Pilot Child Welfare System Redesign
Strategic Action Plan
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11.1 Child Abuse Reports Excluded from Resolution
11.1. Child Abuse Reports Excluded from Resolution
Mandatory reporters are required to submit a report whenever they suspect any form of child abuse or neglect. There are punishments if a mandatory reporter fails to report what they see. However, of all the calls to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline reporting child abuse, fewer than 10% are ever acted upon with some resolution for the child.
The chart shows the various stages in the CPS process where reports are “dismissed.” The chart contains data from the annual Oregon Child Welfare Data Books for the years 2012 through 2019; only incomplete data was available for 2009-2011.
Screening Reports of Abuse Documented
The dark green line at the top of the chart represents the total number of “screening reports of abuse documented.” This means that, of all the calls to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline (ORCAH), about 55% of those calls never have a report created for them in the Oregon Child Abuse database (OR-Kids).
Thus, the dark green line shows only the average 45% of all calls to ORCAH that have a child abuse report created in OR-Kids. This shows a general trend of a slowly increasing number of reports every year. Note: The 55% statistic was only documented in the 2019 Child Abuse Data Book, so it is not known whether that percentage holds true for the years 2012-2018.
Reports Not Assigned, Not Investigated
The light gold linein the middle of the chart represents the reports that were created by the Screeners but were “Screened-Out” – closed at Screening and never sent to CPS to be investigated.
The flat trend for this line indicates that about 40,000 reports are “Screened Out” every year.
What is curious about this 40,000 threshold is that a normal curve for a series of “Yes/No” (screen-in/screen-out) choices would show variance because some years there are significantly more reports that need to be “Screened-In,” and in other years there are significantly fewer reports that need to be “Screened-In.” However, the line shows no significant deviation from the average of 40,000 reports “Screened-Out.”
This appears to be a pattern of behavior or intent, not a random occurrence. Thus, the “Screening-Out” process documentation and training deserve considerable investigation, due to the consistent results from the data.
Assigned, No Completed Assessments
The pale orange line at the bottom of the chart represents reports that were assigned to a CPS Caseworker, but that Caseworker did not complete the assessment of those reports during that year. The result is that no assessment was completed, so no action was taken to assist the child.
When viewed alone, this line shows deviations among the years, probably due to workload or particular issues with reports that kept their assessments from being completed.
However, when viewed with the light green line representing “completed, but not founded for abuse” (see details below), the two lines are mirror images of each other. This is too exacting to be random occurrence.
Comparing the pale orange and light green lines appears to indicate a pattern of behavior to ensure the same result every year by modifying the “not founded” line (which is reached later in the sequence of the CPS process) to arrive at the same count. This will be clarified when the last line is reviewed below.
Completed, Not Founded for Abuse
The light green line in the lower portion of the chart represents reports for which the CPS Caseworker completed the assessment but determined that the report was “not founded” for abuse. This is the final stage on this chart where reports are dropped off and no action taken on behalf of the child. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the line itself represents significant variation between each year.
However, as also mentioned above, when the light green line is compared with the pale orange line below it, the two lines are mirror images of each other for every year.
Comparing the pale orange and light green lines appears to indicate a pattern of behavior to ensure the same result every year by modifying the “not founded” line (which is reached later in the sequence of the CPS process) to arrive at the same count. This will be clarified below.
Total Reports Excluded
The dark gold line near the top of the chart represents the total number of reports excluded during the entire CPS process.
The dark gold line exactly parallels the dark green line representing the total number of reports (not the total number of calls).
This indicates a pattern of behavior that ensures that fewer than 10% of the total number of reports received during a year result in any action to help the child. Every bend in the dark green line is exactly matched by a similar bend in the dark gold line.
Thus, regardless of where along the CPS process the reports are excluded, the reports for which some action is taken will always be fewer than 10% of the total number of reports that began the CPS process.
This is not random, this is patterned behavior. The reasons for this patterned behavior need to be investigated. For example, if CPS Caseworkers cannot handle 10% or more of the incoming reports, then additional Caseworkers need to be added to ensure more children are helped.
At least three non-random patterns of behavior have been identified in this chart, which is totally based on data from the Child Welfare Data Books:
- About 40,000 reports that have been added to the database from calls to the hotline are discarded (“Screened-Out”) by the Screeners every year. The trend holds true for the entire sequence, with a very slight increase in records discarded in the last two years. None of the variances are significant.
- Assigned reports that have not completed assessment and reports that were declared “not founded” are exact mirror images of each other, resulting in the same average number of reports being excluded.
- The total number of reports excluded throughout the CPS process exactly parallels the total number of reports entering the screening/CPS process. The average is 10% of the records resulting in some type of action. However, see a later chart for an additional process point where no action is taken to help the child, resulting in action actually taken for fewer than 10% of all reports.
Because data was only available for the year 2019, the following condition could not be displayed on the chart:
The number of “Screening Reports Being Documented” does not represent the total number of calls to the Child Abuse Hotline. This means that, of all the calls to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline (ORCAH), about 55% of those calls never have a report created for them in the Oregon Child Abuse Database (OR-Kids).
Thus, the dark green line may represent only the average 45% of all calls to ORCAH that have a child abuse report created in OR-Kids, based solely on 2019 data.
The 55% statistic was only documented in the 2019 Child Abuse Data Book, so it is not known whether that percentage holds true for the years 2012-2018. If it does hold true, then that is a pattern of behavior, not due to the quality or completeness of the reports.
Action Step 11.1.1: Investigate the pattern of behavior in Screening where about 40,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect are screened-out every year. Identify what rules and guidelines Screeners use to screen-out reports, particularly reports from mandatory reporters, additional reports about the same child that have been previously screened-out, and reports about infants reported to be abused or neglected. Also, interview Screeners to determine if “unwritten guidelines” are in place which will result in the consistent 40,000 reports being screened out every year. Take appropriate action to ensure the pattern of behavior is NOT continued.
Action Step 11.1.2: Investigate the mirror reporting of “Assigned, No Completed Assessments” and “Completed, Not Founded for Abuse” reports that result in about 10% of all reports being acted upon by CPS every year. Determine if CPS can only handle about 10% of the reports that come in. Also, interview CPS Caseworkers to determine if “unwritten guidelines” are used that result in only 10% of reports being assessed by CPS every year. Take appropriate action to ensure the pattern of behavior is NOT continued.
Action Step 11.1.3: Investigate why 55% of the calls to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline (ORCAH) did not result in a report being created in the Oregon Child Abuse Database (OR-Kids). Determine if any of the information from the 55% of the calls not reported has been retained and is available for analysis as to the rationale behind the exclusion from the OR-Kids database. If the information on the 55% of the calls that were not reported has been destroyed, start immediately to capture all notes and record all calls to ORCAH and compare the information from the calls to the records on the OR-Kids database. Take appropriate action to ensure the pattern of behavior is NOT continued.
Action Step 11.1.4: The Screener wields a significant amount of power over whether information provided by mandatory reporters and others is actually captured, properly screened, and appropriately acted upon. That type of power should not be placed in the hands of one person within the Oregon Child Welfare System. There is a child, potentially being abused or neglected, attached to every call to ORCAH; every child needs to be treated fairly, equally, and reported in the OR-Kids database. Take appropriate action to ensure the pattern of behavior is NOT continued.
To submit questions or comments, please email Jo@Jo-Calk.com. I welcome all input, ideas, and suggestions. Thank you for caring for children.