NSCAW II Child Well-Being Spotlight: Children with Substantiated and Unsubstantiated Reports of Child Maltreatment are at Similar Risk for Poor Outcomes

Publication Date: May 9, 2012


In substantiated cases of maltreatment, child protective services determine whether abuse or neglect can be proven, with credible evidence, to have occurred. Less than one in five investigated reports are substantiated. This decision—whether abuse can be substantiated—is important because it has implications for how much a child and family are involved with the child welfare system and what services they receive. According to estimates from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), children with unsubstantiated reports of abuse or neglect experience the same risk of negative outcomes as children with substantiated reports. Children in both groups were at risk for severe developmental and cognitive problems, as well as emotional or behavioral problems and substance use disorders. These data suggest the role of child protective services as a gateway for referrals and receipt of services to all children who come into contact with the child welfare system.

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