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Justice Systems Processing of Child Abuse and Neglect Cases in a Local Jurisdiction (County) in the United States, 1993-1994 (ICPSR 2310) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

The purpose of this study was to provide a comprehensive, case-level examination of the full spectrum of case processing of serious child abuse and neglect cases as they flowed through the justice process, from initial receipt of a report to final disposition in the criminal and/or civil court. This was accomplished by in-depth, detailed tracking, from a single jurisdiction, of both prospective and retrospective samples of serious child abuse cases reported to child protective services and law enforcement agencies. The four agencies that participated directly by providing case samples and case files for tracking were: (1) Child Protective Services (CPS), (2) the sheriff's office, (3) Dependency Court Legal Services (DCLS), and (4) the county prosecutor's office. Each case was abstracted at the point of sampling and then tracked throughout the other participating agencies. Data were collected over a nine-month period. Part 1, Maltreatment Abstract, Person Roster, and CPS Abstract Data, contains three types of data. First, information is provided on each maltreatment incident committed by each perpetrator, background of the perpetrator and the victim, and characteristics of the incident. The data continue with a roster of persons, which covers the relationships among the individuals in the case and whether any of these individuals were living together at the time of the maltreatment. Data from the CPS abstract include which source brought the case to the attention of Protective Services, the dates, priority, and investigation level of the report, if any prior allegations of maltreatment had occurred that involved either the same victims and/or perpetrators and, if so, information on those reports, and the perpetrator's response to the incident and level of cooperation with the investigation. For each victim, information is given on medical findings, if applicable, whether photographs were taken, whether a guardian was appointed, whether the victim was assigned an interim placement, and the CPS disposition of the case. Part 1 concludes with information on interviews with the victim, where the case was referred, the assessment of risk in the case, and whether the victim was placed in foster care. Part 2, Dependency Court Abstract Data, provides information on the case, the reason the case was closed, and the outcome as determined by the court. Part 3, Juvenile Court Schedule of Hearings Data, focuses on the schedule of hearings, such as who was present and if they were represented by an attorney, whether the hearing took place, and, if not, the reason for delay. Part 4, Law Enforcement Abstract Data, contains dates of incidents, reports, and arrests, details of the case, and how the case was handled. Part 5, State Attorney's Office Abstract Data, offers data on the case closing, charges, and sentencing, as well as information on the type of defense attorney representing the perpetrator, if a juvenile, how the defendant was referred to adult court, whether the state attorney filed cases on other perpetrators in the case, whether the victim was interviewed by the prosecutor prior to filing, and whether the victim was deposed by the state attorney after the case was filed. Part 6, Criminal Court Schedule of Hearings Data, contains information on date of arrest, filing, and court hearing, whether a public defender was assigned, number of hearings, type of hearing, and coded remarks about the hearing. Part 7, State Attorney Addendum Data, provides "no-file" data from the State Attorney Questionnaire Addendum, including if the no-file was a warrant or arrest, date of the no-file, and reason for the no-file.

Access Notes

  • One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions ; consult the restrictions note to learn more. You can apply online for access to the data. A login is required to apply for access.

    Access to these data is restricted. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete a Restricted Data Use Agreement, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

Dataset(s)

DS0:  Study-Level Files
Documentation:
DS1:  Maltreatment Abstract, Person Roster, and CPS Abstract Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS2:  Dependency Court Abstract Data
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No downloadable data files available.
DS3:  Juvenile Court Schedule of Hearings Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS4:  Law Enforcement Abstract Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS5:  State Attorney's Office Abstract Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS6:  Criminal Court Schedule of Hearings Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.
DS7:  State Attorney Addendum Data
Download:
No downloadable data files available.

Study Description

Citation

Wells, Susan J., and Andrea Sedlak. JUSTICE SYSTEMS PROCESSING OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT CASES IN A LOCAL JURISDICTION (COUNTY) IN THE UNITED STATES, 1993-1994. ICPSR version. Rockville, MD: Westat, Inc. [producer], 1996. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2000. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR02310.v1

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Export Citation:

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (92-IJ-CX-K041)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   case processing, child abuse, child neglect, court cases, courts, criminal justice system, domestic relations, domestic violence, family histories, family violence, law enforcement agencies

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1993-01-01--1994-08-25

Date of Collection:  

  • 1994--1995

Unit of Observation:   All child abuse and neglect cases in the selected county from 1993-1994.

Universe:   All serious child abuse and neglect cases in the sample county.

Data Types:   event/transaction data, and administrative records data

Data Collection Notes:

(1) The structure of the data files for Parts 1-6 is not conceptually or physically a true hierarchical structure. All of these files contain multiple record types and some contain repeating records within a record type and/or missing record types. Also, some repeating series of information may span more than one record type. The number of records in Part 1 ranges from 369 to 1,037 in the 26 record types with 1,284 variables and a logical record length of 125. The number of records in Part 2 ranges from 145 to 2,463 in the 10 record types with 486 variables and a logical record length of 129. The number of records in Part 3 ranges from 145 to 1,295 in the 2 record types with 31 variables and a logical record length of 46. The number of records in Part 4 ranges from 472 to 4,158 in the 5 record types with 151 variables and a logical record length of 79. The number of records in Part 5 ranges from 144 to 258 in the 7 record types with 255 variables and a logical record length of 132. Finally, the number of records in Part 6 ranges from 247 to 2,172 records in the 2 record types with 28 variables and a logical record length of 34. (2) The user guide, codebooks, and data collection instruments are provided as Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided through the ICPSR Website on the Internet.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   The purpose of this study was to conduct a comprehensive, case-level examination of how serious child abuse and neglect cases flow through the justice process, from initial receipt of a report to final disposition in the criminal and/or civil court. This was accomplished by in-depth, detailed tracking, from a single jurisdiction, of both prospective and retrospective case samples of serious child abuse reported to child protective services and law enforcement agencies. The researchers anticipated that the results of this project would address some of the justice system's data needs on abuse and neglect cases, and would enable the design of a national-level system for tracking reported child abuse cases that are investigated, prosecuted, or adjudicated by criminal justice agencies.

Study Design:   The four agencies that participated directly by providing case samples and case files for tracking were: (1) Child Protective Services (CPS), from which 225 cases were sampled from CPS files concerning reports received in 1993 in which serious abuse or neglect was confirmed by investigation, (2) the sheriff's office, from which 225 cases were sampled from the sheriff's 1993 arrest and complaint records concerning child abuse or neglect offenses or abuse offenses committed against minors, (3) Dependency Court Legal Services (DCLS), from which 65 dependency court cases were sampled that involved child abuse or neglect and were closed in 1994, and (4) the county prosecutor's office, from which 60 criminal court cases were sampled that involved child abuse and were closed in 1994. Two of the samples (CPS and sheriff's office) were prospective, tracking cases from the time the abuse or neglect was reported through the final disposition of the case, whether in that agency, en route to the court, or in the criminal or dependency court itself. Cases sampled at the entry points in CPS and law enforcement were cross-checked to identify their actual point of first entry to determine which agency was first notified of the abuse. The other two samples (DCLS and county prosecutor's office) were retrospective, tracking cases backward to identify how they flowed though other agencies in the county's system. Each case was abstracted at the point of sampling and then tracked throughout the other participating agencies by data collectors who were each trained in one of the four agencies involved in the study. At their "home agency," the data collectors developed expertise on how the agency handled cases, what to expect in agency files, and whom to contact when questions arose about a case. Matches were sought based on several identifiers such as name, birth date, sex, race, description of the incident, date of the incident, and nature of harm to the child. Once the cases were selected, the researchers examined the cases against the information about the cases sampled in the other agencies to identify and remove duplicates.

Sample:   One county was selected out of the 42 counties in the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3), sponsored by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. This county was chosen for the high degree of automation in its existing recordkeeping system and for the fact that the prosecutor's office had undertaken a more aggressive approach to prosecution. Within the county, sample selection from the four agencies included only child abuse and neglect cases considered serious throughout the life of the case, and represented the full range of child abuse cases that occurred in a year. The CPS cases included in the sample represented calls to the hotline from January 1 through October 10, 1993. Cases included in the DCLS sample were those closed between January 1 and April 4, 1994. The sample from the sheriff's office was selected in two phases. In the first phase, all arrests that fit the specifications and were not duplicates with other agencies resulted in 100 qualifying 1993 arrests. In the second phase, the first 125 cases that involved complaints concerning violations of the selected statutes and were reported to the sheriff's office between January 1, 1993, and May 17, 1993, were selected. The sampling framework from the prosecutor's office included all criminal cases handled by the Child Abuse Unit that were closed between January 1, 1994, and August 25, 1994.

Data Source:

case files and administrative records from four county agencies

Description of Variables:   Part 1, Maltreatment Abstract, Person Roster, and CPS Abstract Data, contains three types of data. First, information is provided on each maltreatment incident committed by each perpetrator, background of the perpetrator and the victim, and characteristics of the incident. The data continue with a roster of persons, which covers the relationships among the individuals in the case and whether any of these individuals were living together at the time of the maltreatment. Data from the CPS abstract include which source brought the case to the attention of Protective Services, the dates, priority, and investigation level of the report, if any prior allegations of maltreatment had occurred that involved either the same victims and/or perpetrators and, if so, information on those reports, and the perpetrator's response to the incident and level of cooperation with the investigation. For each victim, information is given on medical findings, if applicable, whether photographs were taken, whether a guardian was appointed, whether the victim was assigned an interim placement, and the CPS disposition of the case. Part 1 concludes with information on interviews with the victim, where the case was referred, the assessment of risk in the case, whether the victim was placed in foster care, and any amendments to the report after the initial investigation and classification. Part 2, Dependency Court Abstract Data, provides information on the source of the case, which victims were named in the indictment, the relationship to the victim of other persons who were party to the case, whether there were prior charges against the defendant, and, if so, information on those charges. Other variables provide information on the reason the case was closed, whether actions included a termination of supervision and a new dependency petition and, if so, a description of the petition or motion, outcome as determined by the court, explanation of the petition or court order, status of the case, victim's status at the closing of the case or in the open case, whom the victim was living with, what the child's wishes were as stated in the record, the date and action at issue in the report, and whether a guardian was present. Part 3, Juvenile Court Schedule of Hearings Data, focuses on the schedule of hearings, such as who was present and if they were represented by an attorney, whether the hearing took place, and, if not, the reason for delay. Part 4, Law Enforcement Abstract Data, contains data from law enforcement sources, including dates when incidents to which the police responded first occurred and last occurred, date a complaint report was taken, date the investigative report was completed, arrest date, how the offense was cleared, where the case was filed, whether the case was dropped by law enforcement and, if so, why. Variables regarding the case cover the number of charges, details of each charge, and prior offenses and outcomes for the perpetrator, such as substance abuse, abuse of children, and violence toward or abuse of spouse or partner, as well as criminal status at the time of the offense. Additional information is provided on how the case was handled: confession, victim interview, and what measures were taken to protect the child. Part 5, State Attorney's Office Abstract Data, offers data on the case closing, charges, and sentencing, as well as information on whether a guardian ad litem was appointed, whether a victim impact statement was submitted, type of defense attorney representing for the perpetrator, number of defendants, if a juvenile, how the defendant was referred to adult court, and whether the state attorney filed cases on other perpetrators in the case. Data are also provided on the defendant's prior offenses, which agencies were involved in the investigation, whether the victim was interviewed by the prosecutor prior to filing, and whether the victim was deposed by the state attorney after the case was filed. Part 6, Criminal Court Schedule of Hearings Data, contains information on date of arrest, filing, and court hearing, whether a public defender was assigned, number of hearings, type of hearing, and coded remarks about the hearing. Part 7, State Attorney Addendum Data, provides "no-file" data from the State Attorney Questionnaire Addendum, including if the no-file was a warrant or arrest, date of the no-file, and reason for the no-file.

Response Rates:   Not applicable.

Presence of Common Scales:   None.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2006-03-30 File UG2310.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.

Related Publications (see Notes)

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