This study produced nine key findings that are grouped into four areas - environmental and biomedical risks that may affect development, developmental outcomes, service receipt, and considerations for successful interventions.
Study findings support reason to be concerned about the developmental status of maltreated children regardless of substantiation status. Likewise, problems in the caregiving relationship with the potential to affect developmental outcomes are also indicated in the increased rate of behavioral problems reported by caregivers of young maltreated children.
- Among children who have substantiated maltreatment, the proportion with a low score on a developmental measure does not differ markedly from those of children investigated but not found to have substantiated maltreatment. Children with substantiated maltreatment have been found to be quite similar to those children with unsubstantiated maltreatment (Drake, 1995), but different in that unsubstantiated cases receive fewer services (Drake et al., 2003). This has recently been reconfirmed in the NSCAW data (NSCAW Research Group, 2002), for the general population of children and, now, again for very young children in this study. The current study adds important information in showing that developmental outcomes do not differ by substantiation status. This evidence suggests that children involved in child welfare — even those who have not had their maltreatment substantiated-have an increased likelihood of being Part C eligible.
- Despite their young age, maltreated children between 24 to 36 months of age have relatively high levels of behavior problems reported by their caregivers. These behavior problems are quite constant. About 70% of children who were reported by caregivers as having behavior problems at baseline were still having behavior problems at the 36-month follow-up. It is not clear whether maltreating caregivers experience their children's age-expected behavior as more problematic or whether the children have, in fact, more problematic behavior. Recent evidence that compares the ratings of maltreating parents to those of independent observers suggests that maltreating parents are more harsh raters of their children's behavior (Lau, Valeri, McCarty, & Weisz, 2006).
In the NSCAW we examined the proportion of substantiated infants and toddlers reported to have an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), a formal document indicating eligibility for Part C services and an agreement between service providers and caregivers regarding the type and amount of services to be provided.
- Even though this study looked at children served before the CAPTA mandates were instituted, a sizeable proportion of infants and toddlers with substantiated maltreatment were reported to have an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), reflecting eligibility for Part C services. About 12 months after the investigation of maltreatment, 28% of children still younger than 36 months of age were reported by caseworkers to have an IFSP.
- Families are receiving parent training and family counseling services through Child Welfare Services or by referral. It is unclear the extent to which these services provide interventions focused on enhancing child development. Approximately 39% to 67% of the families of infants and toddlers with substantiated cases of maltreatment received parent training or family counseling through child welfare systems in the period of time prior to the 18-month follow-up. Between 18 months and 36 months after baseline, the percentage of families reported to still be receiving parent training or family counseling decreased, ranging from 9% to 31%, suggesting that for some children and families the needs for these services was no longer critical or they may have completed a time-limited or structured intervention.
Receipt of Child Welfare Services suggests that as children get older there may be less perceived need for parent training. The proportion of families reported to receive family counseling also declines in this time period. Receipt of services appears to be related temporally to the time of initial investigation. This reduction in services may be associated with the effectiveness of services in reducing risk factors, particularly those associated with conditions in the home directly associated with substantiation of maltreatment. Alternatively, this reduction may indicate a declining ability of services to engage families.