What is the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS)?

The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) is a federally sponsored effort that annually collects and analyzes data on child abuse and neglect known to child protective services (CPS) agencies in the United States. The mandate for NCANDS is based on the 1988 amendments to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which directed the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create a national data collection and analysis program for state-level child abuse and neglect information. Subsequent amendments to CAPTA have led to new data collection requirements, many of which are incorporated into NCANDS.

A successful federal-state partnership is the core component of NCANDS. Each state designates one person to be the NCANDS state contact, who works closely with the Children’s Bureau and the NCANDS Technical Team to uphold the high-quality standards associated with NCANDS data. Webinars, technical bulletins, virtual meetings, email, and phone conferences are used regularly to facilitate information sharing and provision of technical assistance. 

Annual Data Collection Process

Every year, NCANDS data are submitted voluntarily by the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The NCANDS reporting year is based on the FFY calendar which spans October 1 to September 30. States submit case-level data, called a Child File, by constructing an electronic file of child-specific records for each report of alleged child abuse and neglect that received a CPS response in the form of an investigation or alternative response. Case-level data include information about the characteristics of the reports of abuse and neglect, the children involved, the types of maltreatment, the CPS findings, the risk factors of the child and the caregivers, the services provided, and the perpetrators.

The Child File is supplemented by agency-level aggregate statistics in a separate data submission called the Agency File. The Agency File contains data that are not reportable at the child-specific level and are often gathered from agencies external to CPS. Information collected in the Agency File include receipt of prevention and postresponse services and caseload and workforce data. States are asked to submit both the Child File and the Agency File each year.

How are the data used?

The NCANDS data are a critical source of information for many publications, reports, child welfare personnel, researchers, and others. NCANDS data are used to measure the performance of several federal programs, and are an integral part of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR) and the Child Welfare Outcomes: Report to Congress.

NCANDS data are also used for the annual Child Maltreatment report series. Each report summarizes the major national and state-by-state findings for the given fiscal year, and is a key resource for thousands of people and organizations across the world. The Children’s Bureau has published an annual Child Maltreatment report every year since 1992.

Where are the data available?

The Child Maltreatment reports are available on the Children’s Bureau website at /programs/cb/research-data-technology/statisti.... Restricted use files of the NCANDS data are archived at the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and  Neglect (NDACAN) at Cornell University and available to researchers who are interested in using these data for statistical analyses.