• February 2006
  • Vol. 7, No. 1

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Alternative Response in Minnesota

Minnesota families who received an alternative response (AR) after being reported for child maltreatment showed more positive outcomes than those who received a traditional investigative response. AR—also called differential response—allows child welfare agencies to focus on family and child assessment and providing needed services rather than on investigation of maltreatment. AR is most commonly used in cases in which children are considered to be at lower risk or when maltreatment allegations are less severe.

Minnesota piloted its AR project in 2001, and an evaluation of outcomes in 14 counties is now available in an article by L. A. Loman and G. L. Siegel, "Alternative Response in Minnesota: Findings of the Program Evaluation." Researchers compared 2,860 families who received AR with 1,305 control families who received a traditional CPS investigation; site visits and surveys of CPS workers were also conducted.

A number of findings attest to the success of AR:

  • Child safety was not jeopardized in families who received AR.
  • Family engagement and cooperation were better among AR families.
  • AR families received more services and more types of services.
  • AR families were less likely to have a report of maltreatment recurrence.
  • Families who received AR were more positive about the services they received.
  • A majority of caseworkers expressed positive attitudes toward AR.
  • Overall costs were lower under AR than traditional CPS investigation.

Minnesota subsequently expanded its AR program statewide, and AR programs are also being implemented in other States.

This evaluation study is part of a special issue of American Humane's Protecting Children (Volume 20, Numbers 2 & 3) on Differential Response in Child Welfare.


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