What is Differential Response?
Differential response is a design for child welfare which allows for more than one way of response to reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. Differential Response is about assessing the needs of each family on an individual basis and offering services to meet those needs, it allows for greater flexibility in responding earlier and more meaningfully towards a collaborative helping process for families.
Why Differential Response?
Differential Response evolved out of the growing understanding that not all families need an investigative intervention to address child safety concerns. Earlier interventions that connect families with preventive, community based services can prevent further contact with the Child Welfare System. It also provides for a reconnection of the family to their community. The traditional investigative CPS response is used for the higher risk cases where significant state intervention is needed.
What are some key principles of Differential Response?
- Children are safer and families are stronger when communities work together
- Identifying family issues and stepping in early leads to better results than waiting until a family is in real crisis
- Families can more successfully resolve issues when they voluntarily engage in solutions, services and supports.
Why is Oregon proposing a Differential Response System?
Differential Response offers flexibility to tailor the child protection response to the needs and circumstances of the family, to collaborate with families early rather than waiting for serious harm to occur and to remove faultfinding in order to increase the possibility of parent engagement. The ultimate result will be child safety.
What are the goals of implementing a Differential Response System?
- Keeping kids safe at home, or in their communities
- Providing stronger preventive and family reunification services
- Decreasing the number of African-American and Native American kids in foster care
- Strengthening partnerships between child welfare agencies and community-based organizations
What are other terms for Differential Response?
It is also referred to as "dual track," multiple track, or alternative response."
Will all families benefit from a Differential Response System?
Yes. The ability of Child Welfare to select the most appropriate method of intervention will result in a more effective engagement with families. The approach applied to families with low-and moderate risk cases, and who have no immediate safety concerns will be added to the child welfare system. This approach will not require a formal determination or substantiation of child abuse or neglect and will focus on connecting families with community resources. Higher risk cases where child safety cannot be maintained without a greater intervention will receive an intervention that creates child safety and a formal determination of child abuse or neglect. In these cases, court intervention may be needed and placement of a child in foster care. All families, regardless of the track of intervention, will receive a comprehensive assessment.
What are some core components of Differential Response?
- The use of two or more different responses of intervention.
- The creation of multiple responses for reports of abuse or neglect that are screened-in and assigned for response.
- The capacity to re-assign families to a different pathway in response to findings from initial investigation or assessment. It is also possible that a family in the Differential Response pathway could be re-assigned back up to the traditional pathway if risk to the child is found to be higher than originally thought.
- Families may refuse services without consequence, as long as child safety is not compromised.
What are the core values of Differential Response in practice?
- Family engagement is essential for an effective intervention to keep children safe.
- Families are able to identify what they need to keep their children safe;
- Two or more response tracks increase the potential for productive engagement of families
- It isn't always necessary to label someone a "perpetrator" to protect children;
How does Senate Bill 964 complement Differential Response?
SB 964 Senate requires DHS and county partners to implement programs to provide family preservation and reunification services for children in the custody of DHS, with the goal of fostering collaboration across programs and resources to help children remain safely with their families and thereby reduce the number of Oregon children in foster care. These programs will provide services to all families involved with the child welfare system.
How many states have implemented a Differential Response System or Approach?
Twenty-two states have in part or fully implemented some form of Differential Response.