Highland County participates in an innovative, differential approach to serving the families of abused children. While child safety is always the number one goal, the Alternative Response approach recognizes the different levels of severity with child welfare cases and the fact that they can be treated in different ways. It does not replace the agency’s traditional response, but offers another path to connect identified families with the community organizations and agencies which can provide the services they need.

The hope is that Alternative Response will increase child safety and also meet the following goals:

  • Fewer repeat cases of abuse and neglect
  • Lower placement rates of children in foster care
  • Reduction in costs over time
  • Increased satisfaction, both by the families involved with the child welfare system and the caseworkers

The chart below outlines key differences in the two approaches:

  • Underlying conditions and factors which could jeopardize the child’s safety
  • Areas of family functioning to be strengthened
  • What happened to the child in the incident being reported
  • Who was responsible
  • What steps need to be taken to ensure the child’s safety
  • Generally targets moderate risk cases
  • Generally reserved for more serious reports likely to involve court action and/or criminal charges
  • Engage parent, extended family network and community partners in recognizing problems and participating in services and supports to address their needs
  • Determine “findings” related to allegations in the report and identify “perpetrators” and “victims.”
  • Reports of child abuse or neglect are not not substantiated
  • Perpetrators and victims are not identified
  • Key objective is decision regarding substantiation of the allegations in the report.
  • Voluntary services are offered
  • If parents do not participate, the case is either closed, or switched to a traditional pathway
  • If case is opened for services, a case plan is developed and court is involved as appropriate.
  • May result in court orders for family participating in services to address the child’s safety and family needs.
  • Both responses focus on child safety and recognize the role of HCJFS to make decisions on placement and court involvement and to identify needed services to respond to changing family circumstances that challenge or promote child safety.

*Adapted from a document developed by AIM, The Supreme Court of Ohio, ODJFS, Casey Family Programs and the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund.

HCJFS 7812 (REV. 3-12)