Evaluation of Family Preservation and Reunification Programs: Interim Report. 8.3 Allegations of Maltreatment Following Random Assignment

01/08/2001

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.9 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. One hundred thirteen children in 51 families (33%) in the experimental group were the subjects of investigated allegations of maltreatment following random assignment, compared with 103 children in 47 families (31%) in the control group. The differences were not statistically significant at the family level. The distribution of the various types of allegations is as follows: 4 percent dependency, 8 percent emotional, 49 percent neglect, 43 percent physical abuse, and 16 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. Sixty-six children in 30 families (20%) in the experimental group were the subjects of substantiated allegations of maltreatment compared with 68 children in 28 families (18%) in the control group. These differences were not statistically significant at the family level. The distribution of substantiated allegations is as follows: 6 percent dependency, 2 percent emotional, 55 percent neglect, 38 percent physical abuse, and 10 percent sexual maltreatment.

Figure 8-2 displays the survival curves for substantiated allegations in the primary analysis. At one year subsequent to random assignment, 19 percent of the experimental group and 18 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, 23 percent of both the experimental and control groups experienced substantiated allegations of maltreatment in the one-year interval. For those families with a substantiated allegation within the three months prior to random assignment, 22 percent of the experimental and 24 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, 19 percent of the experimental group and 32 percent of the control group experienced a substantiated allegation within one year subsequent to random assignment, a nonsignificant difference.

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 fifty-four children in 81 families (30%) in the experimental group were the subjects of investigated allegations of maltreatment following random assignment, compared to 80 children in 48 families (29%) in the control group. In none of the survival analyses conducted were there significant differences between the experimental and control groups. Within one year, about 29 percent of the families had an allegation of maltreatment concerning at least one child in the family. Figure 8-2 shows substantiated allegations at the family level. About 12 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 17 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 8-2 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.

Figure 8-2. First substantiated allegation after random assignment (families)

Figure 8-2_1. First substantiated allegation after random assignment (families)Figure 8-2_2. First substantiated allegation after random assignment (families)Figure 8-2_3. First substantiated allegation after random assignment (families)

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.


(9)  Analyses were also done on all allegations, whether substantiated or not. The results were very similar, although, of course, rates for all allegations were higher.