The manifest and latent functions of differential response in child welfare

Ji, Daniel
Sullivan, Richard
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Year of Publication: 
Research on Social Work Practice 26(6): 641-652

Although previous research has explored the efficacy of differential response (DR) programs in child welfare, there have been no studies to date about coding decisions between designations by child protection service agencies. Research has explored client satisfaction with DR as well as rates of recidivism and removal/placement but with limited attention paid to the rationales behind coding decisions and recoding, once an initial designation pathway is assigned. This descriptive study uses data previously gathered by child protection social workers to qualitatively evaluate the fidelity of implementation of family development response (FDR) in British Columbia and the integrity of the program with regard to its stated objectives. Based on a random sample of intakes, decision-making fidelity to code as FDR or investigation (INV) was examined by exploring rationales behind coding at critical decision points and mechanisms for recoding during family involvement with child protective services. Subsequently, this study examined whether cases that had been coded as FDR differed substantially from INVs in terms of service provision, outcomes, and appropriateness of FDR for high-risk cases.

Type of Publication: 
Journal article
Canadian CW research