Methods: Primary analysis utilized a detailed cross-sector, longitudinal dataset collected in a midwestern metropolitan area from 1993 to 2009 (N=7,302). We followed children with index reports from mandated and permissive sources and tracked initial case disposition (substantiation, entry into care), as well as later recurrence events (any report, any substantiated report, subsequent entry into care). Bivariate analysis and logistic regressions using a range of control variables were performed. A separate set of similar analyses using the much larger but less detailed data available from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) Child Files and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) was conducted.
Results: Both datasets yielded similar results. Consistent with prior literature, mandated reporters were much more likely to have their reports substantiated. Index reports from mandated sources were also much more likely to transition to foster care. In stark contrast, we found that index event reporter status (mandated/permissive) did not predict report recurrence or later foster care entry. Results were consistent at the bivariate and multivariate levels.
Conclusion and Implications: We confirm the longstanding finding that reports from mandated sources have higher initial substantiation rates. However, while cases from mandated and permissive reporters clearly differ in immediate outcomes, they are not very different in longer term outcomes. A primary goal of the child protective services system is providing preventative interventions to forestall subsequent maltreatment. Since we find children reported by either type of reporter to be at similar long term risk, we would advise that screening protocols should not prioritize reports from professional sources.