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Troubled teens and challenged caregivers: Characteristics associated with the decision to provide child welfare services to adolescents in Ontario, Canada

Bryn King, Barbara Fallon, Joanne Filippelli, Tara Black and O'Connor, Carolyn

Children and Youth Services Review, 2018, vol. 87, issue C, 205-215

Abstract: Although studies have documented the pronounced and negative impact of adolescent maltreatment on short and long-term development, there is limited research about the risk factors and experiences of adolescents who are reported to the child welfare system. This study addresses this knowledge gap by using data from the provincially representative Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS-2013) to identify the characteristics of the alleged maltreatment, functioning concerns, caregiver risk factors, and socioeconomic conditions associated with the decision to provide ongoing child welfare services to adolescents and their families. In 2013, there were an estimated 34,968 investigations of maltreatment-related concerns involving adolescents and 26.5% of these cases were transferred to ongoing services. A number of factors were associated with this decision, including: adolescents' race/ethnicity, internalizing problems, and difficulties in the quality of the relationship with their primary caregiver; investigations involving potential abandonment, exposure to intimate partner violence, and co-occurring maltreatment; and caregivers' social isolation, mental health concerns, and substance abuse. A multivariable tree-classification found that the presence of internalizing problems was a primary factor influencing the decision to provide ongoing child welfare services, followed by caregiver social isolation, relationship difficulties between the caregiver and the adolescent, caregiver mental health concerns, and co-occurring maltreatment. The results suggest that adolescents investigated by Ontario child welfare authorities are experiencing troubling circumstances coupled with their caregivers' challenges, which may be impacting their relationships to the point that it determines their need for ongoing child welfare services.

Date: 2018
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