Family Outcomes in Alternative Response: A Multilevel Analysis of Recurrence.

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Children and Youth Services Review

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Alternative response (AR) is preventative, family-centered, strengths-based approach within child protective services (CPS). When AR is offered it typically creates a two-track system where low- to moderate-risk families are not subjected to a traditional, fact-finding response that concludes with a determination of child abuse/neglect. One area that continues to concern child welfare administrators and researchers is recurrence, or when a family returns to CPS. Yet, it is unclear whether AR families have the same or different predictors of recurrence than TR families. Using a multilevel analytic approach, the present study followed 17,741 families in one mid-Atlantic state for 18-months post-response to determine what child, family, and county-level predicted a reported re-investigation and a substantiated re-investigation. We found few differences in predictors at the child and family level but found distinct differences at the county level for AR families. Recommendations are provided for policy, practice, and research, including a suggestion for further inquiry on what makes an optimal AR track.


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