APS is a key provider of intervention and services to those experiencing adult maltreatment. While there is some consistency in the practices that APS programs throughout the country have adopted, what is lacking is an evidence base concerning which practices are most effective and how state characteristics (e.g., rurality, access to resources, state- versus county-administered APS programs) are associated with the effectiveness of specific practices. These gaps point to the need for research focused on APS practices and policies to ensure APS leaders and workers have the tools and resources they need to respond efficiently and effectively to clients.
The adult maltreatment field has created several research agendas in the past few decades. They have included topics related to APS, but there has never been a research agenda which focuses exclusively on the practices, efficacy, and outcomes of APS. The goals of the APS research agenda are to provide guidance to researchers, APS programs, and funders to help move the field forward, to highlight research gaps to help inform the APS field, and, ultimately, to help build a cohesive body of evidence for the APS field.
As part of the updating of the National Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for State APS Systems, ACL solicited research questions from stakeholders during the engagement process. Additional research questions were identified through a literature review. Finally, members of a technical expert panel submitted research questions as well, resulting in a list of 153 research questions. Using a structured process that is designed to build consensus (i.e., modified Delphi process), 61 questions were ranked as high priority.
The 61 questions reveal that there are many important foundational issues related to APS that still remain unanswered, for example:
- What is the impact of caseload size on the quality of APS investigations and interventions?
- What is the impact of interventions for perpetrators on APS client outcomes?
- What is the impact of different time frames for completing investigations on case outcomes?
- What is the impact of specialized APS units (e.g., financial exploitation, self-neglect) on investigation outcomes?
ACL hopes that the APS Research Agenda will encourage researchers to partner with APS programs to answer these important questions. Partnerships between researchers and APS programs are essential to ensure that research is relevant and useful to practitioners and sensitive to the complexities of APS work and the rights of clients.