image Visit coronavirus.govVisit disclaimer page for the latest Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) updates.
View ACF COVID-19 Responses and Resources

NSCAW, No. 16: A Summary of NSCAW Findings

Published: January 15, 2007
Abuse, Neglect, Adoption & Foster Care
National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), 1997-2014 and 2015-2022 | Learn more about this project
NSCAW: Research Briefs

Beginning in 1996, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) responded to a congressional mandate for a longitudinal study of child abuse and neglect by establishing the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW). At that time, there was no study of this kind, of such size and scope and featuring the first nationally representative sample of children and families investigated by the child welfare system (CWS). NSCAW is the first study to collect data directly from children and caregivers, incorporating direct assessment of the functioning and well-being of children. The study has produced five full waves of data collected between 1999 and 2007 from more than 6,200 children and their caregivers, caseworkers, teachers, and agency administrative records.

The NSCAW data are extensive, rich, and complex and have shed light on the characteristics of children and families within the CWS; they have increased the understanding of policies and practices impacting child safety, permanence, and well-being, as well as those impacting child and caregiver services. This information comes at a critical time, one of increasing demands and fewer resources in the CWS (Lindsey, 2003). The number of children and families reported and investigated has increased 32.4% since 1990 ( Administration for Children and Families, 2006); the need for services has not diminished.

Research based on NSCAW is highlighting important new challenges and providing a better picture of the specific stressors maltreated children face and the range of outcomes that are affected. To date, the study has resulted in more than 130 publications. This brief summarizes some of the main NSCAW findings in the areas of permanency and living situation; child and family well-being; and use of services.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019