• July/August 2005
  • Vol. 6, No. 6

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National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect

The fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) is now underway. Mandated by Congress, NIS gathers information from multiple sources to estimate the number of children who are abused or neglected. The study also provides information about the nature and severity of maltreatment; characteristics of children, perpetrators, and families; and the extent of changes in the incidence or distribution of child maltreatment since the time of the last national incidence study.

In contrast to other studies, such as the National Data System on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCANDS), the NIS design assumes that the children seen by child protective services (CPS) agencies represent only part of the child maltreatment picture. NIS estimates include children investigated by CPS as well as maltreated children who are identified by professionals in a wide range of agencies in representative communities. These professionals, called "sentinels," may include those working in elementary and secondary public schools; public health departments; public housing authorities; short-stay general and children's hospitals; State, county, and municipal police departments; licensed child care centers; juvenile probation departments; voluntary social services and mental health agencies; and shelters for runaway and homeless youth or victims of domestic violence.

NIS-4 will gather data in a nationally representative sample of 122 counties, selected to ensure a mix of geographic regions and of urban and rural areas. The CPS agencies serving these counties will be asked to provide data about all children in cases they accept for investigation during the study period (September 4 through December 3, 2005). Professionals working in the same counties will be asked to serve as NIS-4 sentinels.

A number of reports about the study will be released, including technical reports concerning all activities. The final document will be a Report to Congress on the study findings.

Learn more about the study on the NIS-4 website (www.nis4.org).

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