Children whose families have been investigated for maltreatment by child protective services are not getting the developmental and mental health interventions that they need, says a new report from RTI International and the U.S Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. “The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing” report was announced on September 26, 2013.
The report and a followup survey focused on the wellbeing of children who become involved with child welfare agencies and analyzed several factors:
- The ability of agencies to find permanent living arrangements for children who can’t stay with their parents or caregivers
- the developmental and mental health risks the children experience, especially those exposed to domestic violence and severe abuse
- whether they received developmental and mental health interventions
“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," said Heather Ringeisen, Ph.D., the project investigator and director of the Children and Families Program at RTI.
“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.”
A followup survey called the “The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being Wave 2 Child Permanency Report” summarized data on child permanency and the challenges children face when they do not have a permanent residence.
Wave 2 showed that 18 months after a child maltreatment investigation has closed, nearly 80 percent of children continued to live at home with their parents or primary caregivers. Many of these children required mental health interventions but were not receiving them.
The longitudinal survey involved more than 5,000 children in child welfare investigations closed between February, 2008, and April, 2009 in 83 U.S. counties. The cases included data from unsubstantiated and substantiated investigations of neglect or abuse, and children and their families who were or were not receiving services.
- Out of the children who were removed from their home for a length of time, 73 percent had one placement, 19 percent had two placements, and 8.5 percent had three or more placements
- Children ages 13 to 17 had higher numbers of placements
- Babies and toddlers to age two were more likely to be reunified with their parents or caregivers than children ages 6 to 17
- Children were out of their home an average of 249 days
- Children who were adopted stayed in fewer places than kids who were not adopted
“Insights into child permanency could have long-lasting implications in the role of child welfare organizations as it relates to child health,” said Cecilia Casanueva, Ph.D., 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.”