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Differentiating Between Substantiated, Suspected, and Unsubstantiated Maltreatment in Canada

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2009 Pages: 4-16
Nico Trocme; Della Knoke; Barbara Fallon; Bruce MacLaurin
Date Published
February 2009
13 pages
This study examined several issues related to the substantiation of child maltreatment, such as the ability to differentiate suspected from unsubstantiated and substantiated maltreatment.
Results indicate that several factors increased the likelihood that maltreatment would remain suspected rather than classified as unsubstantiated. A police referral, the presence of physical harm or emotional harm, caregiver risk factors, and other minority ethno-racial status, child behavior concerns, housing risk, and lack of caregiver cooperation made it more likely that investigations would be classified as suspected rather than unsubstantiated. Several factors also increased the likelihood that maltreatment would be substantiated rather than remain suspected. Police referral, the presence of physical harm or emotional harm, other minority ethno-racial status, and having one or more prior substantiated maltreatment investigations were associated with greater chances that maltreatment would be substantiated. This overlap suggests that the presence of these case characteristics makes it difficult for workers to dismiss the possibility that maltreatment occurred, but other case features must be present to warrant substantiation. Caregiver risk factors, child behavior concerns, housing risk, and caregiver cooperation influenced decisions between unsubstantiated and suspected, but these factors did not increase the likelihood that maltreatment occurred, but insufficient evidence to corroborate allegations and a lack of harm rendered the decision inconclusive rather than substantiated. Data were collected from 10,010 investigations involving children under the age of 16 investigated outside of Quebec. Tables, note, and references