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Risk Assessment

To be both effective and just, child protective services must balance children’s rights to be safe from maltreatment with families’ rights to raise their children without government interference. These are not competing rights. Strengthening and supporting families to safely care for their own children can uphold both.


The more fundamental question is, how much authority is needed to ensure a particular child’s safety, and what criteria do we used to justify more comprehensive and sometimes intrusive oversight, monitoring, and intervention?


Risk assessment technologies were researched and developed to inform these complex and challenging decisions. Yet, risk assessment is still not universally – or even widely – used in direct practice.


Our work explores the goals of risk assessment, compares the effectiveness of different approaches, and explains how risk assessment drives decisions throughout the life of the case.  We also address widely adopted language and concepts that have further confused rather than clarified this essential child welfare skill. 

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Judith S. Rycus, PhD, MSW

Program Director, Center for Child Policy

Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Child Policy

Program Director, Institute for Human Services


Ronald C. Hughes, PhD, MSSA

Executive Director, Center for Child Policy

Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Child Policy

Executive Director, Institute for Human Services

Christopher Baird, MA

Executive Vice President, Children’s Research Center

National Center for Crime and Delinquency, Madison, Wisconsin


George V. Falco

New York State Department of Family Assistance, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance; formerly Director, Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Development, New York State Department of Social Services

Eileen D. Gambrill, PhD

Hutto Patterson Professor of Child and Family Studies, School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkeley

Rick Morrissey, BA

Supervisor of Child Protection Services, Dakota County Social Services, Apple Valley, Minnesota

Daniel D. Schneider, MA

Former Director, Public Children Services Association of Ohio, and the National Network for Child Safety, Columbus, Ohio

Aron Shlonsky, PhD

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work,

Columbia, University New York, New York

Professor of Social Work, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Nancy Simon, MSSA

Consultant, Trainer, former Supervisor of Family Services Cuyahoga County Department of Children Services, Cleveland, Ohio

Dennis Wagner, PhD

Research Director, Children’s Research Center,

National Center for Crime and Delinquency,

Madison, Wisconsin

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