U.S. Child Welfare System Redesign – 2.1 Prevention: NIS-4

 

United States Child Welfare System Redesign

Strategic Action Plan

 

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2.1 Prevention: Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4)[1]

“The National Incidence Study (NIS) is a congressionally mandated, periodic effort of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-36) mandated the NIS–4, which collected data in 2005 and 2006. The principal objectives of the NIS–4 were to provide updated estimates of the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the United States and measure changes in incidence from the earlier studies.”[2] [bolding added for emphasis]

“While the NIS includes children who were investigated by CPS agencies, it also obtains data on other children who were not reported to CPS or who were screened out by CPS without investigation. These additional children were recognized as maltreated by community professionals. Thus, the NIS estimates include both abused and neglected children who are in the official CPS statistics and those who are not.”[3] [bolding added for emphasis]

The charts[4] below compare the percentage of the total maltreatment cases found in NIS-4 that were investigated by CPS and the percentage that were not investigated by CPS. Analysis of the data from the charts starts below the charts, and Data to Action Steps are provided after the last chart. Additional charts following the analysis are also from the same NIS-4 source.[5]

 

2.1.1 Major Findings from the NIS-4 Child Maltreatment Charts – Part I

Please note: For all the charts displayed below, the total number of Child Maltreatment Cases is the sum of the red bar AND the blue bar.

 

Child Maltreatment: CPS Investigated/Not, By Age:

NIS-4 Maltreatment by Age Chart
NIS-4 Maltreatment by Age Chart

Age: The top chart illustrates the Child Maltreatment Cases from NIS-4 divided into age groups, and then further divided into the percentage of cases for which CPS investigated (red bars) and the percentage of cases for which CPS did not investigate (blue bars). The percentage of CPS investigations were highest for ages 0-2 and 3-5, indicating a focus for CPS on the younger aged children. Although this is admirable, it is at the cost of investigations for children aged 6 through 17, for which the CPS investigation percentage was consistently less than 50% (averaging 37%-41%) of all cases of child maltreatment for these age groups identified in the NIS-4 Study.

 

Child Maltreatment: CPS Investigated/Not, By Race

NIS-4 Maltreatment by Race Chart
NIS-4 Maltreatment by Race Chart

Race: The second chart illustrates the Child Maltreatment Cases from NIS-4 divided into 4 race categories, and then further divided into the percentage of cases for which CPS investigated (red bars) and the percentage of cases for which CPS did not investigate (blue bars). The percentage of CPS investigations were slightly higher than 50% (50.43%) for Hispanic children. However, the CPS investigation percentage was consistently less than 50% (48%-49%) for the other races for cases of child maltreatment. Note that the difference between 48% and 50.43% is not a significant indication of preference of one race over another. The main point is that CPS investigates about half the cases of child abuse and neglect for most races. However, only a little over a third (36.79%) of the Other – Non-Hispanic child maltreatment cases were investigated. Please note that this is comparing investigations by CPS or not, and do not address the incidence rates of child maltreatment cases compared with the child population of that race or ethnic group in the United States. Therefore, any potential bias in CPS investigations is not the issue being displayed here.

 

Child Maltreatment: CPS Investigated/Not, By Family Conditions

NIS-4-Maltreatment-by-Family-Conditions-Chart
NIS-4-Maltreatment-by-Family-Conditions-Chart

Family Conditions: The third chart illustrates the Child Maltreatment Cases from NIS-4 divided into 6 family conditions, and then further divided into the percentage of cases for which CPS investigated (red bars) and the percentage of cases for which CPS did not investigate (blue bars). Unmarried Parents was the only category in which CPS investigated more than half (58.97%) of the child maltreatment cases. All other categories have CPS investigations under 50%; with the investigations of Married Parents at a low of 38.1% of all child maltreatment cases involving Married Parents.

 

Child Maltreatment: CPS Investigated/Not, By Severity of Harm

NIS-4 Maltreatment by Severity of Harm Chart
NIS-4 Maltreatment by Severity of Harm Chart

Severity of Harm: The fourth chart illustrates the Child Maltreatment Cases from NIS-4 divided into 6 severity of harm levels, and then further divided into the percentage of cases for which CPS investigated (red bars) and the percentage of cases for which CPS did not investigate (blue bars). Fatal cases had an impressive 80.69% CPS investigation percentage – except that CPS is mandated to investigate ALL cases of child fatalities. CPS investigations focused on Assumed Harm (68.11%) and Endangered (60.07%), while significantly missing (investigating less than 1/3) the Serious and Moderate cases of child maltreatment, and only 43.44% of all maltreatment cases.

 

From the NIS-4 Study Report:

“Throughout its history, the NIS has consistently found that child protective services agencies (CPS) investigate maltreatment of only a minority of the children the NIS identifies. The NIS–4 again verified that result, finding that CPS investigated the maltreatment of only 32% of children who experienced Harm Standard maltreatment and of 43% of those whose maltreatment fit the Endangerment Standard.”[6] [bolding added for emphasis]

 

Prevention: Data to Action:

The evidence of CPS investigating “only a minority” of the possible child maltreatment cases was only one of a series of data that precipitated the Redesign of the Child Welfare System presented in Chapter 1 of this Strategic Action Plan. The introduction of 911 as the collector of ALL reports of suspected child abuse or neglect ensures that action will be taken on all reports. Efficiencies for CPS Caseworkers, also presented in Chapter 1, result in time for CPS action for all reports as well.

2.1.2 Major Findings in the NIS-4 – Part II

A list of the major findings resulting from the analysis of the data collected during the NIS-4 is provided below. All statistics in this section are from the NIS-4 Study Report.[7] All bolding is added for emphasis.

 

  • Nearly 3 million children (an estimated 2,905,800) experienced maltreatment during the NIS–4 2005–2006 study year. This corresponds to one child in every 25 in the United States. While 29% (an estimated 835,000 children) were abused, more than three-fourths (77%, an estimated 2,251,600 children) were neglected.

 

  • In most cases, the 0-to 2-year-olds had significantly lower maltreatment rates than older children. It is possible that the lower rates at these younger ages reflect some undercoverage of these age groups. That is, prior to attaining school age, children are less observable to community professionals.

 

  • Unlike previous NIS cycles, the NIS–4 found strong and pervasive race differences in the incidence of maltreatment. In nearly all cases, the rates of maltreatment for Black children were significantly higher than those for White and Hispanic children.

 

  • School-aged children who were not enrolled in school were sexually abused more often than enrolled children and more often qualified for inferred harm, an outcome frequently associated with sexual abuse. Non-enrolled school-age children had higher rates of maltreatment, overall and in the categories of neglect, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. The non-enrolled children were also more likely to be classified as endangered, but not demonstrably harmed, by their maltreatment.

 

  • The incidence of maltreatment and of all severities of injury or harm was higher for children with no parent in the labor force and those with an unemployed parent and lowest for those with employed parents. Compared to children with employed parents, those with no parent in the labor force had 2 to 3 times the rate of maltreatment overall, about 2 times the rate of abuse, and 3 or more times the rate of neglect.

 

  • Low socioeconomic status households were defined as those in the bottom tier on any indicator: household income below $15,000 a year, parents’ highest education level less than high school, or any member of the household a participant in a poverty program, such as TANF, food stamps, public housing, energy assistance, or subsidized school meals. Children in low socioeconomic status households experienced some type of maltreatment at more than 5 times the rate of other children; they were more than 3 times as likely to be abused and about 7 times as likely to be neglected.

 

  • Compared to children living with married biological parents, those whose single parent had a live-in partner had more than 8 times the rate of maltreatment overall, over 10 times the rate of abuse, and nearly 8 times the rate of neglect.

 

Prevention: Data to Action:

The NIS-4 study introduced new metrics that have not been captured in many CWS databases of child abuse and neglect cases. If the U.S. Child Welfare System is to convert from being a “reactive” system of reported cases of child abuse and neglect – for which only half or fewer of the reported cases are investigated by CPS – to a “proactive” system to anticipate combinations of conditions that have historically led to past child abuse or neglect and take action to intercede before the abuse escalates, CWS analysts will need as many metrics for the data already gathered as possible. The major findings in this section have introduced several potential new metrics that would help any analysis to better project the prime set of conditions leading to child abuse and neglect.

 

Action Step 2.1.1: Add the following new metrics to the CWS child abuse and neglect CCWIS databases at the federal and state level, to help future data analysis:

  • Child’s Disabilities – more often suffered serious harm from maltreatment
  • School-Age Child Enrollment – not enrolled school-age children are sexually abused more, more qualified for inferred harm frequently associated with sexual abuse, higher rates of maltreatment and neglect, and more likely to be classified as endangered
  • Parent Employment – no parent in the labor force had 2x to 3x the rate of maltreatment, 2x the rate of abuse, and 3x or more rate of neglect
  • Socioeconomic Status – children in low-socioeconomic status had 5x the rate of maltreatment, more than 3x more likely to be abused, and 7x more likely to be neglected
  • Family Structure and Living Arrangement – single parent with live-in partner had more than 8x the rate of maltreatment, over 10x the rate of abuse, and nearly 8x the rate of neglect

 

Action Step 2.1.2: #1in25 Media Campaign: Children’s Bureau initiate a “1 in 25” (#1in25) Media Campaign with information on: One child in every 25 in the United States will experience abuse or neglect this year. As a parent, you have the ability to reduce that to zero children abused or neglected. If you are feeling overwhelmed or are ready to strike out at your child – STOP and consider your options. If you don’t have the time, energy, or interest to interact with your children – STOP and consider your options. Here are some options available to you, without fear of being judged or punished:

  • Take a deep breath and think about the vulnerability of your child
  • Call XXX at xxx
  • Talk to a dear friend
  • Talk to a trusted neighbor
  • Talk to a counselor on the Crisis Hotline xxx
  • Find a group like Parents Anonymous

Provide flyer templates for posting in hospitals, hair salons, shopping malls, bulletin boards at workplaces, laundromats, liquor stores, grocery stores, health clinics, doctors’ offices, etc.

 

Action Step 2.1.3: #0-2Up2U Media Campaign: Children’s Bureau initiate a “0 to 2, it’s up to you” (#0-2Up2U) Media Campaign with information on: Children age birth to two, three, and four years old are learning about this world and forming their self-view and worldview. As a parent, you have the ability to ensure the early years of your child are nourished by strong feelings of love and safety. If you are feeling overwhelmed or are ready to strike out at your child – STOP and consider your options. If you don’t have the time, energy, or interest to interact with your children – STOP and consider your options. Here are some options available to you, without fear of being judged or punished:

  • Take a deep breath and think about the vulnerability of your child
  • Call XXX at xxx
  • Talk to a dear friend
  • Talk to a trusted neighbor
  • Talk to a counselor on the Crisis Hotline xxx
  • Find a group like Parents Anonymous

Provide flyer templates for posting in hospitals, hair salons, shopping malls, bulletin boards at workplaces, laundromats, liquor stores, grocery stores, health clinics, doctors’ offices, etc.

 

Action Step 2.1.4: #BiasIsNotChildsPlay Media Campaign: Children’s Bureau initiate a “Racial Bias is Not Child’s Play” (#BiasIsNotChildsPlay) Media Campaign with information on: As a child, you may have been told repeatedly how some people are “better than” other people, some people are “bad and can’t be trusted,” and other such prejudices and biases based on gender, race, skin color, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or any number of other ways people feel superior by putting others down. As a parent, you have the ability to stop this generational indoctrination of your children. Allow your children to experience others and make their own decisions. You can learn compassion, empathy, and love from your child’s interaction with others. It may bother you to see your child playing with others you were told were “bad” or “not as good as” you. Take this as an opportunity to rethink what you were taught. Do your own thinking and develop your own beliefs about others who are different from you. Here are some options available to you:

  • Take a deep breath and consider whether you may have been taught a judgment that doesn’t have to be your own any longer
  • Consider what it would mean if you changed the opinions that were implanted in you, and made your own decisions and choices
  • Watch the openness of children at play, without the oppression of generations of bias, prejudice, and hate imposed on their loving young minds
  • Consider your child as one of the new generation who may be free from the stigma of bigotry and judgment

Provide flyer templates for posting in hospitals, hair salons, shopping malls, bulletin boards at workplaces, laundromats, liquor stores, grocery stores, health clinics, doctors’ offices, etc.

 

Action Step 2.1.5: School Aged Children Not in School: Children’s Bureau initiate a warning to states that school-aged children who are not registered in school are much more likely to be abused, including sexually abused, than children who are in school. This is primarily because there are fewer “eyes” on the child and the child is potentially locked in their home with their abuser. In fact, this is exactly the situation currently facing children at risk for child abuse or neglect who are locked in their home with their abuser due to COVID-19 restrictions. Although there are currently too many children in the lockdown situation than can be investigated by CPS or law enforcement, post-COVID-19 provides the opportunity to identify children who should be in school, but who have not been enrolled. This can start as a “wellness check” on the child due to the long interval of lockdown and the non-registration for school. It is unknown how many children will be “missing” when and if such a wellness check were made for every child not enrolled in school.

 

Action Step 2.1.6: Not in Workforce and Unemployed Parent: Children’s Bureau initiate a warning to states that the incidence of maltreatment and of all severities of injury or harm was two (2x) to three (3x) times higher for children with no parent in the labor force and those with an unemployed parent than for children with employed parents. Although unemployed parents may be identified if the parent applied for unemployment, parents who are not in the workforce (e.g., retired, not interested in working, etc.) may be more difficult to track. Birthing hospitals may have that information. However, a visit from CPS to homes with an unemployed parent may be discriminatory, regardless of the best intentions of the child. Widespread distribution of flyers on reduction of child abuse and neglect may be the best approach to this data-driven issue.

Provide flyer templates for posting in hospitals, hair salons, shopping malls, bulletin boards at workplaces, laundromats, liquor stores, grocery stores, health clinics, doctors’ offices, etc.

 

Action Step 2.1.7: Low Socioeconomic Status: Children’s Bureau initiate a warning to states that, using the definition of low socioeconomic status households as those in the bottom tier on any indicator: household income below $15,000 a year, parents’ highest education level less than high school, or any member of the household a participant in a poverty program, such as TANF, food stamps, public housing, energy assistance, or subsidized school meals, children in low socioeconomic status households experienced maltreatment at more than 5 times (5x) the rate of other children; they were more than 3 times (3x) as likely to be abused and about 7 times (7x) as likely to be neglected. A general flyer or brochure about the availability of resources from the Child Welfare System could be included with other information the family receives.

Provide flyer templates for posting in hospitals, hair salons, shopping malls, bulletin boards at workplaces, laundromats, liquor stores, grocery stores, health clinics, doctors’ offices, etc.

 

Action Step 2.1.8: #TuffChoices Media Campaign: Children’s Bureau initiate a “Tough Choices” (#TuffChoices) Media Campaign with information on: Sometimes you have to make a choice between your new partner or your child. If you are being forced to make that choice, there are people you can talk to about your options. Remember: The “right” choice may not always be your “first” choice.

  • Take a deep breath and think about what would be best for your child
  • Call XXX at xxx
  • Talk to a dear friend
  • Talk to a trusted neighbor
  • Talk to a counselor on the Crisis Hotline xxx
  • Find a group like Parents Anonymous

Provide flyer templates for posting in hospitals, hair salons, shopping malls, bulletin boards at workplaces, laundromats, liquor stores, grocery stores, health clinics, doctors’ offices, etc.

 

[1] Sedlak, A.J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., and Li, S. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress, Executive Summary. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Source for all charts on the following page: Suggested Citation: Sedlak, A.J. and Basena, M. (2014). Online Access to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. Rockville, MD: Westat. Available: http://www.nis4.org

[5] Ibid.

[6] Sedlak, A.J. and Basena, M. (2014). Online Access to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. Rockville, MD: Westat. Available: http://www.nis4.org

[7] Sedlak, A.J. and Basena, M. (2014). Online Access to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. Rockville, MD: Westat. Available: http://www.nis4.org.

 

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To submit questions or comments, please email Jo@Jo-Calk.com. I welcome all input, ideas, and suggestions. Thank you for caring for children.

Blessings,

Jo Calk