Methods: California administrative datasets from child protection and vital birth records were linked. For a family-level analysis, these administrative datasets were probabilistically linked to identify all children in the same home. The population included (1) first-time mothers who gave birth in 1999, (2) who had their first child reported to CPS before the child’s age 5, and (3) had subsequent births. From This population, two groups of mothers were identified: mothers who were never re-reported to CPS and mothers who were re-reported to CPS for a second or later born child. Risk factors included in the model were: birth weight, mother’s age at birth, maternal education, timing of prenatal care, insurance type (as a proxy for poverty), and paternity establishment. Changes in risk factors between the first and later births were recorded. The outcome variable was a re-report to CPS for a later born child after a report for the first born. To estimate the associations between risk factor changes and re-report, multivariate logistic regression model was used.
Results: Most of mothers (61.6%) with a first born child reported to CPS were minors at the time of birth. Mothers who were not re-reported for later born children were less likely to be exposed to risk factors compared to their counterparts, mothers who were re-reported for a subsequent child’s maltreatment. The results of the multivariate regression show that mother’s minor age at birth (OR = 1.75, 95% CI = 1.39, 2.19), incompletion of high school (OR = 1.36, 95% CI = 1.26, 1.60), later prenatal care (OR = 1.84, 95% CI = 1.52, 2.23), and lack of established paternity (OR = 1.91, 95% CI = 1.51, 2.42, OR = 2.37, 95% CI = 1.76, 3.91, respectively) were significant risk factors for a re-report to CPS.
Discussion: This study has important implications for improving child protective services for families at risk. This study indicates that mothers who are reported to CPS multiple times are already exposed to more risk factors at the time of first birth compared to their counterpart mothers. The results show that ameliorated risk factors do not reduce the risk of a re-report, whereas an increase in risk factors resulted heightened likelihood of being re-reported. Ways to prevent re-reports and the needs of mothers with an initial CPS contact are discussed.