Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Irwin Epstein

Subject Categories

Public Policy | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Social Work


Abuse and Neglect, Child Maltreatment, Child Protection, Child Welfare, Foster Care, Placement Trends


This study involves secondary analysis of the national administrative data contained in two major federal child maltreatment and foster care data systems, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System for 2005 to 2010. The study examines the data related to screening in and determination of maltreatment reports (child maltreatment response), as well as the provision of services to children referred for maltreatment. The purpose is to determine how the child welfare services/child protective services systems responses to child maltreatment contributed to the 17% decline in foster care entries from 2005 to 2010.

The trends show shifts in CWS/CPS systems' responses to child maltreatment toward increased family engagement. The findings indicate that despite the increase in numbers of children screened in for maltreatment, substantiation for all types of maltreatment (especially neglect, and physical and sexual abuse), declined. At the same time, unsubstantiated findings and assignment to differential or alternative response increased. Consistent with the decline in substantiation, post investigation services or post response services (including foster care) also declined. The study indicates a substantial decrease in disproportionality of Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander children in the child welfare system, although these groups continued to be overrepresented. Correlatively, Hispanic/Latino children increased as a proportion of the total population involved in child welfare, although they continued to be slightly underrepresented. In addition, there was a large increase in Hispanic/Latino children with unsubstantiated findings who received "other" post investigation services. The increase in the proportion of Hispanic/Latino children and the decrease for other racial ethnic groups, especially Black or African American and White children, contributed to most of the observed reduction in the foster care entries.

There is some evidence of CWS/CPS' increased targeting of services, including foster care, to younger children and older adolescents from with some exceptions for children under 1 year of age. Possible explanations for all of these trends and implications for child welfare policy and research are offered.