Four questions about Differential Response for Laura Carter-Beck

December 4, 2020

Photo credit: The one and only Colleen Gibley-Reed

Differential Response (DR) is a paradigm shift within county departments of human/social services to assess children for safety by partnering with families and community partners to facilitate sustainable behavioral change. The strength-based approach within DR focuses on collaboration rather than confrontation, and implementing DR across Colorado is a priority for the Division of Child Welfare (DCW).

Laura Carter-Beck (she/her/hers) is leading DCW’s efforts to support implementation across the state. We asked Laura a few questions about her work and what led her here.

Tell us about DR and how it’s going in Colorado. Any promising outcomes?

More counties have come on board and we are so excited to make this practice shift with them!  We are very encouraged by the growth of new DR counties as well as the continued skill development of our brilliant workers across the state. Their expertise in this work is so impactful for children and families. We have seen several outcomes over the past 10 years of DR practice to include:

  • Children are equally as safe in each track (FAR, the DR approach, and HRA, the traditional assessment process)
  • Increase in family satisfaction in their experience with child welfare.  The relationship between caseworker and the family can have a huge impact on outcomes for kids and families. The DR approach is more transparent and engaging with families which can impact the families likelihood of success and decrease their likelihood of returning to the system.
  • Increase in caseworker satisfaction and retention

What do you like most about your job?

While I miss direct service of children and families, I cannot say enough about how much I enjoy working with counties and other colleagues who continue to push practice forward. I consider myself more of a facilitator of this practice than an authority. I learn from counties every single day, and hope to harness that knowledge and share it.  

How does DR fit within your vision for children, youth and families?

DR is really an all-encompassing paradigm shift. From information gathering all the way to youth permanency, we can optimize the use of DR principles to improve outcomes for kids and families.  I want to see Colorado use DR practice to challenge the “investigation” way of previous child welfare and to work with families instead of “on” them.  DR presents us with opportunities to think more globally about child welfare, the family unit and be strength-based in our approach.

What have you started to do during the pandemic that you’ll continue to do when this is over?

Wowzer!  I think I will continue to utilize technology to connect across the state.  I appreciate interacting in-person so much (it energizes me!), and the pandemic has prompted me to think about equal footing in terms of hearing DR leaders across the state. Most meetings are in the metro region and we have seen huge increases in participation by folks in smaller or more distant counties, the benefit of which is new and different ideas.


I cannot wait to get back to karaoke and concerts! 

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