Using Child Abuse Specialists to Reduce Unnecessary Child Protective Services Reports and Investigations

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Experiencing a child abuse investigation is commonplace in the US. A study by Kim et alcalculated that one-third of all children nationwide might expect to experience such an investigation before turning 18 years, and among Black children, more than half will be subject to a child protective services investigation.

Increasing attention is now given to the problems caused by overreporting of families to child protective services (CPS) agencies. In 2021, only 17.8% of screened-in reports were substantiated. Studies have found a higher substantiation rate for reports by medical professionals, but that rate is still low, and child removal rates in this setting are even lower, suggesting an inefficient allocation of investigative resources. Moreover, children and families often experience these investigations as invasive and harmful.

The number of reports originating from medical practitioners has increased sharply, incongruent with the prevalence of abuse and faster than any other group of mandated reporters. This finding raises concern that health care professionals may misunderstand when a report is warranted and may not be aware of other options. We wish to inform clinicians of the potential harms of unnecessary reporting and to highlight the possibility of consulting a child abuse pediatrician (CAP) prior to reporting, in a subset of cases in which the concern for child abuse is low.


Child Psychology | Family Law | Law

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