Independent Review Supports Effectiveness of Alternative Response, Non-Court Child Welfare Interventions

News Release
For Immediate Release: 1/30/2020

Leah Bucco-White, Communications, (402) 471-9356,
Khalilah LeGrand, Ed.D., Communications, (402) 471-9313,


Lincoln – The University of Nebraska Center on Children, Families, and the Law (CCFL) has completed a comprehensive review of a Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) demonstration project to measure whether collaborative, less-invasive family involvement in the child welfare system leads to better outcomes for Nebraska children. The CCFL's final report on Alternative Response (AR) was released this month.

Significant positive findings regarding AR families identified in the study include:

  • Parents involved with AR experienced greater knowledge of effective parenting and child development, as well as an improved understanding of the social and emotional competence of children by the end of their AR case
  • Children showed improvement in emotional symptoms, hyperactivity and conduct problems in AR cases
  • AR individuals experienced significantly fewer subsequent out-of-home placements than those involved in traditional response
  • DHHS case workers indicated a significantly greater improvement for AR families related to education, transportation and material needs
  • Families were more than twice as likely to receive services than traditional response families
  • A greater variety of support services were utilized, including more services for mental health
  • Families reported they were more satisfied with their experience with DHHS and that they were better off after receiving services

“The results of CCFL's review of our demonstration project inform the Division of Children and Family Services' direction and support our effort to keep families together, when it's safe to do so," said Dannette R. Smith, DHHS Chief Executive Officer. “We are building on the successes identified in the report and embracing lessons learned about how to improve AR, all with the continued focus of improving outcomes for Nebraska families."

The demonstration project was focused on measuring the effectiveness of Nebraska's child welfare system engaging in a more family-centered, non-investigative and collaborative way to better improve outcomes for families and children. The five-year project was evaluated through a controlled trial that included identifying calls to the Nebraska Child Abuse Hotline that met specific intake safety criteria considered to be low risk for child harm. Some cases were randomly assigned to traditional response, some were directed to AR. Traditional response cases were typically court-involved. AR cases included supporting and collaborating with families through non-court interventions.

Cases were tracked and outcomes were measured based on safety assessments, case file reviews, data, family engagement and stability and, ultimately, the presence of protective factors and child well-being.

The evaluation also included overall positive findings from internal and external stakeholders surveyed during the five-year demonstration project.

“We believe case management services that are least restrictive and family oriented through the AR pathway is an effective means of providing prevention services and subsequently reducing the likelihood of escalation to higher levels of abuse or neglect," said Smith. “Although the initial demonstration project ended last year, we continue to utilize the AR practice model, knowing it has been proven to be both effective and safe." 

A copy of the CCFL evaluation can be found on the DHHS website.


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