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Decision Making in Child Protective Services: A Risky Business?

Authors

  • Michael J. Camasso,

    1. Department of Agricultural, Food & Resource Economics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
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  • Radha Jagannathan

    Corresponding author
    1. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
    • Department of Agricultural, Food & Resource Economics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
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Address correspondence to R. Jagannathan, Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy, Rutgers University, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA; radha@rci.rutgers.edu.

Abstract

Child Protective Services (CPS) in the United States has received a torrent of criticism from politicians, the media, child advocate groups, and the general public for a perceived propensity to make decisions that are detrimental to children and families. This perception has resulted in numerous lawsuits and court takeovers of CPS in 35 states, and calls for profound restructuring in other states. A widely prescribed remedy for decision errors and faulty judgments is an improvement of risk assessment strategies that enhance hazard evaluation through an improved understanding of threat potentials and exposure likelihoods. We examine the reliability and validity problems that continue to plague current CPS risk assessment and discuss actions that can be taken in the field, including the use of receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve technology to improve the predictive validity of risk assessment strategies.

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