Alternative Response in Wisconsin


Alternative Response in Wisconsin is a mixed-method, longitudinal evaluation of a major system reform taking place in 22 Wisconsin county child welfare agencies. Alternative Response (AR), i.e., Differential Response, is being implemented by many states and localities throughout the country, with the aim of serving families with low-to-moderate safety concerns without launching an official investigation of maltreatment. AR is a system reform that is intended to promote family engagement by allowing child welfare workers to focus on supporting families’ safety and well-being goals without also needing to make an official disposition decision regarding maltreatment.

Funded through the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, this evaluation project includes process, outcome, and cost components. The intensive process evaluation describes current county implementation efforts. These data will be shared with state and local stakeholder to support decision-making. Qualitative data also informs the outcome evaluation, which uses statewide administrative case records as well as a large-scale family survey to assess whether the implementation of AR is associated with lower rates of CPS re-referrals and out-of-home-placement as well as improved family engagement. The evaluation also will document the startup and ongoing costs associated with AR implementation relative to traditional response systems. Taken together these three evaluation components have the potential to make novel contributions to knowledge about AR implementation, its impact on families, and the investment needed from public child welfare systems to support its adoption and success.


Colleen Janczewski
Madeline McAteer
Joshua Mersky
Peter Power


Wisconsin Department of Children and Families


Wisconsin Department of Children and Families:
Serena Breining
Katy Petershack

Community Advocates, Public Policy Institute:
Conor Williams


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