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Understanding Decisions about Child Maltreatment

Peter H. Rossi, John Schuerman and Stephen Budde
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Peter H. Rossi: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
John Schuerman: Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago
Stephen Budde: Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago

Evaluation Review, 1999, vol. 23, issue 6, 579-598

Abstract: To understand how decisions are made in abuse/neglect cases by the child welfare system, the authors asked child welfare experts and protective service line workers to make decisions about actual child abuse and neglect cases on the basis of written summaries of the cases. Respondents included 27 experts and 103 line workers. Regression analyses found that workers and experts emphasized the same case characteristics in making their decisions, but the decisions were not well structured in the sense that they were not well predicted by case characteristics. Individual experts and workers varied widely in the decisions they made on identical cases. The authors conclude that decision making in the child protective system is inconsistent, with errors of two kinds: failing to remove children from their families when that is called for and removing children when it is unnecessary. Progress must be made in developing decision-making criteria that are consistent, preserve family integrity, and promote the well-being of children.

Date: 1999
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