Caseworker-Perceived Caregiver Substance Abuse and Child Protective Services Outcomes

Berger, Lawrence M.; Slack, Kristen S.; Waldfogel, Jane; Bruch, Sarah K.

The authors used data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being to examine associations of child protective services (CPS) caseworkers' perceptions of caregiver substance abuse with their perceptions of the severity of risk and harm a child experienced as a result of alleged maltreatment, as well as with whether a family experienced a range of CPS outcomes. The outcomes included whether the family received services from CPS, was substantiated for maltreatment, experienced child removal, and was subject to a termination of parental rights (TPR) petition. The authors also compared the magnitude of the association between caseworker-perceived caregiver substance abuse and each outcome to that of the association between other maltreatment-related risk factors and each outcome. Findings suggest that, all else equal, caseworker-perceived caregiver substance abuse is associated with increased caseworker perceptions that children have experienced severe risk and harm and also with an increased probability of each of the CPS outcomes except TPR. Moreover, these associations are equal in magnitude or larger than those between the other risk factors and the outcomes. These findings imply that CPS decisions are heavily influenced by caseworker perceptions of caregiver substance abuse, regardless of the presence of other risk factors for child maltreatment.


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Child Maltreatment

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Social Work
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September 7, 2012