Monday, March 15, 2010

A New Issue Brief: The NIS 4 and Child Welfare in Context

Chapin Hall recently released an issue brief, Child Abuse Prevention: A Job Half Done. The brief addresses the recently released Fourth National Incidence Study on Child Maltreatment (NIS 4) which found significant reductions in the rate of sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse toward children, but no significant changes in the rates of child neglect. The brief also states that the important drop in violence toward children suggests that comprehensive intervention strategies, high-quality clinical interventions, and holding people who harm children accountable – have helped to keep children safe. While the drop in violence toward children is good news, the lack of a reduction in rates of neglect (the most common cause of child maltreatment) suggests there is still a great deal of work to be done.

The brief advocates for those in prevention, practice and policy to look at the results of the NIS 4 in its historical context – because while there has been a reduction in maltreatment since the previously released NIS 3 (1993) the rate of child maltreatment in this recent iteration is still significantly higher than the rates found in the first two NIS reports (1980, 1986).

Maintaining and enhancing the gains that were found in the NIS 4, and addressing the rate of child neglect, will be difficult with state budget gaps and economic crises. The brief addresses the importance of continuing efforts to expand intensive home-based interventions, as a part of strategies to promote child well-being, and lists several other important strategies for policymakers and practitioners to consider when addressing the best ways to protect children.

Edited to add: The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform has issued an examination  of the NIS 4 that highlights questions about the methodology, definitions and conclusions. While noting encouraging trends, the report recommends greater investments in prevention and family preservation.

Policies for Building Strong and Stable Families


  1. This particular policy brief is far from the full story of NIS4 - indeed, in many respects it is misleading. For example, the brief argues that there has been no decline in "neglect" - in fact, that's because the definition of neglect is constantly being broadened. We have a more balanced analysis on our website here:

    Richard Wexler
    Executive Director
    National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

  2. thank you for sharing this piece Richard! We will edit the post to include the link.