Restructuring Child Welfare Services: An Analysis of Four Child Welfare Models in Florida

Susan C. Kinnevy, University of Pennsylvania

ABSTRACT
The rapid growth of the child protective services (CPS) over the last 30 years has limited the child welfare system's ability to focus on prevention and service provision. Consequently, state legislatures continually try to reform both investigations and service delivery. In May 1998, the Florida legislature mandated the transfer of responsibility for child protective investigations in Manatee, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the Sheriff's Offices in those counties. The same piece of legislation mandated statewide privatization of foster care and related services by 2003. These reforms resulted in the implementation of different child welfare models in small and contiguous geographic areas. The models were mediated by changes in family court judgeships in each county. This study used administrative data provided by the Florida Department of Children and Families to evaluate both process and outcomes for the four child welfare models operating from 1995 through 2000 in Manatee, Lee and Sarasota counties in the state of Florida. In Model 1, DCF conducts investigations and delivers services. In Model 2, DCF conducts investigations and a private agency delivers services. In Model 3, the Sheriff's Office conducts investigations and DCF delivers services. In Model 4, the Sheriff's Office conducts investigations and a private agency delivers services. Process variables included model structure, case flow, and stakeholder perceptions. Outcome variables included child safety, investigative findings, dependency dispositions, and length of time to permanency. The relative success of each model was determined by the average effect size of changes in investigation, services delivery, and changes in judgeship on outcome variables. Results indicate that all changes had a negative impact and that Model 1 was most successful. Findings from the study will be important to the national child welfare community, as well as to anyone interested in systems analysis and the impact of systems reform. The study will also contribute to the literature on privatization of social services and criminalization of child abuse.

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Updated 05/20/2006