Magazine article Policy & Practice

Matching the Right CPS Investigator with the Right Investigation

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Matching the Right CPS Investigator with the Right Investigation

Article excerpt

Child protective services (CPS) administrators and supervisors spend hours focusing on numbers. How many reports of abuse and neglect are outstanding? How many investigations must be completed by what time? How much staff is available? Valuable time is spent on collecting, analyzing, and reporting these numbers.

Are these same administrators and supervisors spending enough time and effort thinking about which investigator should be assigned to each particular case? Is each assignment made randomly, or simply based on worker availability? With all our technology, we have lots of data. But are we looking only at the quantity of cases in determining assignments, or are we also looking at the quality of cases? In rural areas where there is only a limited number of available CPS investigators, this discussion is probably moot. But in major metropolitan areas where one might be able to choose among many CPS investigators, perhaps there is some value in this exploration.

Better Investigations by Building Better Relationships

We hear it all the time: relationships matter. Can relationship skills be applied to CPS investigations? If so, what does that mean for the CPS investigation assignment process? After all, assigning the right investigator for a particular investigation can mean the difference between a child who is safe or a child who is left at risk. If we can assign investigators so they are able to maximize their relationship-building skills, this could lead to more effective investigations. And when CPS investigators are more effective, more children might be safe.

When we experience an emotional connection with someone, we say we "click"; we are describing that feeling of being on the same wavelength, of sharing a common conceptual understanding. The best salespeople understand this and know how to make that connection with people, starting by establishing a rapport that can grow into a relationship. Of course, selling cars or shoes is not the same thing as investigating child abuse. But effective CPS investigators make the same effort to establish rapport and then build on that rapport to form relationships. Especially because many investigations may take a long time, good CPS investigators are not simply investigating; they are engaged in a relationship.

The problem with relationship building is that it is the last thing anyone takes the trouble to do when they are stressed out about just getting the job done. Relationships take time and empathy--both of which are in short supply when CPS investigators are tossed from one type of investigation to the next, each one with the potential to involve different regulations, administrative goals, and unstated expectations. …

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