Differential Response: Definition & Model

Instructor: Briana Frenzel

Briana has master's degrees in criminal justice and social work, including teaching college level criminal justice coursework and experience as a social worker in the field.

This lesson outlines the differential response model as it is used in the investigation of child welfare cases and explains what happens when someone reports suspected child abuse.

Vicky, a 7-year old child, has been having trouble keeping up in school. She has been getting into fights on the playground, pushing classmates and arguing with her teacher. When her teacher talks to Vicky, he discovers that she has been fighting to get lunch money and reports that school meals are the only food she has had in the past month. Concerned with the potential neglect Vicky is experiencing, her teacher contacts the child welfare agency to file a report.

Day care workers, law enforcement officers, teachers, school nurses and other helping professions are considered to be mandated reporters. As mandated reporters, it is each person's responsibility to report potential child abuse or neglect situations. Once a report has been filed, child welfare agencies must determine how to respond appropriately.

What is Differential Response?

Not every report of child abuse and neglect requires that children be removed from the home of their parents. A system called differential response evolved in the early 1990s as a way to better meet the needs of families without causing additional harm to children by removing them from their homes. Differential response is designed to better meet the needs of the families so that children can remain with their parents while addressing concerns. When reports of child abuse and neglect are made, child welfare organizations have to determine which calls require an immediate response and which are not as urgent.

How Does Differential Response Work?

In states that have adopted differential response, there are two main categories of reports. The first category, which requires an investigation (information gathering), includes the most serious threats of physical and/or sexual harm to a child. Investigations are reserved for cases of suspicious child deaths, serious bodily harm, sexual abuse, as well as cases of abuse by childcare providers or teachers.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support