ARCHIVED - Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008
Chapter 1 - Introduction
Nico Trocmé, Barbara Fallon, Bruce MacLaurin, Vandna Sinha, Tara Black, Elizabeth Fast, Caroline Felstiner, Sonia Hélie, Daniel Turcotte, Pamela Weightman, Janet Douglas, and Jill Holroyd
Responsibility for protecting and supporting children at risk of abuse and neglect falls under the jurisdiction of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories and a system of Aboriginal child welfare organizations, which has increasing responsibility for protecting and supporting Aboriginal children. Because of variations in the types of situations that each jurisdiction includes under its child welfare mandate, as well as differences in the way service statistics are kept, it is difficult to obtain a nation-wide profile of the children and families receiving child welfare services. The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS) is designed to provide such a profile by collecting information on a periodic basis from every jurisdiction using a standardized set of definitions. With core funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and in-kind and financial support from a consortium of federal, provincial, territorial, Aboriginal, and academic stakeholders, the CIS-2008 is the third nation-wide study of the incidence and characteristics of investigated child abuse and neglect across Canada.
This report presents a profile of these investigations, including a comparison of rates of investigations in the 1998, 2003, and 2008 cycles of the study. Readers should note that because of changes in the way child welfare investigations are conducted across Canada and in the way the CIS tracks the results of these investigations, the findings presented in this report are not directly comparable to findings presented in the CIS-2003 and CIS-1998 reports. Given the growing complexity of the CIS, more detailed analyses will be conducted.1
Objectives and Scope
The primary objective of the CIS-2008 was to provide reliable estimates of the scope and characteristics of child abuse and neglect investigated by child welfare organizations in Canada in 2008. Specifically, the CIS–2008 was designed to:
- determine rates of investigated and substantiated physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, and exposure to intimate partner violence, as well as multiple forms of maltreatment;
- investigate the severity of maltreatment as measured by duration, and physical and emotional harm;
- examine selected determinants of health that may be associated with maltreatment;
- monitor short-term investigation outcomes, out-of-home placement, use of child welfare court;
- compare rates and characteristics of investigations across the 1998, 2003, and 2008 cycles of the CIS.
The CIS-2008 was also designed to accommodate supplementary oversampling in order to produce jurisdiction-specific estimates in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Québec, Saskatchewan, and, on a pilot basis, for Aboriginal service providers.
The CIS collected information directly from a national sample of child welfare workers2 at the point when they completed their initial investigation of a report of possible child abuse or neglect, or risk of future maltreatment. The scope of the study is therefore limited to the type of information available to them at that point. As shown in the CIS Iceberg Model (Figure 1-1), the study documented only situations that were reported to and investigated by child welfare sites. The study did not include information about unreported maltreatment nor about cases that were investigated only by the police.3 Similarly, the CIS did not include reports that were made to child welfare authorities but screened out (referrals that were not opened for investigation). While the study reports on short-term outcomes of child welfare investigations, including substantiation status, initial placements in out-of-home care, and court applications, the study did not track longer-term service events that occured beyond the initial investigation.
The CIS-2008 documented only situations that were reported to and investigated by child welfare sites. The study did not include information about unreported maltreatment nor about cases that were investigated only by the police. Similarly, the CIS did not include reports that were made to child welfare authorities but screened out (referrals that were not opened for investigation). For additional information, refer to pages 7-8.
Changes in investigation mandates and practices over the last ten years have further complicated what types of cases fall within the scope of the CIS. In particular, child welfare authorities were receiving many more reports about situations where the primary concern is that a child may be at risk for future maltreatment but where there were no specific concerns about any maltreatment that may have already occurred. Because the CIS-1998 and 2003 were designed to track investigations of alleged incidents of maltreatment, it is important to maintain a clear distinction between risk of future maltreatment, and investigations of maltreatment. The CIS-2008 was redesigned to track both types of cases separately; however, this has complicated comparisons with past cycles of the study, where these were not tracked separately. For the purpose of this report, comparisons with previous cycles are limited to comparisons of rates of all investigations including risk cases which did not involve a specific allegation of maltreatment. In contrast, risk of future maltreatment cases are not included in the CIS-2008 estimates of rates and characteristics of substantiated maltreatment.
CIS Research and Surveillance Partnership
The CIS-2008 gathered information from approximately 16,000 investigations, conducted by over 2,000 workers in 112 sites in every province and territory in Canada. Nearly 40 researchers were involved in developing the study plan, training participants, and collecting, verifying, and analyzing data. As with the two previous national cycles of the CIS, the core study was initiated and funded by PHAC and is a central component of their child health surveillance programs. Considerable staffing support was provided by all provinces and territories through their child welfare workers, support staff, and administrators. Five provinces – Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Québec, and Saskatchewan – provided additional support and funding for enriched samples to allow provincespecific estimates. In addition, a number of stakeholders provided funding to support a First Nations CIS-2008 component, including the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada through PHAC, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) provided a grant to support the development of an integrated CIS database.4
Nico Trocmé (McGill University) was the principal investigator of the study. The director and the principal investigator for the Ontario Incidence Study was Barbara Fallon (University of Toronto). The principal investigator for the Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia incidence studies was Bruce MacLaurin (University of Calgary). The co-investigators for the Québec Incidence Study were Sonia Hélie (Centre jeunesse de Montréal – Institut universitaire) and Daniel Turcotte (Université Laval). The principal investigator for the First Nations CIS-2008 component was Vandna Sinha (McGill University). The National CIS-2008 Steering Committee provided input into the design and dissemination plans for the national study and, in particular, assisted with revisions to the CIS data collection instruments. Staff from PHAC Injury and Child Maltreatment Section provide oversight of the CIS. The First Nations components of the study are overseen by the First Nations CIS-2008 Advisory Committee. Please see Appendices A, B, C, and D for a full list of all the researchers and advisors involved in the CIS-2008.
Child Welfare Services In Canada: A Changing Mosaic
The objectives and design of the CIS-2008 are best understood within the context of the decentralized structure of Canada’s child welfare system and with respect to changes over time in mandates and intervention standards. Child welfare legislation and services are organized in Canada at the provincial and territorial levels. Child welfare is a mandatory service, directed by provincial and territorial child welfare statutes. Although all child welfare systems share certain basic characteristics organized around investigating reports of alleged maltreatment, providing various types of counselling and supervision, and looking after children in out-of-home care, there is considerable variation in the organization of these service delivery systems (Table 1-1).5 Some provinces and territories operate under a centralized, government-run child welfare system; others have opted for decentralized models run by mandated agencies.
Child welfare legislation and services are organized in Canada at the provincial and territorial levels. Child welfare is a mandatory service, directed by provincial and territorial child welfare statutes. Although all child welfare systems share certain basic characteristics organized around investigating reports of alleged maltreatment, providing various types of counselling and supervision, and looking after children in out-of-home care, there is considerable variation in the organization of these service delivery systems. For additional information, refer to page 9.
|Province||Administration||Child Welfare Statutes||Age Coverage|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||The Department of Health and Community Services is responsible for the provision of child welfare programs and services. Child protection is provided through four regional integrated health authorities.||Child, Youth and Family Services Act||Under 16|
|The Ministry of Social Services and Seniors, Child and Family Services Division is responsible for child welfare programs and services. Child protection is delivered through four regional offices.||Child Protection Act||Under 16; 16-18 for children with mental, developmental, or physical challenges|
|Nova Scotia||The Department of Community Services, Children Youth and Families Division is responsible for child welfare programs and services. Child protection services are provided through 20 child welfare offices, six of which are district offices and 14 privately run societies/family and children's services agencies. One of these agencies is mandated to serve the Miâ€™kmaw First Nation community.||Children and Family Services Act||Under 16|
|New Brunswick||Child welfare is the responsibility of the Department of Social Development. Child protection services are provided through 18 delivery sites in eight regions. In addition, there are 11 agencies providing services to the First Nations communities of New Brunswick.||Family Services Act||Under 16; under 19 for youth with disability|
|Québec||The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux funds child welfare programs and services through 19 Centres jeunesse in 18 regions.||Youth Protection Act||Under 18|
|Ontario||The Ministry of Children and Youth Services funds for child welfare programs and services, which are provided by Children's Aid Societies throughout the province. There are 53 Children's Aid Societies, which are governed by Boards of Directors elected from the local communities. Six Children's Aid Societies were fully mandated to serve First Nations communities in Ontario in 2008.||Child and Family Services Act||Under 16|
|Manitoba||Child welfare is the responsibility of the Ministry of Family Services and Consumer Affairs, Child and Family Services Division. Child Protection services are provided by four departmental offices, six private non-profit agencies, 14 mandated First Nations agencies and one Métis agency supported by four authorities.||Child and Family Services Act||Under 18|
|Saskatchewan||Child welfare is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Services. Child protection services are provided through 20 service offices in six regions. There are 17 fully delegated First Nations child protection agencies in Saskatchewan.||Child and Family Services Act||Under 16|
|Alberta||The Ministry of Children and Youth Services is responsible for child welfare programs and services. Child intervention services are provided through ten Child and Family Services Authorities; nine of which are regionally based and one provides services to Métis settlements throughout the province. In addition there are 18 First Nations agencies providing child protection services.||Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act||Under 18|
|British Columbia||The Ministry of Children and Family Development, Child Protection Division is responsible for child welfare programs and services. Workers in 429 offices, in five regions, provide child protection services with support from the provincial office of the Child Protection Division. There are seven fully mandated First Nations child protection agencies in British Columbia.||Children, Family and Community Services Act||Under 19|
|Yukon||The Department of Health and Social Services, Family and Children's Services is responsible for the provision of child welfare programs and services. Child protection services are provided through 11 offices.||Children's Act||Under 18|
|Northwest Territories||The Department of Health and Social Services is responsible for child welfare programs and services. Child protection is delivered through eight health and social services authorities.||Child and Family Services Act||Under 16|
|Nunavut||The Department of Health and Social Services provides child protection services to the communities in Nunavut. Child protection services are provided from three regional offices.||Child and Family Services Act||Under 16|
Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008
* Information was compiled through interviews with Ministerial officials and information posted on provincial and territorial websites; this table represents the administrative structures in place at the time of data collection in October 2008.
Child welfare statutes vary considerably. Some jurisdictions limit their investigation mandates to children under 16, while others extend to youth under 19. Provincial and territorial statutes also vary in terms of the specific forms of maltreatment covered, procedures for investigation, grounds for removal, and timelines for determining permanent wardship. In addition to these legislative differences, there are important differences in regulations and investigation policies. These differences may be further accentuated by the implementation of differently-structured assessment tools and competency-based training programs.
Although provincial and territorial child welfare statutes apply to all Aboriginal people, special considerations are made in many statutes with respect to services for Aboriginal children and families. The structure of Aboriginal child welfare services is changing rapidly. A growing number of services are being provided either by fully-mandated Aboriginal organizations or by Aboriginal counselling services that work in conjunction with mandated services (Blackstock, 2003).
In addition to variations in mandates and standards among jurisdictions, it is important to consider that these mandates and standards have been changing over time. Effects of those changes have been detected by the CIS cycles. From 1998 to 2003 the CIS found that rates of investigated maltreatment had nearly doubled (Trocmé, Fallon et al., 2005). Most of the available data point to changes in detection, reporting, and investigation practices rather than an increase in the number of children being abused or neglected. Using the analogy of the iceberg (Figure 1-1), there is no indication that the iceberg is increasing,7 rather, it would appear that the detection line (water line on the iceberg model) is dropping, leading to an increase in the number of reported and therefore substantiated cases. The CIS-2003 report points in particular to four important changes: (1) an increase in reports made by professionals, (2) an increase in reports of emotional maltreatment and exposure to intimate partner violence, (3) a larger number of children investigated in each family, and (4) an increase in substantiation rates (Trocmé, MacLaurin, Fallon, Black, & Lajoie, 2005; Trocmé, Fallon et al, 2005). These changes are consistent with modifications to legislation and investigation standards in many provinces and territories, where statutes and regulations have been broadened to include more forms of maltreatment, and investigation standards in some jurisdictions require that siblings of reported children be systematically investigated.
A fifth factor that may have also led to an increase in the number of reports was the inclusion of investigations conducted solely because of concerns about possible future risk of maltreatment. A file review conducted in preparation for the CIS-2008 identified a number of cases that actually involved risk-only investigations which had been included in the CIS-2003 because workers identified them as investigations involving incidents of alleged maltreatment.
Unfortunately, because the CIS-2003 was not designed to track risk of future maltreatment cases, we cannot estimate the extent to which risk assessments may have contributed to the increase in cases between 1998 and 2003. The CIS-2008 was designed to track risk of future maltreatment cases separately.
In summary, differences in legislation and investigation practices across provinces and territories, as well as changes over time have posed a challenge in estimating the annual incidence of reported maltreatment in Canada. Using a standard set of definitions, the CIS-1998, 2003, and 2008 provide the best available estimates of the incidence and characteristics of reported child maltreatment across Canada over a ten-year period.
Organization of the CIS-2008 Report
This report presents the profile of substantiated child abuse and neglect investigations conducted across Canada in 2008 and a comparison of rates of investigations found in the 1998, 2003, and 2008 cycles of the study.
It is divided into five chapters and 11 appendices. Chapter 2 describes the study’s methodology. Chapter 3 compares the incidence of investigations and types of investigations conducted by child welfare sites in Canada in 1998, 2003, and 2008. Chapter 4 examines the characteristics of substantiated maltreatment investigations by type of maltreatment in Canada in 2008 including severity and duration of maltreatment. Chapter 5 examines the child and family characteristics of substantiated investigations in Canada in 2008.
Because of changes in the way child welfare investigations are conducted across Canada and the way the CIS tracks the results of these investigations, the findings presented in this report are not directly comparable to findings presented in the CIS-2003 and CIS-1998 reports. In particular, it should be noted that previous CIS cycles did not separately track investigations of cases where future risk of maltreatment was the only concern. As well, most of the tables in the CIS-2003 report did not include data from Québec.
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