Characteristics of cases submitted to a statewide system of child abuse experts

Rebecca Girardet, Sheela Lahoti, Kelly Bolton, Nancy Kellogg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) created a statewide network of child abuse pediatricians working at 6 academic centers in 2006. Methods: Case data for the period 9/1/2012-8/31/2014 were reviewed for child demographics, risk factors, physician determinations, injury descriptors, and information made available to the physician. Results: 8061 of 410,315 DFPS cases (2%) were referred during the period. Network utilization rates ranged from 7.5% in counties served by San Antonio to 1.4% in Austin-served counties. Cases from outlying counties were less likely to involve older children. African American children were over-represented in referrals, and Caucasian and Asian children were underrepresented. Prevalent risk factors included prior DFPS history, single parent-household, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Network providers found no or only nonspecific evidence for maltreatment in 45% of cases. Determinations were hindered by poor quality photographs in 188 cases and inadequate skeletal surveys in 121. Insufficient information precluded case completion for 65 cases of children <. 2 years. Conclusions: Our data indicate that child abuse centers in Texas are underutilized, and there are practice differences with respect to medical referrals across different regions. Our findings concerning ethnic differences and risk factors are consistent with national trends. The problems of inadequate photographs and case information may improve with better training of workers; the issue of poor quality skeletal surveys requires further study. Standard DFPS criteria for referrals to child abuse pediatricians should mitigate some of the problems identified by this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-202
Number of pages5
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Child maltreatment
  • Epidemiology
  • Public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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