The first study examines the effects of DR systems in the prevention of child maltreatment and foster care entry in the U.S. using panel data from 2004-2016. The authors hypothesize that DR systems (a) increase the number of reports screened in by CPS agencies given dedicated service availability for low to moderate risk cases; (b) decrease child victims by diverting families from the investigatory track, and therefore, substantiation decisions; and (c) decrease foster care entries through diversion and preventive services receipt. Using difference-in-differences methods, and a series of robustness checks to test alternative explanations, they find that states with DR systems have experienced higher numbers of screened in reports but fewer neglect victims and fewer foster care entries when compared to states without DR systems.
The second study addresses child safety by examining whether differences in county AR utilization rates are associated with county-level rates of maltreatment re-reports. Using county data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) for six states from 2004-2013 and multilevel random-coefficients models, the authors examine (a) county-year overall re-report rates (combined AR and IR re-report rates); (b) county-year AR re-report rates; and (c) county-year IR re-report rates. In risk adjusted analysis, counties had three percent fewer re-reports overall for each percent increase in AR use, and higher levels of AR use were related to lower levels of re-reporting. When county AR and IR cases were analyzed separately, increasing rates of AR were associated with lower re-report rates for IR cases, but higher re-report rates for AR cases.
The third study examines the safety outcomes and child welfare costs of low- and moderate- risk families who were randomly assigned to either an IR or AR track in five Colorado counties. Results suggest DR implementation did not compromise the safety of children and did not impose an additional cost burden for the child welfare system of Colorado. However, the cost study results suggest that follow-up service and out-of-home placement costs for HRA cases were significantly higher than FAR cases.
The study authors discuss practice and policy implications for jurisdictions considering DR in light of the new findings from these three studies.