Child Maltreatment in New Hampshire

Assessing the Substantiation Process
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1314-10
Thursday, August 28, 2014
St. Romain

This report examines the rate of maltreatment substantiation for youths under the age of 18 in New Hampshire. Substantiation rates refer to the proportion of assessments investigated by the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) deemed to exhibit evidence of abuse or neglect. New Hampshire’s substantiation rate is particularly low relative to other states. In New Hampshire, 3 out of every 1,000 children under the age of 18 have had a substantiated assessment of maltreatment. In contrast, the national average is 10 out of every 1,000 children under 18 years of age.1 The ultimate goal of this report is to determine potential reasons behind New Hampshire’s low substantiation rate in order to advise DCYF regarding current practices of identifying abuse and neglect in order to protect children in NH from maltreatment.

To accomplish this goal, this report evaluates policies in New Hampshire related to child maltreatment assessment. Using National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) data from 2010 to 2012, we also examine the demographic, geographic, and family characteristics that potentially contribute to substantiation. The results indicate that assessments that contain one or more risk factors, such as alcohol and drug abuse or disabilities, tend to be substantiated more often. To put New Hampshire’s data and legislation in context, we also compare its processing of maltreatment assessments to other Northeastern states. Finally, we conduct interviews of DCYF staff in order to provide further qualitative perspective to the analysis. The findings indicate that the low substantiation rate may result in part from the screening process and the state statute defining abuse rather than specific features of the investigation process. The analysis may help DCYF to identify potential areas for future investigation and improvement of policies.