Household, Family and Child Risk Factors After an Investigation for Suspected Child Maltreatment

Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

Investigations by Child Protective Services in the United States in cases of suspected maltreatment did not result in any improvement in the at-risk factors for the children, according to this new study. The authors found that the well-being of most subjects who had been actively investigated by CPS did not differ greatly from that of other children who had been reported as possibly maltreated, but not investigated.

Children who had been investigated and those who had not been in contact with CPS reflected similar levels in seven “modifiable risk factors” – including family functioning, poverty, maternal education, and depressive or destructive child behaviors –  that could lead to maltreatment. The researchers suggest that the findings show that CPS provided little benefit to the families with which it came into contact. The one risk factor that somewhat differentiated the two groups? Increased maternal depression levels in families that were investigated.

The authors suggest that the reason for outcome of their study could be that the CPS investigations didn’t focus on the risk factors they studied, and they call the investigations “missed opportunities” to help the children. Their data came from 1991 to 2000.

In 2007, CPS reviewed 3.2 million cases of suspected child maltreatment. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report from that year, less than half of the cases that were investigated – 38 percent – received “post-investigative services.”

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