Rethinking Educational Neglect for Teenagers: New Strategies for New York State
Vera Institute of Justice
Cases of educational neglect, defined in this study as failure to ensure that a child regularly attends school, are on the rise in New York State. By 2008, one in 10 children whose parents were investigated for abuse also faced allegations of educational neglect; the frequency of those types of allegations has increased 34 percent in the state in four years.
Yet not every case of truancy is a result of abuse. Using information collected from interviews, case reports and data analyses, this study focuses on the 60 percent of educational neglect cases that involve teenagers. These differ from traditional child protective services (CPS) investigations, which aim to determine whether educational neglect is symptomatic of a dangerous, abusive home environment. The report finds that for older students, a variety of factors not necessarily related to abuse may affect attendance, including familial conflict, special educational needs, homelessness and mental illness; failure to acknowledge this difference may result in the misdirection of limited resources designated for the protection of children in unsafe situations.
The report is a follow-up to a previous assessment in 2008 and includes a variety of recommendations to combat the issue, from connecting schools with greater resources in the child welfare system to providing additional support for CPS and SCR (State Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment) staff. The authors favor “amending the child protective statute to eliminate educational neglect as a ground for child protective proceedings for children ages 13 and older,” while developing models and programming to reintegrate chronically absent teens into the classroom.