Studies Show Many Factors Influence CPS Decision-Making

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HHS News Release

The Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services today released the results of three research studies on decision-making in the investigation of alleged child maltreatment. These studies found many children whose cases are not substantiated are reported to child protective services (CPS) again sometime in the future.

"These studies strongly recommend more preventive services for at-risk families," said Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., assistant secretary for children and families. "President Bush's current proposal to improve the child welfare system would do exactly that-allow states to use IV-E funds for prevention so that there will be fewer cases of child abuse."

The President's budget includes a proposal to allow states the option to receive their child welfare funding as a flexible grant for a period of five years. The option will provide the states with the ability to develop a seamless child welfare system with a new continuum of services for families at risk.

In 2001, state CPS agencies investigated nearly 2 million reports of alleged child abuse and neglect, involving over 3 million children. Nearly one-third of these reports were substantiated (maltreatment was confirmed) or indicated (there was reason to suspect that the child might have been maltreated or was at risk of maltreatment.) Almost twice as many were unsubstantiated, although the families may have needed preventive services.

In general, all three studies agree that currently, the process for deciding whether a case is substantiated is complex, involving many aspects beyond the facts of the case itself. These include: situations, events or circumstances related to the child and family themselves; caseworker training, experience, beliefs and perceptions; the structure, resources and workload of the CPS agency, and state laws and policies governing the CPS system.

All three studies recommend further research. Full-text versions of the two synthesis documents, Decision-making in Unsubstantiated Child Protective Services Cases: A Synthesis of Recent Research and Research to Practice: Reducing Re-referral in Unsubstantiated Child Protective Services Cases, are available on line at or by calling the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information at 800- FYI- 3366 or emailing

Contact: ACF Press Office (202) 401-9215
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