Identification and assessment of children with developmental disabilities in child welfare


The purpose of this study was to examine the ability of a Child Protective Services (CPS) screening and investigation process to identify children with developmental disabilities. The study used an emergent design, ethnographic interviews, purposive sampling, inductive data analysis, and grounded theory building. Ethnographic interviews were conducted with foster families, administrators, intake screeners, special investigators, and workers in one local CPS office. Participants expressed concern about the prevalence of children with developmental disabilities, lack of understanding of developmental disabilities, their ability to identify disabilities, and training to improve CPS workers' ability to identify children with developmental disabilities. Findings suggest a need to improve screening, determine strategies to improve interview reliability, develop the capacity to conduct developmental assessments, and improve the referral process for unfounded allegations.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Social Work


Oxford University Press

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

doi: 10.1093/sw/56.4.297

Document Type



© 2011 National Association of Social Workers