Paper 1 is an exploratory, mixed methods study that leveraged both screener (gathered at CPS hotline call) and investigative narratives (gathered during the investigation stage) to identify the context and parental needs of families reported to CPS for allegations of child maltreatment. Using content analysis, unstructured records were examined to identify five key parental risk factors (substance use, mental health, domestic violence, non-cohabitating parental discord, and lack of resources) as recorded in the child protection screener and investigative notes. This paper also explored the extent to which parental needs differ by type of maltreatment allegation.
Paper 2 documented mental health diagnoses and past CPS involvement among a population of Medicaid eligible children in California. This paper used linked Medicaid and longitudinal child protection records from California. Fully half of children with a mental health diagnosis had a history with CPS. Compared with the children with any past or current involvement with child protective services, children substantiated as victims were diagnosed at two times the rate and those placed in foster care were diagnosed at nearly four times the rate.
Paper 3 examined the relationship between placement type and juvenile justice involvement among a population of youth who have been in congregate care. Statewide CPS records were used to identify all adolescents who had spent at least one week in congregate care and then linked to statewide arrest records. Overall, 6.9% of adolescents who had experienced a congregate care placement were arrested and booked during the two-year window of observation. The risk for arrest was two and a half times higher for adolescents in a current congregate care placement and close to five times higher for adolescents who left care without permission in comparison to adolescents who exited care to reunification or a permanent placement.
Administrative records provide an accessible and cost-effective source of data for researching child maltreatment, but most analyses have been confined to information collected in structured fields. These three papers demonstrate how data sources can be integrated to provide a more complete understanding of how to support children and families with CPS involvement.