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Caseworker Judgements and Substantiation

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2009 Pages: 38-52
Theodore P. Cross; Cecilia Casanueva
Date Published
February 2009
15 pages
This study explored how substantiation was related to caseworker judgments of three key variables: harm, risk of harm, and evidence of maltreatment.
Results showed that harm, risk, and evidence were all substantial predictors of substantiation, even when demographic and maltreatment characteristics were taken into account. Caseworkers consider harm to the child, future risk to the child, and evidence of maltreatment when they make substantiation decisions. This does not mean that harm, risk, and evidence predict the substantiation decision for every child. Evidence appeared to play the largest role even when case workers believed that children had been harmed or were at risk; substantiation was unlikely unless evidence of maltreatment was sufficient. In terms of demographics and maltreatment characteristics, results revealed that income and prior report were initially significant but not so when caseworker judgment variables were included. This suggests that these two variables have an indirect effect on substantiation through their effect on appraisals of risk, harm, and evidence. Child gender and age were each significantly related to substantiation beyond harm, risk, and evidence. Boys’ cases were less likely to lead to substantiation than girls; cases with children aged 6-10 were more likely to be substantiated than cases of younger or older children. Data were collected from a subset of 5,501 children and youths from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) who were reported to child welfare services in 1999 and 2000. Tables, figures, and references