Families involved in child protective services (CPS) and public social services simultaneously, known as dual system families, have been shown to be at higher risk for repeat child abuse and neglect compared to CPS-involved families (Drake, Jonson-Reid & Sapokaite, 2006; Jonson-Reid Drake & Kohl, 2009). There is limited research examining dual system families’ unique characteristics, their outcomes, and whether Family Preservation services (FP), with their focus on both concrete and therapeutic supports, may lower the risk of a maltreatment re-report. This study adds to the limited body of research on dual system families by comparing their demographic characteristics and outcomes to CPS-only families and examining the impact of dual system involvement and FP completion on a maltreatment re-report.
De-identified administrative data were obtained involving 4,799 families that received FP between January 2013 and December 2014. Among these families, a subset of dual system families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) were identified (n=888). CPS provided data including demographic characteristics and maltreatment re-reports covering four and a half years between 2013 and 2017. Bivariate Pearson chi-square analyses were used to compare dual system families and CPS-only families on various demographic characteristics including mother’s age, number of children in the home, child ethnicity, age of youngest child, and prior child welfare history and on the outcome of interest—a maltreatment re-report. A multivariable survival analysis was conducted on the entire sample and then on dual system families to analyze the effect of demographic characteristics and FP completion on time to a maltreatment re-report.
Dual system families differed from CPS-only families with respect to mother’s age, child ethnicity, and child age. Specifically, 35% of dual system mothers were very young (15 to 25) compared to 17% of CPS-only mothers, 26% of dual system children were African-American compared to 16% of CPS-only children, and 64% of dual system children were ages 0 to 5 compared to 46% of CPS-only children. Furthermore, differences in re-reports emerged as well with 56% of dual system families experiencing a maltreatment re-report compared to 45% of CPS-only families. In the full model, multivariable survival analysis indicated that dual involvement in CPS and TANF was associated with increased hazards of a maltreatment re-report (HR = 1.17; 95% CI = 1.05, 1.29) while FP completion was associated with decreased hazards of a re-report (HR = 0.75; 95% CI = 0.67, 0.84). The effect of FP completion on a maltreatment re-report was similar when restricting analyses to dual system families while controlling for demographic characteristics (HR = 0.76; 95% CI = 0.61, 0.94).
Conclusions and Implications
This study contributes to the general understanding of dual system families by identifying several demographic characteristics that distinguish them from CPS-only families, which could be used for effective service planning. Our findings also highlight the particular vulnerability of dual system families, which align with other studies, and suggest that FP completion can help lower the risk of a maltreatment re-report, even among highly vulnerable dual system families.