Are unsubstantiated reports really unsubstantiated?
"Many children with unsubstantiated reports of child abuse and neglect repeatedly return to the child protection system, indicating that unsubstantiated reports may represent actual child maltreatment or risk for future maltreatment."
A new study (Jedwab et al., 2017) from the University of Maryland shows that 81% of children with initially unsubstantiated reports were re-reported, of which almost two-thirds were substantiated. Children who were younger, non-white, and had caregivers with more depressive symptoms were are at increased risk of a substantiated re-report.
The central message is that identifying re-reporting can prevent further maltreatment and risk of re-reporting. This is extremely relevant to the social care services' assessment of whether children referred to them should be considered "In need" and receive services or not. During the year ending 31 March 2016, 138,700 referrals (DfE, 2016) were completed, in England, within 12 months of a previous referral. Consequently, although a small-sample study (378 children), it reports a message that is crucial and applicable to the UK social care policy.