Job & Family Services Office of Families and Children

  Child Protective Services      


Ohio's public children services agencies (PCSAs) are required to assess and investigate reports of abuse, neglect, or dependency. The PCSA will complete an assessment and, if necessary, work with the family to develop a case plan identifying services necessary to reduce risk to the child and prevent the abuse or neglect from occurring again. In instances where it is found that children cannot remain safe in their own homes, the PCSA will work with the local court system to remove them and find an alternative safe placement - preferably with relatives.    


To make a report, contact the PCSA in the county where the child and his or her parent, guardian or custodian reside or call 1-855-OH-CHILD (1-855-642-4453).

 Ohio’s Differential Response System  

What is Differential Response?  

Ohio’s Differential Response System provides child welfare agencies two options for responding to accepted reports of child abuse and neglect – the Traditional Response and an Alternative Response.  In some instances, a traditional child protection response is needed in order to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred and to ensure child safety and well-being.  However, for many other families, an alternative approach may be more appropriate.  Ohio’s Alternative Response pathway provides a second response option in which caseworkers partner with families and ensure that they are connected with the services and supports they need to keep their children safe.  

Alternative Response & Traditional Response: Two Pathways to Child Safety  

Under Ohio’s Differential Response System, reports of child abuse or neglect are assigned to one of two pathways, based on the nature of the report and pathway assignment criteria:  

        Alternative Response (AR)

  • Applied when reports DO NOT allege serious or imminent harm    
  • No formal finding/substantiation of the allegation                    
  • Facilitates safety-focused partnership with families    
  • Safety, Risk and Comprehensive Family Assessment completed    
  • Emphasis on "front-loading" needed services by providing services earlier and without requirement of a finding

    Traditional Response (TR)
  • Required for reports of sexual abuse or abuse resulting in serious injury or serious and immediate risk    
  • Process results in a determination/finding regarding the allegation    
  • May involve intervention of the court    
  • Safety, Risk and Comprehensive Family Assessment completed    
  • Case Plan developed following completion of the Family Assessment for families with ongoing services needs

Pathway assignment may change from Alternative Response to Traditional Response if needed in order to assure safety. 


A rigorous, random control evaluation of Ohio’s 18-month pilot of the Alternative Response (AR) approach showed that:  

  • Child safety was uncompromised.
  • There were fewer re-referrals to child protective services among families served with AR.
  • Greater satisfaction with services was reported by both families and workers.
  • Greater involvement in decision making and increased cooperation between workers and families was reported by both workers and families.
  • There was increased family engagement in services.
  • Evidence of enhanced collaboration between child welfare and community partners.
  • Subsequent child removals were lower among AR families than the comparison control group of families receiving the Traditional Response, indicating potential for long-term cost savings.
    DR Brochure
    DR Caseworker Self-Assessment and Field Tools
    DR Coaching and Supervision Toolkit

Differential Response Practice Profiles - Form JFS 08301    

For more information about Differential Response, the Ohio Intimate Partner Violence Collaborative, the Kinship Care Initiative, and the Ohio Child Protection Law Reform Initiative, please visit www.ohiochildlaw.org/differential-response.