Child welfare services and risk of child maltreatment rereports: Do services ameliorate initial risk?

Tamara Fuller, Martin Nieto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although considerable public policy and research has focused on children removed from their homes following a CPS response, the vast majority of maltreated children remain in their homes, either with or without child welfare services. Little is known about which families are provided with child welfare services or the effectiveness of these services on reducing families' risk of subsequent maltreatment reports. Previous research examining rates of maltreatment recurrence among investigated families suggests that families who receive post-investigation child welfare services are at higher risk of rereports compared to those who do not receive services. Issues of selection bias in previous analyses - services are provided to those families at highest risk - impede our ability to draw valid conclusions about the impact of child welfare services on future risk. The current study used propensity score matching to create two groups of investigated families that were equally matching in their likelihood of receiving child welfare services, and then compared their rates of subsequent maltreatment reports over a 24-month period following the initial investigation. Results indicate that even after matching on pretreatment risk, families who received services were significantly more likely to be rereported than families who did not, suggesting that child welfare services may lack a sufficient level of effectiveness in achieving their stated goal of preventing additional maltreatment. Reasons for these findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-54
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue numberP1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare services
  • Propensity score matching
  • Recurrence
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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