Decision-making and service recommendations in child protective services
Juliao Nunez, Mayra
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An examination of the CPS decision-making process is of great importance to child welfare practice because of the need to better understand factors affecting the recommendations for service made by CPS workers. This study explored the CPS worker's recommendations for services in child abuse and neglect situations (dependent variable) and its relationship to factors believed to influence these decisions---the personal characteristics of CPS workers; their degree of adherence to agency's policies and procedures and common practices, and workers' perceptions of clients' willingness to voluntarily cooperate with service (independent variables). Additional analyses focused on the level of certainty about the CPS situations and compared caseworkers and supervisors.;The study sought to answer four questions about factors believed to influence CPS services decisions and to test ten hypotheses (seven were related to workers' individual characteristics, two were related to agency factors, and one related to clients' factors) that were formulated as a result of an extensive literature review in child protective services and on the researcher's observations of CPS fieldwork. Of the seven workers' characteristics examined only age and ethnicity were found to relate to the levels of service recommendations. Of interest is the fact that older workers in contrast what had been anticipated, chose more severe actions for the simulated CPS situations in the study. The findings also showed that African American and Hispanic workers differ from White workers in the severity of service recommendations. African Americans and Hispanics showed a similar disposition to select the more severe types of service. Both of the hypotheses related to agency's factors, policies and procedures and common practice, presented in the null form were confirmed.;Important findings emerged from the analysis of level of certainty about the case situations and the comparison of supervisors and caseworkers. Level of certainty was found to have a strong influence on the services recommended by CPS workers. Interestingly, a comparison of supervisors and caseworkers showed no differences in terms of the severity of the services they recommend in CPS situations, and the factors that they consider influential to their decisions.;This investigation surveyed a sample of 150 New York City child protective services caseworkers and supervisors to obtain opinions and judgments about cases and situations typical of the work they do, a perspective rarely discussed in the literature. The dynamics and influences of the child protective system were examined from the point of view of two theoretical frameworks, the Street-Level Bureaucracy Theory and the Organizational Culture Theory. These concepts were used to guide and support the study.;This study differs from previous CPS studies in that it focuses on the CPS dynamics from two distinct perspectives: (1) how child protective legal mandates (in the form of policies and procedures) are operationalized by workers with different characteristics and work experiences; and (2) how the culture and processes of the organization affect workers' decisions. For these reasons, the findings of this study may be instrumental to the understanding of child welfare practice in other large systems.