Methods: Data for this study was from the 2019 National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS): Child File from all 50 states and Washington DC. The analysis was limited to adolescents (ages 12-17). Using state and age population estimates from Kids Count, we calculated the rates of maltreatment reports by maltreatment subtype by state per 1000 in the population. We then calculated the rate of adolescent CPS reports that were substantiated.
Results: There were a total of 1,035,374 CPS reports regarding adolescents in the United States in 2019, 23.5% of all maltreatment reports for that year. For all states, the average CPS report rate was 43.35 CPS reports per 1,000 adolescents in the population. However, there was great variation by state in the rates of maltreatment reports, maltreatment subtypes, and substantiations. CPS report rates across states ranged from 12.4 (South Dakota) to 102.9 (Indiana) per 1,000 adolescents in the population. Neglect was the most frequent maltreatment subtype in 40 states, while physical abuse was most frequent in seven states. Sexual abuse was the most frequent subtype in only one state. Further, Missouri had the lowest rate of physical abuse reports (1.0 per 1000 adolescents), and West Virginia had the highest (71.9 per 1000 adolescents). Rates of reported neglect for adolescents were highest in Indiana (73.8 per 1000 adolescents). For sexual abuse reports, Vermont had the highest rate (17.2 per 1000 adolescents), and Idaho had the lowest rate (0.5 per 1000 adolescents). The mean substantiation rate across states was 8.0 per 1,000 adolescents. Substantiation rates were also varied, ranging from 2.0 (North Carolina) to 17.3 (New York) per 1,000 adolescents.
Conclusion and Implications: The identification of great variation in CPS reports by states suggests there may be differences in policies and practices, and how states define and measure maltreatment. The state variations highlighted may also account for variability in how maltreatment among adolescents is identified, reported, and handled by mandated reporters and child welfare professionals. These findings highlight the need for more clarity of definitions and for national standardization of how states define maltreatment. This would provide a critical opportunity to investigate adolescent maltreatment from a national perspective and to accurately compare data from different states.