The crucial role played by social outrage in efforts to reform child protective services

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9 Scopus citations


In this paper, we question the widely, if tacitly, held perspective that exceptional and immensely publicized instances of child abuse and neglect offer little guidance or understanding in improving the efficacy of child protective services (CPS). Using insights from Carl Jung, Max Weber and Henry Mintzberg, we argue that not only do such archetypical cases and the attendant moral outrage serve as catalysts for legislative and judicial actions; they also motivate structural and procedural changes in CPS operations. We propose extending to CPS a risk model commonly considered in the fields of environmental science, food safety and chemical engineering, where risk is conceptualized as a function of both technical hazard and moral outrage. We point out, however, that unlike in these non-CPS fields where the typical response is to 'manage' outrage via public education or public relations campaigns and to allow outrage to influence only the more immediate and exceptional decisions following an outrageous event, in the CPS field where children are the focal point, exceptional decision processes also seep into routine decision making by necessity. We term our proposed enhanced risk model the Socially Outraged Risk Expression (SORE). We conclude with recommendations for an empirical test of SORE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)894-900
Number of pages7
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Child welfare
  • Child welfare reform
  • Moral outrage
  • Risk assessment


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