What do we really know about usual care child protective services?

Melissa Jonson-Reid, Brett Drake, Patricia Kohl, Shenyang Guo, Derek Brown, Timothy McBride, Hyunil Kim, Ericka Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


The term “usual care” is often used in clinical research to refer to a comparison or control group that is receiving whatever normal services an organization may provide. In the US child protection system, “usual care” is the practice from the point of screening in a report, to assessment and possible in-home services or a decision to place a child in out of home care. Policy and practice variations across states and counties, as well as changes in policy over time, make research on normative child welfare practice services challenging but necessary. The service delivery mechanism in child protection is understudied, limiting our ability to inform decision-making at the local, state and federal levels. Gaps in knowledge also confound intervention research because a clear understanding of a given service platform is key when interpreting effect sizes against usual care controls. This article overviews what is known about “usual care” in child protective services and seeks to encourage more research in this area by reviewing six key factors related to measuring the impact of usual care from the point of initial report through the provision of services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-229
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare services research
  • Policy
  • Usual care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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