential Response systems in Illinois, Colorado, and Ohio, the evaluators designed and administered a family exit survey. This presentation, given at the 7th Annual Conference on Differential Response in Child Welfare, describes the instrument development process and presents preliminary findings. The presentation also focuses on special considerations when collecting data from child welfare populations, including the importance of cognitive testing and strategies for enhancing response rates. Finally, results of a qualitative study with families conducted in Illinois are presented. Download
Presented at the 2012 Family Impact Seminar and Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) annual conference. As more and more states adopt Differential Response and other front-end child welfare system reforms, it is important to stay informed of the current evidence base for these practices. This presentation reviews the most recent evidence on the effectiveness of Differential response in relationship to: family engagement and satisfaction, service delivery, repeat maltreatment, family functioning and well-being, and cost-effectiveness. The importance of continued rigorous evaluation of Differential Response is emphasized. Download
This report summarizes information on the implementation of Differential Response (DR) in Illinois by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as of July 1, 2011. The State of Illinois is one of three sites selected by the Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR) to implement and evaluation a DR program, and the only one of the three to implement DR statewide. The Illinois Site Visit Report examines the exploration and adoption phases of DR implementation in Illinois; provides a detailed description of the DR program that was developed; presents findings on the fidelity of DR practice to the program described in policy and statute; and assesses the core competency and organizational drivers used in the first year of project development. Information for this report was collected through three primary methods: (1) document review, including legislation, rules, procedures, protocols, and contracts; (2) statewide focus groups with both workers and supervisors who provided DR services and conducted child protective investigations; and (3) individual interviews and a focus group with key informants critical to DR implementation and program development. Download
This executive summary provides a brief summary of the full Differential Response 2011 Site Visit Report. It includes an overview of the DR Program that was implemented statewide in Illinois on November 1, 2010. It also summarizes findings from the site visit data collection that occurred in June 2011. The Illinois Site Visit Report examines the exploration and adoption phases of DR implementation in Illinois; provides a detailed description of the DR program that was developed; presents findings on the fidelity of DR practice to the program described in policy and statute; and assesses the core competency and organizational drivers used in the first year of project development. Download
In November 2010, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services implemented a Differential Response (DR) approach to child protective services. The Department was also selected as one of three site funded to conduct of rigorous evaluation of the implementation and outcomes of DR, and the Children and Family Research Center was selected as the local site evaluator. This brief describes the Differential Response program that was implemented in Illinois and provides an overview of the comprehensive evaluation. Download
Despite being a central concept of most family-centered service interventions, including Differential Response, very little is known about the best ways to engage families in child welfare services. The small amount of literature that exists typically focuses on engaging families in mental health or substance abuse treatment, rather than the mandated or involuntary services often provided by child welfare. What little evidence has been collected within child welfare points to very low or uneven levels of parent engagement, even within interventions designed to encourage parent participation. This presentation highlighted the results of a qualitative study of family engagement strategies used by both DR caseworkers and investigators in Illinois. Individual interviews were conducted with approximately 40 caregivers who provided in-depth accounts of their experiences and responses. Responses were transcribed and analyzed to reveal those strategies that were most effective (and least effective) in making families feel engaged. Download
This study tries to understand families' existing stressors at the case opening in DR in Illinois. It presents the amount and types of stressors families have at the case opening in DR based on phone surveys with caregivers in Illinois DR. Download
The State of Illinois implemented Differential Response (DR) on November 1, 2010, and is rigorously evaluating both the implementation process and the intended and unintended outcomes of the intervention. The DR evaluation is comprehensive, including multiple surveys, focus groups, interviews, and administrative data collection. The amount of time and effort required of such evaluation can be a burden on front-line staff, who are often called upon to help with the data collection. This presentation, given at the four regional Differential Response summits in April 2010, explained the importance of evaluation and the valuable information that will result from careful data collection efforts. Download
This presentation describes the lessons learned from the first year of statewide implementation of Differential Response in Illinois. Highlights from the lessons learned included the importance of engaging key stakeholders in a collaborative planning process in determining program design; recognizing the role of core implementation drivers in establishing a successful model; modifying and utilizing SACWIS for effective data collection; and designing a statewide randomized control trial to inform both child protection policy and practice. Presented at the Fifth Annual Conference on Differential Response in Child Welfare, Anaheim, CA, November 10, 2010. Download
Differential response (DR) is a promising child welfare reform being rigorously evaluated in a number of states using random control trials (RCT). This workshop will present work from ongoing and recently completed RCT evaluations of DR. Issues covered will include: modifications to child welfare administrative data systems to accommodate random assignment, tracking cases, and DR data collection; developing complementary non-administrative data resources for evaluation; data design for cross-site comparisons; and successful strategies for promoting cooperative work between SACWIS staff, evaluators, and program personnel. Presented at the 13th National Child Welfare Data and Technology Conference, Washington DC, July 20, 2010. Download