Differential response, also referred to as “dual track,” “multiple track,” or “alternative response,” is an approach that allows child protective services to respond differently to accepted reports of child abuse and neglect, based on such factors as the type and severity of the alleged maltreatment, number and sources of previous reports, and willingness of the family to participate in services.
Every month, more than a thousand calls are made to Kern’s child abuse hotline. Some calls are about children who are believed to be unsafe and at risk of child abuse or neglect. In these instances, a social worker meets with the family to assure the child’s safety. A community partner may join the social worker on the visit. Sometimes, calls are about a family who is experiencing some difficulties in life or parenting challenges. Their children are safe and not at risk of child abuse or neglect; therefore, a community partner meets with the family to offer services and support. Kern’s Differential Response model for services utilizes trained, qualified community-based organizations to engage at-risk families and provide focused services so that there is the best possible opportunity to improve outcomes.
Community-based, integrated case management services are the foundation for Kern’s Differential Response (DR) service model. Kern County’s Child and Family Services Review AB 636 System Improvement Plan identifies DR services as a key strategy to improve outcomes for children and families at-risk of experiencing child abuse and/or neglect.
Differential Response is an approach to ensuring child safety by expanding the ability of child welfare agencies to respond to reports of child abuse and neglect. Its focus includes a broader set of responses for working with families at the first signs of trouble, including innovative partnerships with community based organizations that can help support families that are in need – and before further problems develop.
In January of 2006, Differential Response services were piloted in the following Kern County communities: Southeast Bakersfield, Lake Isabella/Kern River Valley, Ridgecrest/Indian Wells Valley, and East Kern/Mojave. Based on the success of the pilot projects, and in response to pressing community needs, as of February 1, 2007, the KCNC is proud to announce that DR services will also be available in the Shafter, Buttonwillow, and Oildale communities.