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August 15, 2016 – The CPS Role in Stopping Fatalities

Teresa HuizarGood morning and happy Monday.  I hope this finds everyone well.  As you know, NCA has been at the forefront of the national effort to end child maltreatment fatalities.  NCA was a founding member of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths.  The Coalition worked tirelessly for the passage of the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012, which established the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.  The Commission, in turn, produced several reports, the most recent of which was released in March of this year.  The work of the Commission is vital to ensuring the safety of the most vulnerable among us – but that work is far from over.
With that in mind, I want to turn your attention this morning to a study recently published in Child Maltreatment, the Journal of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, titled “Testing if Social Services Prevent Fatal Child Maltreatment Among a Sample of Children Previously Known to Child Protective Services.” [1]

When a child dies, often the rallying cry in the community is that child protective services failed in its mission.  But the author of the current study notes that most families in which a child maltreatment fatality (CMF) occurs were not known to child protective services prior to the death.  Research shows that, among victims of child maltreatment fatalities (CMF), “never more than one third of families were receiving services.  About one third of families completed parenting education and were receiving counseling or psychotherapy.  A much smaller percentage, 14%, were receiving in-home services when the child died.  Further, 40% indicated that even though the parents were referred for services, they were not using them regularly.”  Id., p. 2. 

Nevertheless, it is worth examining the services that are given to families once they enter the child protection system, both to determine the effectiveness of such services and as a basis for future research and development in the provision of services.  The current study looked at each service within the spectrum of services typically given to families, and used a retrospective analysis of NCANDS data to determine which services were associated with a reduction in the potential for maltreatment fatalities.  Additionally, the study differentiated the impact of those services (or lack thereof) as between physical abuse CMF cases and neglect CMF cases. 

The study’s findings “suggest that core components of traditional child welfare services are related to reductions in CMFs.”  Id., p. 7.  However, this was not true across the board.  The study looked at 16 services that are typically offered to families in the child welfare system, including case management, family support, foster care, and mental health services, to name but a few.  Of these 16, the study found that “11 did not predict reductions in fatalities.  It is especially noteworthy that none of the services examined were related to reductions in deaths among victims of neglect.”  Id.  In fact, “among victims of neglect, case management services increased the risk for fatality.”  Id.

At the same time, however, case management services “were negatively and significantly related to reductions in CMFs … among physical abuse victims who were not placed in foster care….  Children were 60-75% less likely to die if they received case management services.”  Id.  Likewise, “[c]hildren who came from families that received family support services were less likely to experience a CMF.” Id.  The study also found that placement in foster care and family preservation services, although at opposite ends of the spectrum, were both likely to reduce risk of CMF.  Children were “30-40% less likely to die if they received foster care services, and physical abuse victims were 64% less likely to die when family preservation services were used.” Id

The study is the first of its kind to use “a large, multivariate data set to examine whether and which social services act to reduce risks of CMFs.”  Id., p. 8.  Hopefully, it will serve as a starting point for more research on this topic, particularly since the results showed that “none of the services provided helped to reduce the risk for death among victims of neglect.”  Id.  But, at least preliminarily, the results did show that “case management services, family support services, foster care and family preservation services protect physical abuse victims from the risk for CMFs.”  Id., pp. 8-9.  As the author notes, “[t]hese are core elements of child welfare services, past and present, and this article provides justification for why these services, in some level and measure, should be continued and deemed effective.”  Id., p. 9.

So I urge you to download this article and read it in full, and to share it with your team members and colleagues, particularly those in your child protective services agencies.  Together, we can use data like this to better protect our children, and to ensure that we eliminate child abuse and neglect fatalities.
As always, I thank you for all your hard work and dedication and for all that you do on behalf of children and families.

Warm regards,  
Teresa
 
 
[1] Full text of this publication may be found in the National Children's Advocacy Center's Child Abuse Library Online (CALiO ™) or by contacting the NCAC Research Digital Information Librarian. CALiO ™ is a service of the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC).  Please note that, because this is an article in press, to access the article in CALiO ™, you must go directly to the journal and then put in the title to have the article come up in full text.

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