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After Maltreatment Investigation, In-Home Children Need Intervention

Eighteen months after the close of a child maltreatment investigation, nearly 80% of children are still living in the home with their parents or primary caregivers according to a new report from RTI International and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.

However, many of those children need mental and developmental health interventions similar to children placed out of the home, and they are not receiving them.

“Historically all the attention of the child welfare system has been on maltreated children placed out of the home. But the reality is that most maltreatment cases will not be substantiated, and the file will be closed, leaving the child at home,” says Heather Ringeisen, PhD, director of the Children and Families Program at RTI and the project investigator. “Just the fact that a maltreatment investigation has been opened indicates problems within the family that could lead to issues for the child. We’re finding that those left at home continue having similar developmental and mental health problems and needs for services to those placed out of the home.”

The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being Wave 2 Child Permanency Report summarizes information on child permanency and highlights the challenges faced by those children who have not achieved it. It is an 18-month follow-up to the longitudinal study; it included more than 5,000 children involved in child welfare investigations closed between February 2008 and April 2009 in 83 counties nationwide. The participants include substantiated and unsubstantiated investigations of abuse or neglect, as well as children and families who were and were not receiving services.

Key findings of the report include the following:

- among the children who were removed from the home for any length of time, nearly 73% were placed once, nearly 19% twice and 8.5% had three or more placements;
- children between the ages of 13 and 17 had a higher number of placements;
- children aged birth to two-years-old, were likelier to experience a parental reunification attempt than children aged six to 17;
- the average number of days spent out of the home was 249; and
- children who were subsequently adopted experienced fewer placements than those who were not.

“Insights into child permanency could have long-lasting implications in the role of child welfare organizations as it relates to child health,” says Cecilia Casanueva, PhD, public health research analyst at RTI and the project’s analyst. “For instance, older children, who are most likely to rotate through a series of foster homes, may need more intensive mental health intervention than younger children who achieve permanency faster.”

RTI International has led the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being for more than 15 years. Findings from the organization’s research have helped policymakers and representatives from the Administration for Children and Families inform legislation regarding child welfare.

“There has been a lot of emphasis in recent years on the need for evidence-based interventions for maltreated children,” Casanueva says. “Our contributions through surveys such as this one can have a significant impact in the improvement of services for children and families.”

— Source: RTI International