• November 2011
  • Vol. 12, No. 8

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States Share Promising Practices in Regional Call

In a first-of-its-kind phone call in early August, North Carolina and Pennsylvania State staff related information about their child welfare safety programs, while administrators from 10 other States listened in to take notes and identify strategies that might be useful in their own States. The call was organized by Children's Bureau staff in Regions III and IV and was designed to facilitate peer-to-peer information sharing in a structured and brief format.

North Carolina kicked off the presentation with a description of the State's multiple response system (MRS) program. Holly McNeill (MRS Policy Consultant) and Patrick Betancourt (MRS Program Coordinator) traced the decision to implement the MRS program to the findings from North Carolina's first Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) report in 2001, which indicated that the State needed to make systemic child welfare improvements. While the State had contemplated the use of differential response in the past, the CFSR findings spurred State staff into action. The MRS program, which included many elements of differential response, was introduced as a pilot program in 10 counties in 2002. By 2006, all 100 counties in the State were using MRS.

MRS is a reform of the State's child welfare system, based on principles of partnership and family-centered practice. Seven strategies were identified to bring about this reform—from the time a family enters the system through closure, whether that closure comes from completion of a Family Services Agreement, reunification, or adoption:
1.    Choice of two tracks for reports of maltreatment—traditional investigation or family assessment
2.    Collaboration between the Work First and child welfare systems
3.    Strengths-based structured intake
4.    Collaboration with law enforcement
5.    In-home services that are individualized
6.    Child and family team meetings throughout the life of the case
7.    Shared parenting between birth and foster parents

In sharing their positive experiences with the MRS program, Ms. McNeill noted, "We went from a system that did CPS to families to a system that did CPS with families."

Pennsylvania staff related their experiences with the State's Safety Assessment and Management Process (SAMP), which has been implemented for in-home cases and eventually will be implemented for out-of-home cases and for youth in congregate care across the State. Cindi Horshaw (Director of Program Policy) and Bryle Zickler (Program Specialist) described SAMP as an assessment process that involves four phases: safety assessment, safety analysis, safety decision, and safety plan and management.

The National Resource Center for Child Protective Services helped Pennsylvania develop the first SAMP, which was designed for in-home cases. One of the challenges that the State experienced was an initial lack of buy-in from workers. Therefore, when the State decided to implement SAMP with out-of-home cases, staff held focus groups and solicited input from workers, families, and other stakeholders to introduce the process more slowly and to promote inclusion and collaboration. 

Over the past couple of years, Pennsylvania has seen a decrease in the number of children entering foster care.  Many workers using the in-home SAMP have reported improved decision-making during the initial phases of the casework process because of the in-home SAMP, and the SAMP makes it easier to refer families to community services early in the process. Some of the decrease in the number of children entering foster care may be attributed to this. It is also important to note that many other initiatives occurred in Pennsylvania at the same time as the SAMP implementation that are likely to have contributed to the decrease in the number of children entering foster care. 

In response to the question, "Has SAMP made Pennsylvania children safer?" Ms. Horshaw noted, "We think so! SAMP helps workers ask the right questions, gather the right information, and make better decisions."

To find out more about North Carolina's MRS program, visit the website:

To read about Pennsylvania's SAMP, refer to The Safety Assessment and Management Process Reference Manual:

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