How Helpful is a Referral to Child Protective Services

Tucson Botanical Gardens

M Evangelist et al. Child Abuse & Neglect; 2023; 136: 105994. Child protective services contact and youth outcomes

Methods: The study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study of children born in 20 US cities. Study outcomes were “based on age-15 interviews with the focal children and their caregivers with sample sizes ranging from 2088 to 2327 across outcomes. The relationship between CPS contact and child wellbeing was estimated using the propensity score method of inverse probability of treatment weighting.”

Key findings:

“Despite a federal mandate to improve child wellbeing, we found no evidence that contact with the child welfare system improves child outcomes. Rather, CPS contact was associated with worse mental health and developmental outcomes” including associated increases in smoking (88% increase), in being expelled from school (18% increase), in depression (7.5% increase, and in anxiety (6.9% increase).

My take: While protecting children and reporting abuse/neglect are mandated, it is not clear that involvement of CPS results in better outcomes.

Related blog posts: A Cautionary Tale –Is it Medical Child Abuse?

Confronting Neglect

A brief perspective article makes some useful points about involvement of child protective services (NEJM 2012; 367: 1976-77).

“A recent study of 595 high-risk children whose families were reported for CPS intervention showed no significant improvements in family functioning, social support, maternal education, or child behavior problems among children who received CPS intervention as compared with those who did not.”

The article concludes with an interesting quote:

“Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.'”

While this is certainly true, it is difficult to figure out how to accomplish this sentiment.

Related post:

Is obesity neglect? | gutsandgrowth