Most children who are subjects of a report of maltreatment to the State or local child protective services (CPS) agency are involved just once with CPS during their lives. Other children are referred more than once and their referrals result in repeated investigations or assessments (rereporting). Some of these children are found to have been revictimized (recurrence). This paper focuses on rereporting and recurrence, and on gaining a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding these children with repeated involvement with CPS. Most previous studies of subsequent reports alleging maltreatment of the same child or of revictimization have included only small populations, administrative data from only one State, or relatively short observation periods. This study follows children for up to 5 years, using a multiyear, multistate case-level National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) data set that spans the time period from 1998 to 2002. Research questions and key findings are as follows:
What proportion of reported children were rereported, and when?
- Approximately one-third of children were rereported within 5 years.
- Most subsequent reports occurred within a few months after the initial report.
- After 3 years, approximately 72 percent of children had no further contact with CPS. Among the remaining 28 percent, almost 17 percent had one more report and 11 percent of children had multiple reports.
What proportion of child victims had a recurrence of maltreatment, and when?
- Among victims, 17 percent became victims again within 5 years.
- Most subsequent victimizations occurred within a few months after the initial report.
What factors were associated with children who were rereported over a period of time?
- Reports by medical and law enforcement personnel were associated with a lower likelihood of rereporting.
- White children were more likely to be rereported compared with African-American children.
- Children who received services were more likely to be rereported than children who did not receive services. However, children who were found to be victims in their initial report, and who received services, were less likely to be rereported compared with nonvictims who received services.
- As the length of time following the report increased, the number of reports per child decreased.
- Younger children had more rereports compared with older children.
What factors were associated with children who had a recurrence of one or more maltreatments over time?
- Victims reported by daycare providers, foster care providers, or nonprofessionals were more likely to experience recurrence compared with victims reported by other professional sources.
- As the age of victims increased, the likelihood of their experiencing recurrence decreased.
- Victims were more likely to experience recurrence if their caregivers abused alcohol.
- Services also predicted recurrence-victims who received services were at higher risk, but victims placed in foster care were less likely to experience recurrence.
- As the length of time following the report increased, the number of recurrences per child decreased.
- Younger children had more recurrences compared with older children.
Findings from this study highlight needed areas of improvement in the system of intervention, such as a focus on the small group of children who experience a brief period of intense involvement with the CPS system. This study also underscores the perplexing issues surrounding the use of rereporting and recurrence as performance measures for CPS. For example the increased chances of rereporting and recurrence that appears to be tied to providing services. Ideally, the analysis will help to facilitate the design and implementation of more effective and targeted services, and help in focusing continued inquiry regarding children who are at risk.