Child abuse and neglect referral patterns: A longitudinal study

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This study addresses two interrelated problems affecting the resource capacity of child protective services - the high rate of repeated reports and unsubstantiated cases. The reports of 238 families were tracked from the time of their first report through June 1996. General patterns of reports and the impact of case characteristics on numbers of reports and rates of reports were examined. The average family was reported just over four times over an almost five-year period and slightly more than a third of a family's reports were substantiated. Type of report, presence of injuries, placement of a child and professional status of reporter affected number of reports and rates of substantiation Drawing upon interview and case record reviews of an earlier study, the impact of a set of seven family nsk factors on number of subsequent reports and substantiation status was also examined Poorer family functioning, parental substance abuse, receipt of APDC and number of children were predictors of the number of subsequent reports; poorer family functioning, parental substance abuse and number of children predicted substantiation status of a report Paired comparisons of the three groups revealed significant differences on family risk factors only between those that had no further reports and those with substantiated re-reports No significant differences were found between those with unsubstantiated and substantiated re-reports, suggesting that the two types of families are more alike than different in terms of detrimental family and individual factors. Overall, the study findings support those who argue that by sharply restricting the types of cases investigated and/or using substantiation as a key criterion for investigating and opening cases, many seriously endangered children are likely to be overlooked.

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Children and Youth Services Review

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