Studying whether two North Carolina legal interventions reduce child maltreatment

Child maltreatment is an important public health issue; exposure increases the risk of adverse health consequences including injury, substance use, obesity, depression, and death. The criminal justice system’s role in reducing such crimes is not well understood. Further, few studies examines whether Family Drug Treatment Courts prevent maltreatment.

This study has two goals: first, it will examine mandatory reporting by departments of social services to the district attorney when there is evidence of child abuse. The first goal addresses three questions: How do rates of prosecution, plea, conviction, and penalties vary within the state? What explains variations? How does the variation affect child maltreatment? The second goal examines whether family drug treatment courts prevent future maltreatment and foster placements.

Data used include five North Carolina administrative databases, key informant interviews, and 300 criminal child abuse files.