Alternative Responses to Child Maltreatment: Findings from NCANDS. What are the characteristics of children who received an alternative response?

07/01/2005

This research examined whether demographic characteristics  such as age, sex, race, and ethnicity  distinguished children who were referred to alternative response from those who received traditional investigations. As shown in figure 3, older children were more likely to receive an alternative response than were younger children, similar to findings in earlier studies in Missouri (Loman & Siegel, 2004a), Texas (Chipley et al., 1999), and Washington (English et al., 2000). These findings suggest that the criteria that lead to the assignment of a report for an alternative response or investigation may take into account the age of the child as a vulnerability factor. This assessment may be guided by policy directives, a formalized risk or safety assessment, or it may reflect the decisionmakers proclivity to opt for a more formalized response in reports involving younger children. Other studies have found that the use of formal risk or safety assessment directives guide decisions regarding track assignment (English et al., 2000; Loman & Siegel, 2004b; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003a).

Figure 3.
Percentage of Children Referred to Alternative Response, by Age, 2002

Figure 3. Percentage of Children Referred to Alternative Response, by Age, 2002.

Similar to findings by Loman & Siegel (2004b), race and ethnicity did not strongly distinguish between children who received an alternative response and those who received an investigation. Some differences were evident in the likelihood of alternative response for children of different races; however, the variation in the number of children of different races within the CPS population  and the population as a whole  render these differences difficult to interpret. In general, the sex of the child was not a major factor in determining whether a child received alternative response or investigation, although in Missouri and Wyoming, boys were more likely to be referred to alternative response than were girls.

In most of the States, prior victimization was related to a decreased likelihood of alternative response. In Minnesota and Missouri, this difference was quite dramatic  none of the children with prior victimization received alternative response. In Oklahoma and Kentucky, only 7 percent and 16 percent (respectively) of the children with prior victimization received alternative response. In New Jersey only, children with prior victimization were equally likely to receive alternative response. It is plausible that concerns about a familys responsiveness to system interventions, or about the chronic nature of problems, may factor into the assignment.

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