New CFRC Study Examines Families with Chronic Maltreatment
Although most families that are investigated by Child Protective Services (CPS) are investged once and have no further contact with the system, a subset of families experience numerous investigations over many years. Repeated investigations are not only stressful for the family but are also very costly for the CPS system. Understanding how to target these families sooner could help decrease the stress on families, the stress on the system and most importantly help keep children safe. A recent study by CFRC researchers Saijun Zhang, Tamara Fuller, and Martin Nieto published in Children and Youth Services Review explored the time between investigations as a factor that could help predict which families are more likely to have repeated contacts with the child protection system. They found that shorter time intervals between maltreatment occurrences are associated with increased likelihood of having a future occurrence. The findings suggest the possibility of including the time between previous maltreatment incidents as an indicator for risk of future maltreatment. Click here to read a recent interview with Drs. Zhang and Fuller about this study.
Collecting Forensic Evidence in Child Sexual Abuse Cases
Child sexual abuse is a terrible crime, but it can be difficult to prove because children are too young to testify. A forensic medical exam conducted in the first 3 days after the abuse can not only address the child's medical needs but may also provide evidence for a criminal investigation. Forensic evidence kits have been used with adults for many years, however for a variety of reasons they were not appropriate for children. A new forensic evidence kit designed specifically for use with children was therefore developed by a multi-disciplinary team convened by the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (MA SANE) Program and the Executive Office Of Public Safety and Security. This kit, called the MA PEDI Kit, consists of a colorful, child-friendly box with materials and instructions for 13 steps of evidence collection. Nurses are trained to use painless and non-invasive methods to collect evidence (e.g., the child's DNA is obtained from a swab inside the mouth instead of drawing blood), child appropriate drawings and body maps to document injuries, and children can decline any part or the even the whole examination if they are uncomfortable. CFRC researcher Dr. Ted Cross partnered with the MA SANE program to conduct a study that examined the types of forensic evidence collected with the MA PEDI Kits. To find out more, read the research brief
that describes the findings of this study.
Post-Reunification Services to Prevent Re-entry into Substitute Care
When children are returned home following a stay in substitute care, the months following family reunification can be difficult as the children are integrated back into the family. For some families, the stress associated with reunification is greater than the family's resources and the children must re-enter substitute care to maintain their safety. The provision of post-reunification casework and other supportive services may reduce the likelihood of re-entry into substitute care, a notion that will be tested in an upcoming evaluation designed by the CFRC for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF). Wisconsin was one of 9 states that were recently granted federal approval to waive its Title IV-E funding requirements to implement and test the effectiveness of a 12-month post-reunification support program. Little research exists on the effectiveness of services to families following reunification and the results of the Wisconsin Waiver Evaluation will be of great benefit to other child welfare systems seeking to lower rates of re-entry into care.