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Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) List Serve

Database of Past CMRL Messages

Welcome to the database of past Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) list serve messages. The table below contains all past CMRL messages (text only, no attachments) from Nov. 20, 1996 - March 6, 2018 and is updated quarterly.

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Message ID: 8544
Date: 2010-08-28

Author:D F MCMAHON

Subject:RE: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008

I was going to suggest that the political climate may be changing due to growing activism--but then this post seems to be alluding to the same thing in regard to, um, the "naysayers on child abuse" who "manipulate data into claims that are not supported by that data". I wonder if I'm a naysayer . . .I do know that those of us who are not privileged to be part of the system or the academic research establishment have to make do with what we can. We also find that data that does exist is poorly presented when published by government agencies, and data that is not published (I mean statistical data, not case-specific information) is very hard to pry out of the self-absorbed public system. Example: some substantiations are appealed; not many, partly because there is no right to legal representation for such a pursuit but for many other reasons as well. In my state, the Office of Administrative Hearings is required to report to the governor every other year (our legislature meets every other year). The report is not published. I was interested in gathering data about appeals of substantiations (I think this puts my pursuit squarely within the issue of maltreatment, reporting, assessment, and so on). The director of OAH referred me to the governor's office. The staff assigned to this particular arena didn't know what I was looking for, so I had to provide legislative and admin rules information to direct him to the report, at which point it was provided to me. The report offers statistics on administrative appeals, but these statistics are lumped by agency. So, although it is easy enough to understand what is going on with, say, worker's comp appeals, human services appeals are lumped. These appeals include benefits appeals (food stamps, MA, TANF, and so on); they include appeals of services denied, and a host of other appeal issues. There is no way of knowing how many substantiations are appealed and what the outcomes of those appeals is. To get that information (some of that information; not in published form but in an email) required a lengthy email correspondence with the state CFS director (frankly, as a "naysayer", I was astonished by the numbers; in particular, I was amazed to learn a very large percentage of appeals requests--less than half, but not by much--never make it to a hearing not because the complainant doesn't follow through, but because the state agency determines the local agency did not have sufficient basis for substantiation to begin with and does not want to allocate resources to defend the decision). Now, I see another post in this discussion which ponders the question whether it is "ok" to "believe what you can't see". Or that declines in some areas would be easier to believe in if they came after pouring money into issues the declines pertain to (which assumes that the money would, indeed, result in the decline). And the discussion itself revolves around the question of what the data are, what the data are saying, and what might be missing from the data. To say that the "naysayers" are manipulating the data to conclude what they think should be concluded, and that they "misrepresent at every turn", while also saying that the researchers must believe there is "something very troubling in this trending downward" certainly makes me uneasy. Sheri McMahon > Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2010 10:44:33 -0700 > Subject: Re: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008 > From: pohaku.kane@gmail.com > To: child-maltreatment-research-l@list.cornell.edu > > Yes, I've observed this same phenomena. > > Are we though sure that reporting methods, political pressures, > economic impact on research funding, do not end with the trending > downward as a result, rather than an actual reduction? > > Legislatures across the U.S. reflect in their decisions the wishes of > their constituents. If spending money on research comes under public > scrutiny and other agendas pull funding away from research there is a > chilling effect on reporting. > > In addition those very people I mentioned in my reply to the > announcement of Dr. David Finkelhor's book release, those naysayers on > child abuse, have become increasingly a factor in politics. They > lobby, they manipulate data into claims that are not supported by that > data, they misrepresent at ever possible turn. > > My point, and implicit in my questions, is that there are factors that > may not have been considered in the analysis and methods of collection > and that must be examined. > > How reports are taken is critical, and has been changing over time. > How interviewed subjects, or agencies and persons respond when > interviewed or data is accumulated has changed as well. > > During a period of time just prior to the trending down years > reporting was not only more acceptable it was more encouraged and even > considered a duty. > > This is no longer true. > > The changing ethic demographic in the U.S. and resultant cultural > mores about family and child rearing and involvement with government > agents has changed drastically. More families are more closed to > community and society. > > I do not believe you are seeing so much a skepticism as the knowledge > in those you observe that something is very wrong with this trending > downward number and rate. > > If the population of reportable targets is growing rapidly enough, > rates are dropping even if numbers are the same. The locked in death > rate to me is an indicator of this very possibility. As I said > earlier, deaths are much harder to conceal than abuse. This does not, > of course, mean that deaths aren't still be concealed, only that abuse > rates dropping then is highly suspect as a claim. > > I have sat in the hot line office of a state's largest CPS district > listing to incoming calls being responded to. The kinds of reports > that were triaged out were chilling. Even reports that I would have > considered "imminent risk of endangerment," were being referred to non > investigative support agencies. That state two years ago released to > the media the admission they were not open investigations on half of > the incoming hot-line calls that they would have formerly sent workers > out to interview. > > The pressure on the public not to report has gone up considerably I believe. > > The risk of the wrath of the alleged perp aside, the risk of suit is > very real - and I think suit is becoming more common, including > against the agencies as well as those that chose to report, not > withstanding that there is some protection in law for those reporting. > It might protect them from criminal action against them, but not > civil suit. > > What is the growth, for instance, in attorneys that specialize in > family court cases? I know the answer to that, of course or would not > bring it up. States have become a little treasure trove for those > willing to bring suit - have chosen, through their attorneys general > to simply settle out of court rather than incur the expense of > defense. They have a formula, and the attorney's know it well, some > of them having interned at states attorneys generals offices. > > Everyone is tiptoeing about, and this reported downward trend in abuse > is a tool for those that argue for less money and reduced agencies for > child protection is simply one more of their arguments. > > I'm not in tears, or even almost, but I am frustrated and in fear for > children with this situation and the part that reporting of child > abuse data that confounds what people in the field are seeing has and > means for our society. > > Please give more consideration to the possibility that child advocacy > center person's reaction as being based on facts she observes in her > daily work. She likely is looking at the numbers of cases as well as > the nature of those cases. Abuse continues to become more horrific as > well as more frequent in number of victims and number of times each > victim is abused. > > Have you not questioned the reported downward trend yourself? How > would you account for a steady number of deaths (not just the rate) > from year to year while abuse rates seemly dropped? > > Why has the CAN death rate not followed the downward trend? Please > revisit the continuing examination of the finding as it is far more > important overall than the skepticism in those on line and in the > field where abuse happens. > > Poha > > > > > > > > > On 8/27/10, Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC) wrote: > > Re: decreases in physical and sexual abuse rates. > > > > In studies using law enforcement data, I've observed similar declines in > > child sexual abuse cases involving nonfamilial and unrelated perpetrators. > > These cases don't involve CPS policies, and don't involve family pressures > > to retain a breadwinner during hard times. The trajectory of the decline in > > these separate data sets and different kinds of reports (often non-CPS > > cases) over the past decade and a half parallels what was seen in the CPS > > report data. > > > > In my career in child abuse research, I can't recall seeing very many > > research findings that seem to evoke such skepticism as research suggesting > > that abuse rates are declining. I firmly believe that skepticism about > > research findings is a good thing, but I'm intrigued about why so much > > skepticism about this now almost two decade long finding. As a > > psychologist, the really interesting research question to me is becoming the > > reaction of our field to this finding, more than any more examination on the > > finding itself! I recall recently sharing this finding with a person from a > > rural child advocacy center (who had never heard anything about it) and she > > was almost in tears with distress. > > > > Mark > > >

I was going to suggest that the political climate may be changing due to growing activism--but then this post seems to be alluding to the same thing in regard to, um, the "naysayers on child abuse" who "manipulate data into claims that are not supported by that data". I wonder if I'm a naysayer . . .I do know that those of us who are not privileged to be part of the system or the academic research establishment have to make do with what we can. We also find that data that does exist is poorly presented when published by government agencies, and data that is not published (I mean statistical data, not case-specific information) is very hard to pry out of the self-absorbed public system. Example: some substantiations are appealed; not many, partly because there is no right to legal representation for such a pursuit but for many other reasons as well. In my state, the Office of Administrative Hearings is required to report to the governor every other year (our legislature meets every other year). The report is not published. I was interested in gathering data about appeals of substantiations (I think this puts my pursuit squarely within the issue of maltreatment, reporting, assessment, and so on). The director of OAH referred me to the governor's office. The staff assigned to this particular arena didn't know what I was looking for, so I had to provide legislative and admin rules information to direct him to the report, at which point it was provided to me. The report offers statistics on administrative appeals, but these statistics are lumped by agency. So, although it is easy enough to understand what is going on with, say, worker's comp appeals, human services appeals are lumped. These appeals include benefits appeals (food stamps, MA, TANF, and so on); they include appeals of services denied, and a host of other appeal issues. There is no way of knowing how many substantiations are appealed and what the outcomes of those appeals is. To get that information (some of that information; not in published form but in an email) required a lengthy email correspondence with the state CFS director (frankly, as a "naysayer", I was astonished by the numbers; in particular, I was amazed to learn a very large percentage of appeals requests--less than half, but not by much--never make it to a hearing not because the complainant doesn't follow through, but because the state agency determines the local agency did not have sufficient basis for substantiation to begin with and does not want to allocate resources to defend the decision). Now, I see another post in this discussion which ponders the question whether it is "ok" to "believe what you can't see". Or that declines in some areas would be easier to believe in if they came after pouring money into issues the declines pertain to (which assumes that the money would, indeed, result in the decline). And the discussion itself revolves around the question of what the data are, what the data are saying, and what might be missing from the data. To say that the "naysayers" are manipulating the data to conclude what they think should be concluded, and that they "misrepresent at every turn", while also saying that the researchers must believe there is "something very troubling in this trending downward" certainly makes me uneasy. Sheri McMahon > Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2010 10:44:33 -0700 > Subject: Re: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008 > From: pohaku.kanegmail.com > To: child-maltreatment-research-llist.cornell.edu > > Yes, I've observed this same phenomena. > > Are we though sure that reporting methods, political pressures, > economic impact on research funding, do not end with the trending > downward as a result, rather than an actual reduction? > > Legislatures across the U.S. reflect in their decisions the wishes of > their constituents. If spending money on research comes under public > scrutiny and other agendas pull funding away from research there is a > chilling effect on reporting. > > In addition those very people I mentioned in my reply to the > announcement of Dr. David Finkelhor's book release, those naysayers on > child abuse, have become increasingly a factor in politics. They > lobby, they manipulate data into claims that are not supported by that > data, they misrepresent at ever possible turn. > > My point, and implicit in my questions, is that there are factors that > may not have been considered in the analysis and methods of collection > and that must be examined. > > How reports are taken is critical, and has been changing over time. > How interviewed subjects, or agencies and persons respond when > interviewed or data is accumulated has changed as well. > > During a period of time just prior to the trending down years > reporting was not only more acceptable it was more encouraged and even > considered a duty. > > This is no longer true. > > The changing ethic demographic in the U.S. and resultant cultural > mores about family and child rearing and involvement with government > agents has changed drastically. More families are more closed to > community and society. > > I do not believe you are seeing so much a skepticism as the knowledge > in those you observe that something is very wrong with this trending > downward number and rate. > > If the population of reportable targets is growing rapidly enough, > rates are dropping even if numbers are the same. The locked in death > rate to me is an indicator of this very possibility. As I said > earlier, deaths are much harder to conceal than abuse. This does not, > of course, mean that deaths aren't still be concealed, only that abuse > rates dropping then is highly suspect as a claim. > > I have sat in the hot line office of a state's largest CPS district > listing to incoming calls being responded to. The kinds of reports > that were triaged out were chilling. Even reports that I would have > considered "imminent risk of endangerment," were being referred to non > investigative support agencies. That state two years ago released to > the media the admission they were not open investigations on half of > the incoming hot-line calls that they would have formerly sent workers > out to interview. > > The pressure on the public not to report has gone up considerably I believe. > > The risk of the wrath of the alleged perp aside, the risk of suit is > very real - and I think suit is becoming more common, including > against the agencies as well as those that chose to report, not > withstanding that there is some protection in law for those reporting. > It might protect them from criminal action against them, but not > civil suit. > > What is the growth, for instance, in attorneys that specialize in > family court cases? I know the answer to that, of course or would not > bring it up. States have become a little treasure trove for those > willing to bring suit - have chosen, through their attorneys general > to simply settle out of court rather than incur the expense of > defense. They have a formula, and the attorney's know it well, some > of them having interned at states attorneys generals offices. > > Everyone is tiptoeing about, and this reported downward trend in abuse > is a tool for those that argue for less money and reduced agencies for > child protection is simply one more of their arguments. > > I'm not in tears, or even almost, but I am frustrated and in fear for > children with this situation and the part that reporting of child > abuse data that confounds what people in the field are seeing has and > means for our society. > > Please give more consideration to the possibility that child advocacy > center person's reaction as being based on facts she observes in her > daily work. She likely is looking at the numbers of cases as well as > the nature of those cases. Abuse continues to become more horrific as > well as more frequent in number of victims and number of times each > victim is abused. > > Have you not questioned the reported downward trend yourself? How > would you account for a steady number of deaths (not just the rate) > from year to year while abuse rates seemly dropped? > > Why has the CAN death rate not followed the downward trend? Please > revisit the continuing examination of the finding as it is far more > important overall than the skepticism in those on line and in the > field where abuse happens. > > Poha > > > > > > > > > On 8/27/10, Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC) wrote: > > Re: decreases in physical and sexual abuse rates. > > > > In studies using law enforcement data, I've observed similar declines in > > child sexual abuse cases involving nonfamilial and unrelated perpetrators. > > These cases don't involve CPS policies, and don't involve family pressures > > to retain a breadwinner during hard times. The trajectory of the decline in > > these separate data sets and different kinds of reports (often non-CPS > > cases) over the past decade and a half parallels what was seen in the CPS > > report data. > > > > In my career in child abuse research, I can't recall seeing very many > > research findings that seem to evoke such skepticism as research suggesting > > that abuse rates are declining. I firmly believe that skepticism about > > research findings is a good thing, but I'm intrigued about why so much > > skepticism about this now almost two decade long finding. As a > > psychologist, the really interesting research question to me is becoming the > > reaction of our field to this finding, more than any more examination on the > > finding itself! I recall recently sharing this finding with a person from a > > rural child advocacy center (who had never heard anything about it) and she > > was almost in tears with distress. > > > > Mark > > >