When Children are Not Safe in Out-of-Home Care

Project to measure incidence of child abuse and neglect in out-of-home care and identify children most at risk

Children are placed in out-of-home care with the expectation that this will protect them from further harm. Yet, research indicates that child maltreatment occurs in all types of care settings and that all types of child maltreatment occur in out-of-home care. Despite this evidence, child maltreatment in out-of-home care is an understudied topic, with most related research being more than two decades old. This project was designed to address this gap.

This project will be the first to use national data to take a comprehensive look at the incidence of child maltreatment among children in out-of-home care, the nature of that maltreatment (neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional maltreatment), and the relationship between child maltreatment in out-of-home care and child characteristics. To do this, we will use linked data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) and the Adoption and Foster Care Reporting System (AFCARS).  We have both an External Advisory Board made up of child welfare scholars and a Young Adult Research Advisory Group made up of young adults with lived experience in foster care.

The results of the proposed study can inform strategies to strengthen the national surveillance of child maltreatment and provide child welfare systems with information they can use to prevent further harm to children who have already been neglected or abused.

This project is supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Chapin Hall’s Dr. Amy Dworsky, a senior research fellow, is the principal investigator on this project. Chapin Hall Senior Researcher Dr. Julie McCrae and Montclair State Associate Professor Dr. Svetlana Shpiegel are co-investigators.

For additional information about the project, please contact Amy Dworsky.