Community-based child abuse prevention: outcomes associated with a differential response program in Californiaedit
Traditionally, the American child welfare system intervenes in cases of evident and severe maltreatment. Families in need of help, but who have not reached a crisis, are excluded from typical services. Some suggest that if these families were served, few would be rereferred to the child welfare system. California’s Differential Response (DR) has three tracks, of which ”Track 1” targets families screened out of child protective services (CPS) and refers them to agencies that provide voluntary, home-based services and referrals. This study examined child-welfare trajectories for families receiving Track 1 DR services in one California county. Using survival analysis, treatment group children (N = 134) were compared to children eligible for services but denied due to program capacity (comparison group N = 511). Findings suggest no statistically significant differences between groups on the likelihood of a re-report following program participation, timing of maltreatment reports, or report investigations. The ability to draw strong conclusions from this study, however, is limited by selection bias because prior child maltreatment reports were more common in the treatment group. The intervention may provide families with important supports, but evidence for maltreatment prevention may not be supported. Future studies should examine potential effects on a range of family domains.