TITLE OF BILL:
to amend the social services law, in relation to the differential
response programs for child protection assessments or investigations;
and to amend chapter 452 of the laws of 2007 amending the social
services law relating to establishing differential response programs for
child protection assessments or investigations, in relation to making
such provisions permanent
PURPOSE OF BILL:
This bill would make permanent legislation permitting social services
districts, with authorization from the Office of Children and Family
Services (OCFS), to utilize a differential response program for
appropriate reports of abuse and maltreatment, and would make New
York City eligible to participate in such program.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill would amend Social Services Law (SSL) § 427-a to
allow New York City to participate in the differential response
program, by removing the current limitation allowing only social
services districts outside a city with a population of two million or
more to participate in the program. This section also would amend
section § 427-a: to revise the one-time evaluation reporting
requirement, by requiring that OCFS report on the differential
response program on an ongoing basis in its annual report.
Section 2 of the bill would make SSL § 427-a permanent by eliminating
the program's expiration date of June 1, 2011.
Section 3 of the bill would provide for a June 1, 2011 effective date,
but would deem the bill to have been in full force and effect on that
date if enacted after June 1, 2011.
SSL § 424 requires the child protective service (CPS) of each social
services district to investigate reports of child abuse and
maltreatment that have been referred to the district by the Statewide
Central Register of Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). The investigation
must determine whether the allegations of abuse or maltreatment are
supported by some credible evidence, which leads to a finding by the
district that the report is either indicated or unfounded.
SSL § 427-a, enacted by Chapter 452 of the Laws of 2007, permits social
services districts outside New York City to implement a family
differential response (FAR) program for reports of child abuse and
maltreatment with authorization from OCFS. SSL § 427-a establishes
criteria to be used by social services districts in determining
whether a report shall be referred to
the FAR program, and prohibits reports containing certain serious
allegations of abuse and maltreatment from being referred to the FAR
program. OCFS was required to evaluate and report on the
implementation of the FAR pilot program by January 1, 2011, including
making a recommendation on continuing the program, and legislative
authorization for the FAR program, is set to expire on June 1, 2011.
This is a new bill.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT:
SSL § 427-a authorized OCFS to accept and approve a social services
district's application to use FAR on a portion of its CPS reports.
FAR is an alternative CPS response. In appropriate cases in which
there are no immediate safety concerns or high risk safety indicators,
FAR permits a social service district to conduct an assessment of the
family's needs and strengths rather than investigate the validity
of the allegations in a child abuse and maltreatment report. The
expectation of FAR is that families will be more likely to seek
necessary help when a less adversarial, less threatening, approach is
Child abuse and maltreatment reports vary significantly, particularly
in terms of alleged seriousness and the potential for immediate
danger. A traditional CPS response involves, among other things, an
investigation of the allegations made in the report and a
determination of whether the allegations are supported by some
credible evidence. For reports of alleged abuse or maltreatment that
appear to create immediate safety concerns or extremely high risk of
serious harm, the traditional CPS approach is necessary and
appropriate. For reports involving families with children where
immediate safety concerns and high risk safety indicators do not
exist, the likelihood of engaging families to seek any necessary help
increases when a less adversarial, less threatening, approach is
taken. FAR allows social services district to choose to use such an
OCFS requires that all participating workers and supervisors receive a
prescribed FAR training and coaching regimen, currently delivered by
the American Humane Association, the designated National Quality
Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective
Services. In addition, since FAR is another form of a child protective
response, all participating staff members are required to receive the
usual CPS training that all CPS staff receive, as required by the SSL
and OCFS regulations.
After approximately a year of planning and designing the program, six
social services districts chose to use FAR beginning in late 2008 and
early 2009. Since that time, 13 more social services districts have
voluntarily begun to use this approach for a portion of their CPS
maltreatment reports. A number of the current FAR districts are
looking to expand their use of FAR and other districts have expressed
interest in initiating FAR this year. OCFS submitted its required
evaluation and report on the implementation of FAR to the Governor
and Legislature on February 1, 2011. Children in families served by
FAR were found to be as safe as children served by the traditional
CPS approach in relation to new reports of child abuse or maltreatment.
Moreover, significantly fewer Family Court petitions were filed
against FAR families when compared with the control group.
Additionally, parents served by FAR in five initial pilot counties
reported being quite positive about the intervention. For example,
one parent explained that the caseworker was instrumental in helping
the family to stabilize. Case workers from twelve participating
counties were also surveyed. Significantly more FAR caseworkers than
traditional CPS workers reported providing referrals to neighborhood
organizations and self-help groups in order to help families meet
their basic needs
These results demonstrate that FAR has increased access to appropriate
services, especially for the basic family needs of food, housing, and
utilities. FAR has broadened the involvement of the community in
meeting family service needs by more often referring to
nontraditional service providers and self-help groups. Thus, FAR
results in families being served more holistically with referrals to
additional community supports that can help lessen stressors and
promote family and child well-being.
The preliminary results from New York regarding safety and increased
services are consistent with longer-term experimental studies of CPS
differential response systems in other states (Tony Loman, Ph.D,
Director of the Institute of Applied Research, St. Louis, MO.,
"Differential Response and Family Poverty - Evidence from
Evaluations," Presentation 11/09).
Moreover, in a rigorous five-year study conducted in Minnesota, which
involved random assignment of families to FAR or to a traditional CPS
response, it was found that FAR cost less than a traditional CPS
response over time. The average cost for a FAR family over a
multi-year period was $3,688, while the average cost for a family
receiving the traditional CPS response was $4,967. The cost for
serving families with the investigative approach was 35% higher
AR-study-family-response-MN.pdf). Accordingly, making
the FAR program permanent in New York and allowing New York City to
participate in the program has the potential to both improve services
to children and families and to reduce child welfare services costs.
Finally, because the bill would make this program permanent, it also
makes provision for regular inclusion of OCFS' reporting on
differential response programs in its annual report.
Effective December 2010, federal law requires, as a condition of
receiving federal funding, that the Child Abuse Prevention and
Treatment Act (CAPTA) State plan contain an assurance in the form of
a certification by the Governor of the state that: "the State has in
effect and is enforcing a State Law, or has in effect and is
operating a statewide program, relating to child abuse and neglect
that includes...triage procedures, including the use of
differential response, for the appropriate referrals of a child not
at risk of imminent harm to a community organization or voluntary
preventive service" 42 U.S.C. § 5106a(b)(2)(A)(v). Extension of FAR
and the inclusion of NYC would enable the State to meet this
requirement, and prevent to loss of approximately $1.4 million
received by the State under this federal program.
Moreover, OCFS will consider the availability of funds to provide
caseworker training and related programmatic administrative needs as
part of its approval process for new districts.
Based on the experience of other states that have implemented a
differential response for CPS reports, New York may realize savings
over the long term. For example, in a five-year study, Minnesota,
which has practiced a differential response program more extensively,
observed a 35% decrease in programmatic costs resulting primarily
from reduced out-of-home placements and decreased recurrence of
problematic cases. For the State, such savings would be realized in
the state share of CPS costs.
In addition, continuation of the FAR program would likely provide
relief to counties that elect to participate in the program. Social
services districts are responsible for investigating reports of child
abuse and maltreatment referred to the district by the SCR. The FAR
program gives districts the flexibility to use an alternate response
to low-risk maltreatment reports with authority and oversight from
OCFS if they choose. The legislation, therefore, expands the CPS
options of social services districts without mandating participation.
As noted above, other states that have implemented a differential
response for CPS reports have realized significant savings.
In New York, reduced foster care usage by FAR participant families
would be realized by local districts that fund foster care services
beyond the base level provided by the State.
This bill would take effect on June 1, 2011, but would be deemed to
have been in full force and effect if enacted after June 1, 2011.