Predictors of placement for children who initially remained in their homes after an investigation for abuse or neglect

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To examine the frequency and predictors of out-of-home placement in a 30-month follow-up for a nationally representative sample of children investigated for a report of maltreatment who remained in their homes following the index child welfare report.


Data came from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW), a 3-year longitudinal study of 5,501 youth 0-14 years old referred to child welfare agencies for potential maltreatment between 10/1999 and 12/2000. These analyses focused on the children who had not been placed out-of-home at the baseline interview and examined child, family and case characteristics as predictors of subsequent out-of-home placement. Weighted logistic regression models were used to determine which baseline characteristics were related to out-of-home placement in the follow-up.


For the total study sample, predictors of placement in the 30-month follow-up period included elevated Conflict Tactics Scale scores, prior history of child welfare involvement, high family risk scores and caseworkers' assessment of likelihood of re-report without receipt of services. Higher family income was protective. For children without any prior child welfare history (incident cases), younger children, low family income and a high family risk score were strongly related to subsequent placement but receipt of services and case workers' assessments were not. CONCLUSIONS/PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Family risk variables are strongly related to out-of-home placement in a 30-month follow-up, but receipt of child welfare services is not related to further placements. Considering family risk factors and income, 25% of the children who lived in poor families, with high family risk scores, were subsequently placed out-of-home, even among children in families who received child welfare services. Given that relevant evidence-based interventions are available for these families, more widespread tests of their use should be explored to understand whether their use could make a substantial difference in the lives of vulnerable children.

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