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Alternative Responses

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Cases of child abuse and neglect in the state of Florida have been identified to be on the rise with the increase in the 1970s and 1980s. Such incidences and the recognition of the need for monitoring childhood experiences contributed to the development of active measures since the 1990s that continue being reinforced. For example, some reports indicate grievous allegations and safety concerns that border on criminality and require investigative measures to help the concerned child (Jones, 2015). However, other cases lack aspects of crime and require subtle investigative measures with less adversarial responses including services and assessments by the appropriate professionals. Florida applies differential response systems similar to other states targeted at accommodating the interests of the affected children. The DCF (Department of Children and Family Services) in Florida has implemented the systems to ensure appropriate responses to cases of child neglect and abuse (Jones, 2015). The need for alternative approaches while dealing with cases of child abuse and neglect cannot be understated,as states take measures to adopt differential response systems in order to complement the traditional investigative method.

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Alternative Responses Used in Florida

The two predominant categories of the differential approach used in Florida include the investigative and alternative responses. The investigation method is applied in cases where children are ascertained or perceived as facing high risks and involve the collection of forensic evidence to corroborate the reported incidences of maltreatment. On the other hand, in incidences where the child meets low and moderate risks, the DCF recommends the use of alternative responses where family assessments are conducted (Jones, 2015). Notably, alternative responses lack formalized procedures of ascertaining child maltreatment. The differential response system recognizes the need for agencies completing their tasks while offering support to families and protection to children using a less adversarial approach. Additionally, the use of alternative responses is designed to reserve the resources available to the children protection agency dealing with intensive and high-risk cases.

Florida has developed a mechanism used to select the response to the reported incidences of child neglect and abuse. Calls made to the states hotline are treated according to an initial assessment of the gravity and would lead to the involvement of investigative agencies, as exemplified by the collaboration with the police (Jones, 2015). The reported case is escalated to the appropriate level based on criminal or mild maltreatment. For incidences that border on criminality, investigation responses are pursued using the relevant personnel, support departments while mild and low-risk instances are addressed using the assessment criteria. Legislation regarding the mechanism of reply employed in Florida was initiated in 1992 where an incremental approach to child protective services was outlined as the answer to the rising cases of child neglect and abuse.

The FSRS (Family Services Response System) adopted in 1993 provided the framework regarding the need of using the differential response system (Burns, Po?so?, & Skivenes, 2016). Notably, the DHRS (Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services) was tasked with the implementation of the recommended system that required district committees to tailor programs that corresponded to the needs of their locality within the state. Despite the initial use of the investigative approach in the 1990s while addressing cases of neglect and abuse, the state continued to refine its systems targeted at initiating a multi-faceted approach to child protection services. Notably, the differential approach has been in place for less than ten years as it was rolled out in 2009 and continues registering successes while dealing with family issues that affect the well-being of children.

Florida was one of the first two states that adopted the comprehensive framework associated with the differential response alongside Missouri and can be credited for the successes recorded. The alternative approach is best exemplified using the in-home examination method where social workers and other concerned health professionals conduct observations of the family at their home. In-home observations are targeted at exposing cases of drug and alcohol abuse as some of the leading predictors of child neglect and ill-treatment (Burns, Po?so?, & Skivenes, 2016). The process is completed through formal reports of drug addiction contained in the child protective services call record. Aspects outlined and observed include evidence of liquor bottles, syringes, or the parent and home smelling of marijuana and alcohol among other drugs. Further, parents could admit the use of drugs and show signs of addiction that should be addressed comprehensively, as the means of reinforcing the safety of their child (Decerchio, 2010). In-home examinations indicate the need for separating cases that do not require the investigative approach.

The second approach concerns the screening of the parents for habits that could endanger children and lead to neglect. Notably, it is increasingly important to screen adults that live in household alongside others mentioned and connected to the case (Burns, Po?so?, & Skivenes, 2016). Following an initial assessment, the child welfare worker could escalate the matter to involve drug testing to ascertain the validity of suspicions. Other applicable measures include the use of interviews and case histories that could provide the social worker with the required information about the status of the child. Florida advocates for multi-agency collaborations, especially in incidences where parents are suspected of abusing drugs (Decerchio, 2010). Therefore, addiction specialists could help in the rehabilitation processes that ensure parents and their children are not separated.

Florida uses FIS (Family Intervention Specialists) who offer support to child welfare professionals in the screening and assessment of families with cases of substance abuse (Burns, Po?so?, & Skivenes, 2016). Alternative mechanisms are targeted at the enhancement of early access to treatment facilities and increasing the retention of parents with substance abuse problems in the rehabilitation services until recovery (Decerchio, 2010).

Alternatives Available in Texas and New York City

The procedures and protection services offered in Florida have been applied widely across the country, but other states have some methods that differ and address identified cases prevalent in the respective region. For example, in Texas, the DFPS (Department of Family and Protective Services) uses the investigative approach to ascertain the level of risk and intervention suitable to address the challenges identified (TDFPS, 2017). Caseworkers have the prerogative of initiating investigations that lead to reports concerning the possibility of abuse or neglect.

As opposed to the multi-faceted approach applied in Florida, caseworkers have the sole responsibility of choosing appropriate measures used to deal with cases presented to the DFPS. The Child Protection Services (CPS) conduct investigations including interviewing family members to reinforce the possibility of making decisions related to safety (TDFPS, 2017). The CPS makes a disposition regarding the allegations presented and could either believe or rule out neglect or abuse. The caseworker in Texas has two alternatives and restrictions that limit the response to reported cases of possible neglect and ill-treatment of children as opposed to many options witnessed in Florida (TDFPS, 2017). New York State uses a system similar to that adopted in Florida because of the exploration of alternative mechanisms while handling reported cases of child neglect or abuse (Ruppel, Huang, & Haulenbeek, 2011).

However, the differential approach used in New York has variations because local department beyond New York City is required to appeal to the OCFS (Office of Children and Family Services) before using alternative mechanisms to deal with negligent cases (Ruppel, Huang, & Haulenbeek, 2011). Therefore, the traditional avenues for investigation are prevalent in New York, and only in exceptional circumstances are other approaches entertained. The difference can be elaborated further because of the legal requirements instituted in New York where distinct steps have to be followed with the first being a notice provided to the family regarding the application of alternative approaches (Ruppel, Huang, & Haulenbeek, 2011). Hence, the child safety officer cannot choose the mechanism without the permission from the relevant agency alongside the family being investigated.


The possibility of having variations in the incidences reported requires the institution and implementation of alternative mechanisms that seek to explore ways that could be used to incorporate families in the resolution of conflicts. Undoubtedly, working with family members cannot be understated as one of the means that could be recommended to the state of Florida to help improve child welfare. It is recommendable that before the engagement of investigative measures, alternative approaches should be considered that address the primary challenge in the home environment that contributes to the neglect and abuse of children. Child protection services should implement mechanisms that facilitate the joint evaluation and assessment of families and children regarding the progress being made since the commencement of interventions.

Family engagement and satisfaction should top the concerns of child welfare services as opposed to the initiation of investigative processes that seek to delineate children from their parents. Therefore, the centrality of the family unit in the life of the child cannot be discounted and should be given preference, especially in circumstances where the cases of abuse and neglect are mild. Caseworkers should adopt a community-based approach where the society could aid identify maltreatment in time and avoid the need for investigations. Therefore, the access to family rehabilitation services should be enhanced to meet the needs of locals, including addressing challenges such housing, food, and other essential needs that could be premeditating abuse and neglect. The role of training and expertise of caseworkers cannot be understated as the mediator towards the objective and reasoned decisions regarding the appropriate cause of action to be employed to address the underlying issues.

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Child welfare services in Florida have been structured to provide the objective response to cases of neglect and abuse with the incorporation of the traditional approach that involves investigations alongside other alternative methods that address incidences according to the gravity of the matter being handled. The use of differential response systems offers the needed approaches applied in Florida to deal with non-criminal cases and could be corrected when children welfare officers work closely with the affected families. Comparisons with other states indicate the progressive nature of Floridas child welfare services because of the adoption and extensive use of differential systems that empower social workers with the opportunity of seeking alternatives while responding to crises.

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