CAPTA makes a critical distinction between children with substantiated abuse or neglect and those without. Because of the expectations of negative developmental outcomes for maltreated infants and toddlers, the 2003 revision to CAPTA (PL. No. 108-36 § 106(2) (A) (xxi)), mandated that children birth to three years of age with substantiated cases of child maltreatment be referred to Part C early intervention services as described in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C service providers, or their designee, are required to screen these children and to provide services to those found eligible.
Yet previous research generally shows that children with substantiated cases have more similar case outcomes, over time, to those whose cases are not substantiated. Research does show that children with substantiated cases are more likely to be sexually or physically abused than neglected (US DHHS, 2006; Wolock et al., 2001) and are more likely to have been reported by mandated reporters (Giovannoni, 1995; US DHHS, 2006). Other factors associated with substantiation include the presence of observable injuries and multiple types of maltreatment (Giovannoni, 1989; U.S. DHHS, 2006), and a more complete investigation report. Thus, although some of these indicators could be associated with greater developmental harms, there is not an obvious and direct relationship between substantiation status and developmental well-being of children.
As a result of child welfare policies and practices, children with substantiated cases of maltreatment are more likely to have a child welfare case opened (NSCAW Research Group, 2002). However, in another study among children 4 to 8 years of age who were investigated, though not necessarily substantiated for maltreatment, behavioral and developmental outcomes were not associated with whether the case was substantiated (Hussey et al., 2005). An official determination of maltreatment was not related to the childs developmental and behavioral outcomes. Determining factors that lead to substantiation of child maltreatment in very young children and understanding how their developmental outcomes compare to unsubstantiated cases will help policy makers understand the experiences and needs of these children who are, on legal grounds, quite distinct.
Exhibit 10 shows that there was an identical (49%) proportion of substantiated and unsubstantiated cases with a Measured Delay, but a lower proportion in the High Risk category in the unsubstantiated group (23 % vs. 34%) and a higher proportion of children in the Lower Risk category in the unsubstantiated group (28% vs. 18%).
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. 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.