Risk factors for notifications to child protection services in the Early Start Project early intervention service.
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMasters of Science
Data from a prospective study of an early intervention cohort of 314 New Zealanders was used to examine the associations between familial risk factors and reports to child protection services (CPS) for child maltreatment. The primary aim of this study was to identify the risk factors that were associated with a subsequent notification to CPS. Two different approaches were employed. In the first approach, risk factors were clustered into categories and tested for associations with CPS notifications. In a second approach with supplementary analyses, individual risk factors were examined for associations with CPS notifications according to the type of maltreatment risk. The second aim of this study attempted to gain a better understanding of families’ experiences of the CPS process through a retrospective descriptive analysis of the patterns of CPS notifications and timing of participation with Early Start. The multivariate results showed two categories of risk, pregnancy adversity and economic challenges were significant predictors of a CPS notification, along with the sum of all risk factors across categories. When analysing all 58 individual risk factors, hospital admissions in pregnancy, lack of formal qualifications, and history of an eating disorder were all significant predictors of a notification to CPS, although the predictive utility was small. The analyses also demonstrated that there were no patterns of specific associations between risk factors and the type of CPS notification. Descriptive analysis of the care and protection data found just under a third of all mothers who had experienced a notification to CPS experienced one or more subsequent notifications after their CPS case had been closed. There were fewer actions taken by CPS that monitored a family’s level of risk, but a substantial number of children were uplifted from the family home. The average time between family enrolment with the Early Start early intervention service and a notification to CPS was two years, and the most frequent time between a CPS case closure and subsequent notification was between three and five months. The results of this study highlight the challenges of predicting CPS notifications in a high-risk homogeneous cohort, the inconsistencies in the CPS process, and the potential to revise and strengthen the Early Start intake assessment.