Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies, which involve more than 6.6 million children. A determination of child abuse is a complex process for both courts and child protective service workers. When an allegation of suspected child abuse is made findings may, or may not, lead to court action. Courts rely upon accurate determinations of abuse. While some cases are clear-cut, many are not. The lack of clear-cut data and legal findings, however, does not dissuade the press and public from making determinations of whether children are being adequately protected, and whether parents are being mistreated in child abuse cases. This results in the generation of many conversations on the issue without people considering the genuine complexities of these cases. Child Protective Services employees are placed in a difficult situation; if these employees fail to identify that a child is at risk they are deemed incompetent, and if they allege that a child is at risk when their parents disagree, they are also deemed incompetent. Seldom are they acknowledged to be heroes when they make the “right” decision. This essay examines the problems faced in the determination of child abuse and uses a statistical model to explore best-practices in such challenging situations.



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