CAPTA and IDEA recognize that child maltreatment signals a substantial risk to the development of children. Their requirements call for action to address the developmental problems of children substantiated for maltreatment. Together, these Acts generate a clear expectation for efforts to mitigate the developmental harms of maltreatment.
This study confirms that the level of risk for developmental delay is high for maltreated children and that it remains high, years after the initial maltreatment. The rates of developmental and behavioral problems are well above those in the general population and the rates of environmental risk and serious problems within the dyadic relationship between child and caregiver are above those of children typically encountered by Part C service providers.
The majority of these infants and toddlers are subject to risk factors known to predict academic difficulties (Lee & Burkam, 2002). These high rates of developmental concern are similar among children judged to have experienced substantiated maltreatment as well as those who have had the child maltreatment investigation closed with no finding of maltreatment. Because these factors are apparent among infants, it is clear they require intervention services as early as possible to avoid developmental problems, rather than waiting for delays to become intractable or trying to remediate academic failure. CAPTA and IDEA reforms offer the opportunity to markedly address and reduce developmental delay among maltreated children.
Much work can be done to better achieve the goals of CAPTA and IDEA. The implementation of successful services for maltreated infants is clearly complicated and, according to experts, unfulfilled. The findings of this report call for further review of effective strategies and consideration of new efforts, and related research, to implement these innovative policies. This research should involve rigorously conducted evaluations of best practice models so that the knowledge gained from these evaluations can add measurably to the information provided by the surveys upon which this study was based.