Social Worker News: Alternative Response In Maryland


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Receiving individualized social services aid based on specific family dynamic, socio-economic status, geographical location, and cultural background is significantly bettering a child’s well-being in broken homes. Referred to in the industry as Alternative Response, the option seeks to eliminate the tension between families in need and social work. In the past, broken homes were subject to quick investigations by the local Department of Social Services no matter the severity of their case. Taking the child from a home without adequate investigation of family dynamic is extremely unfair and has been the reason for adversity between struggling homes and social workers alike. In this week’s blog, we’ll explore Alternative Response in more detail and how it helps social workers with struggling children all over Maryland.


Families Are Involved In Decision Making Processes

In all Alternative Response cases, the safety and well-being of the child is prioritized above all else. Once it is determined that the child is not at risk, a discussion with caregivers follows. When given a stronger voice guardians are able to decide, with the help of the social worker, on an intervention method they feel will work to improve the circumstances of their home. By keeping communication high, social workers probe for each family’s unique strengths and needs. When the family is involved in the decision-making process, they are more open to receiving services from their social workers that they, themselves, have identified as necessary. The old method of forced compliance added unneeded tension, especially in low-risk cases.


Alternative Response and Its Implementation

The implementation for Alternative Response began in July 2013. Under the law, The Maryland Department of Human Resources continually screens reports of possible child abuse or neglect. Assigned to one of two tracks, these undergo processing through Investigative Response or Alternative Response. Investigative response is for cases in which extreme physical injury or sexual abuse are reported. With the child’s life in serious danger, investigative response is handled in much the same way as the old system; the at-risk child is taken from the home immediately. With Alternative response, low-risk reports can be handled  without the complete devastation of breaking the family apart.


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