InDHSS: Employee Newsletter



Innovation in practice: Improving the reliability of maltreatment determinations

By Dara Lively, Social Services Program Officer

The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) Initial Assessment (IA) workers conduct assessments on all screened-in child maltreatment reports. After ensuring present child safety and determining future risk, the IA worker determines whether the alleged maltreatment occurred per OCS policy and Alaska statutes. Everyone involved in this process is affected and wants assurance that reliable decisions are being made based on the facts presented, the extent of maltreatment, and on sound practice.

OCS is in the process of piloting a newly-developed IA policy. The pilot, which will include urban and rural offices, will help determine its strengths and should also help us to identify any changes that may be needed prior to full implementation. The maltreatment findings policy incorporates evidence-based research conducted by Dr. Amy Slep and Dr. Richard Heyman, in developing reliable criteria to determine whether child maltreatment has occurred. This model was first implemented within the U.S. Air Force’s Family Advocacy Programs. Research has shown a significant increase in the reliability of substantiation determinations when using the model, resulting in all military branches adopting the practice. With Dr. Slep and Dr. Heyman’s permission, OCS has adapted the model to conform to Alaska Statutes and practice, and renamed it the Maltreatment Assessment Protocol (MAP).

The desired outcomes of changing the maltreatment findings policy and practice are to:

  1. improve alignment between Alaska Statutes and policy;
  2. establish clear, consistent and reliable findings on all initial assessments through the use of the research-informed MAP;
  3. ensure that families are informed of local resources that match the needs identified in the IA regardless of the finding, with a goal of decreasing repeat maltreatment;
  4. improve documentation that accurately reflects the alleged maltreatment and the finding determination; and
  5. ensure that caregivers and alleged perpetrators of maltreatment are provided timely and clear notice of the finding and their right to appeal a substantiated finding.

The new maltreatment findings policy is expected to be fully implemented in the beginning of 2015.

Smith, A.M., Heyman, R.E.(2006). Creating and field-testing child maltreatment definitions: Improving the reliability of substantiation determinations. Child Maltreatment 11(217). DOI: 10.1177/1077559506288878


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