Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Final Report - Volume Two. 3.3 Allegations of Maltreatment Following Random Assignment

09/01/2002

Subsequent maltreatment of children is a second important outcome to be examined. Family preservation programs are intended to lower the risk of harm to children while keeping them at home, and subsequent maltreatment is an indicator of such risk. Furthermore, the justification for family preservation programs rests on the belief that the safety of children is not compromised when their families are referred to these programs, so examination of subsequent maltreatment rates is important to determine whether children, in fact, are safe in these programs.

As with placement, data on subsequent maltreatment come from the administrative data files of the states. As is almost always the case in studies like this, our data do not record actual maltreatment, but only investigated reports of maltreatment. Some abuse and neglect goes unreported, and, because not every report is investigated, there are cases of harm that are reported but not investigated.

As with the analyses of subsequent placement, survival graphs were developed to compare the timing of subsequent, substantiated allegations of maltreatment. (30) Again, survival analyses were conducted at the family level for both the primary and secondary analysis groups as well as for the "refinement" groups.

Kentucky. Two hundred twenty-three children in 99 families (58%) in the experimental group were the subjects of investigated allegations of maltreatment following random assignment, compared with 206 children in 100 families (58%) in the control group. The distribution of the various types of allegations is as follows: 2 percent dependency, 7 percent emotional, 63 percent neglect, 25 percent physical abuse, and 8 percent sexual maltreatment. As families can be the subjects of multiple allegations on any given day, these percentages do not sum to 100. Not all investigations result in substantiated allegations. One hundred forty-three children in 63 families (37%) in the experimental group were the subjects of substantiated allegations of maltreatment compared with 118 children in 57 families (33%) in the control group. The difference was not statistically significant at the family level. The distribution of substantiated allegations is as follows: 1 percent dependency, 4 percent emotional, 72 percent neglect, 20 percent physical abuse, and 3 percent sexual maltreatment.

Figure 3-2 displays the survival curves for substantiated allegations in the primary analysis. At one year subsequent to random assignment, 24 percent of the experimental group and 21 percent of the control group families experienced substantiated reports of maltreatment. Although a higher percentage of families in the "refined" analyses experienced substantiated allegations of maltreatment, similar patterns emerged. For the investigative group, 27 percent of the experimental group and 24 percent of the control group experienced a substantiated allegation of maltreatment in the one-year interval. For those families with a substantiated allegation within the three months prior to random assignment, 25 percent of the experimental and 21 percent of the control group experienced substantiated allegations of maltreatment within a year subsequent to random assignment. For the group on which petitions had been submitted to court for placement or other orders, 22 percent of the experimental group and 33 percent of the control group experienced a substantiated allegation within one year subsequent to random assignment, a nonsignificant difference.

Figure 3-2
First Substantial Allegation after Random Assignment (Families)

Figure 3.2 First Substantial Allegation after Random Assignment(Families)(Kentucky Primary)Figure 3.2 First Substantial Allegation after Random Assignment(Families)(New Jersey)Figure 3.2 First Substantial Allegation after Random Assignment(Families)(Tennessee)

The survival analyses indicate that experimental and control group families had a very similar likelihood of substantiated reports of maltreatment subsequent to random assignment.

New Jersey. One hundred seventy-eight children in 94 families (34%) in the experimental group were the subjects of investigated allegations of maltreatment following random assignment, compared to 101 children in 60 families (36%) in the control group. Fifty-eight children in 34 families (12%) in the experimental group experienced a substantiated allegation of maltreatment following random assignment, compared to 42 children in 29 families (17%) in the control group. In none of the survival analyses conducted were there significant differences between the experimental and control groups. Figure 3-2 shows substantiated allegations at the family level. About 11 percent of families in both groups have substantiated allegations within one year.

Patterns of substantiated allegations were similar for the "refined" group analyses, none of which showed significant differences between groups. Of those families coming from an investigative worker, 7 percent of the experimental group and 10 percent of the control group had a substantiated allegation within one year subsequent to random assignment. For those families with a substantiated allegation within three months prior to random assignment, 10 percent of the experimental group and 16 percent of the control group had a substantiated allegation within one year subsequent to random assignment.

Tennessee. Allegation data were available for 482 children in 144 families. Sixty-four children in 36 families (38%) in the experimental group were the subjects of investigated allegations of maltreatment following random assignment, compared with 61 children in 26 families (54%) in the control group. The differences were not statistically significant at the family level. The distribution of the various types of allegations is: 66 percent physical abuse, 20 percent supervision/neglect, 2 percent sexual abuse/medical, and 12 percent other (includes allegations such as failure to thrive, truancy, and unruly child). Forty-four children in 25 families (26%) in the experimental group were the subjects of substantiated allegations of maltreatment compared with 42 children in 18 families (38%) in the control group. These differences were not statistically significant at the family level. The distribution of the various types of substantiated allegations is: 66 percent physical abuse, 20 percent supervision/neglect, 1 percent sexual abuse/medical, and 13 percent other.

Figure 3-2 displays the survival curves for substantiated allegations in the primary analysis. At one year subsequent to random assignment, 24 percent of the experimental group and 25 percent of the control group families experienced substantiated reports of maltreatment. Survival rates were also calculated for those families with an allegation within 30 days prior to random assignment. Significant differences emerged for subsequent allegations and near significant differences emerged for subsequent substantiated allegations. Of those families with a recent allegation, 28 percent of the experimental group and 52 percent of the control group experienced an allegation within one year subsequent to random assignment. Similarly, 18 percent of the experiment group and 30 percent of the control group experienced a substantiated allegation within one year subsequent to random assignment. These differences suggest that in Tennessee family preservation reduced the likelihood of subsequent maltreatment for those families with recent allegations.

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