Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

26P Do Post-Investigation Services Reduce Re-Referral?

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
James D. Simon, MSW, Ph.D. Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Jeremy Gibbs, MSW, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Devon Brooks, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Objective: The present secondary data analysis was conducted to examine how different levels of engagement in community-based services (CBS) impact post-investigation outcomes related to child safety and permanency and to examine whether these outcomes vary by level of engagement and child ethnicity. Method: This study compared the outcomes of children whose families received CBS according to their level of engagement. The sample for the analysis consisted of 21,292 children of families who had a first child protection service (CPS) investigation for suspected maltreatment between July 2006 and April 2011. The families fell into one of the following three ethnic groups: African American (22%), Caucasian (12%), and Latino (66%) and were classified by their level of engagement in services, mainly: not engaged (72%), enrolled only (7%), partially engaged (15%), or fully engaged (6%). Administrative data provided by local CPS were used to measure four outcomes following the initial investigation for suspected maltreatment. Those outcomes include (1) re-referral for suspected maltreatment, (2) substantiated maltreatment, (3) case opening by the local CPS agency, and (4) child placement in out-of-home care. Chi-square analyses were conducted in order to determine statistically significant differences and associations between LOE, ethnicity, and outcomes. Statistically significant variables were included in a logistic regression for each post-investigation outcome. Results: Results show that half of the children studied were re-referred following an initial investigation (n=10,980). Of these re-referred children, 25% (n=2,640) had a substantiated re-referral disposition (12% of the entire sample), 77% (n=2,026) had a case opened, and approximately 56% of the children with open cases were removed from their homes; this represents roughly 5% of the initial sample. When examining the impact of participation in CBS using bivariate analyses, results indicate that level of engagement was significantly associated with all four CPS outcomes varied by child ethnicity. Higher levels of engagement were significantly associated with fewer re-referrals for suspected maltreatment. With respect to the remaining outcomes, children whose families were fully engaged in CBS had the lowest percentage of substantiations, case openings, and the placements. When examining the impact of ethnicity on outcomes, Latino children were found to have a lower rate of re-referral when compared to African American children and Caucasian children were found to have a higher rate of substantiated maltreatment when compared to Latino and African American children. Ethnicity was neither significantly associated with case opening nor child placement at the bi-variate level. When comparing the children whose families received no CBS services (those who were not engaged) while controlling for ethnicity, fully engaged families consistently had a reduced likelihood of re-referral, maltreatment substantiation, case opening, and out-of-home placement. Conclusions/Implications: The results of the analysis suggest that providing post-investigation, community based services after an initial CPS investigation can potentially enhance the safety and permanency of at-risk children. Though there were benefits for all CBS children, they were greatest for children whose families were fully engaged in services.