The current study aims to introduce differential response (DR), an alternative child
protection system (CPS) in the U.S., and discuss implications for the Korean CPS.
More specifically, the study describes the background, core elements, strengths and
weaknesses of DR. DR is differentiated from the traditional CPS approach in that it
provides multiple responses—a family assessment response and an investigative
response—to those reported to CPS. A family assessment response provides services
to address family needs and aims to strengthen and support families. DR strengthens
family-centered practice and collaboration with community organizations. It also
emphasizes the public health approach for CPS over the criminal justice approach,
which was highlighted in the traditional CPS. DR provides families with more
individualized and customized interventions and more services. However, DR does
not appear to drastically reduce the workload for caseworkers and its implementation
often requires financial resources. Recent legislation regarding child maltreatment
strengthened the criminal justice approach in the Korean CPS, but the history of CPS
in the U.S. teaches the importance of preventive and public health approaches to
improve children’s well-being.