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Maryland Launches New Approach For Working With Families in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases

Alternative Response initiative starting today in Carroll, Howard, Baltimore, Harford and Cecil Counties focuses on improving child safety, strengthening families

BALTIMORE, MD (November 1, 2013) — Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) Secretary Ted Dallas announces the launch today of Alternative Response _ a new approach for managing low risk reports of alleged child abuse and neglect _ in five additional Maryland counties: Carroll, Howard, Baltimore, Harford and Cecil.

“Alternative Response is a more appropriate way to handle low risk reports of child neglect,” said DHR Secretary Ted Dallas. “We’re pleased with the broad support we’ve received from our local community partners in preparing for this important change.”

Child Protective Services reports that meet the threshold of abuse or neglect in these five counties will now be assigned to one of two tracks: Investigative Response or Alternative Response. High risk reports including cases involving serious physical injury or sexual abuse are referred to the Investigative Response track and will be handled the same way they are today, resulting in a formal finding of maltreatment. Low risk reports pursued through Alternative Response instead result in a service plan to address the issues reported to the department.

In an Alternative Response, CPS workers engage with families, assess their strengths and needs, create a safety plan and match the family with available community services to address the underlying factors that led to a report being filed. Research has shown that families are more receptive to this approach because they see their caseworker as someone who can help them rather than someone who is investigating them.

“Through Alternative Response we are partnering with families in order to effectively address their need for safety by building on their strengths,” said DHR Social Services Executive Director Carnitra White. “Alternative Response keeps children safely at home and helps strengthen families.”

Alternative Response builds on DHR’s Place Matters initiative, which promotes safety, family strengthening, permanency and community-based services for children and families in the child welfare system. Since Place Matters started in 2007, the number of children in foster care has decreased by 41%, group home placements are down by half, and 73% of children in care are living with families. Today there are fewer children in out-of-home care than at any time since electronic record keeping began 25 years ago.

Alternative Response is an evidence-based, best practice in child welfare that’s used in at least 23 states. Legislation signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2012 authorized DHR to establish a dual-track CPS system that allows workers to tailor their approach to best serve families and keep children safe.

Maryland is phasing in the start of Alternative Response. Allegany, Garrett, Washington, Frederick and Montgomery counties began implementing the practice July 1. Additional counties and Baltimore City will come online over the next year with the goal of statewide implementation by July 1, 2014.


MEDIA AVAILABILITY: To arrange an interview with Department of Human Resources Secretary Ted Dallas, Social Services Administration Executive Director Carnitra White or the director of a local Department of Social Services, please contact Brian Schleter at 410-767-8944.


Filed in: Child Welfare

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