Child maltreatment has been a critical problem with mixed factors. Some studies show that certain caregiver's conditions, such as mental health or drug abuse problems, are associated with children's vulnerability to maltreatment. In addition, children with special needs could have a higher incidence of maltreatment. However, little research examines how a combination of caregiver's conditions and children's special needs are related to child maltreatment allegations and re-reporting. Therefore, this study has two goals. First, to explore the relationship between children with special needs, including mental health or behavioral problems, developmental disability, and learning disability, and different types of child abuse; and second, to explore the association of special needs of children, factors of caregivers, and the risk of child maltreatment allegations and re-reporting.
Ranging from January 2019 to August 2021, a national data which consisted of 19,906 domestic child maltreatment allegations across Taiwan was used for analyses. The data were merged with in-cash benefit records to capture the family financial difficulties. Personal factors were collected by child protective services (CPS) social workers during CPS investigations including children's age, gender, special needs, the history of CPS reports, and the abuse type of current allegation. Meanwhile, caregiver's information was collected including age, gender, mental health, drug abuse history and criminal records, if they have. Bivariate analyses and logistic regression were performed to examine the relationships among demographics, family financial difficulties, history of CPS report, caregiver’s factors, and the health and development of children in child maltreatment allegations.
- Significant differences in history of CPS reporting were found between children with or without special needs such as developmental delay, and learning disability.
- Caregivers who had criminal records, mental health issues or drug abuse issues were related to children’s special needs. Meanwhile, they were more likely to have a history of child maltreatment allegations and re-report.
- Considering caregiver factors, children with different needs suffered from different types of abuse. Among the eight types of child abuse, physical abuse was frequently experienced by all children. However, children with mental health or behavioral problems had higher chances of suffering from mental abuse, improper discipline and abandonment; whereas children with developmental disability, neglect, and children with learning disability were more likely to experienced improper discipline.
Conclusions and Implications
Based on the results, CPS workers need to be aware of the intersection of caregiver’s personal issues and children’s special needs. In addition to existing CPS services, diverse intervention strategies should be targeted according to the different needs of children, such as providing caregivers with more parenting skills or resources on caring for children with developmental delay or learning disability. Moreover, services and preventive strategies should be developed for caregivers with mental health or drug issues so that they could develop and maintain parenting capacity and could experience less burden of care. Finally, adequate services with a family-centered approach should be provided at their first allegation in order to prevent these families from being re-reported.