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Research Matters No. 72. Trends in Allegations and Investigations of Child Abuse and Neglect in Alaska

Anyone who believes a child in Alaska is being neglected or abused can call the state Office of Children's Services (OCS), which records the allegation and determines whether to investigate it. A new paper by Diwakar Vadapalli and Virgene Hanna of ISER looks at trends from 2006 through 2012 in allegations of child abuse and neglect and in the share OCS decided to investigate. What did the researchers find?

• Allegations of child maltreatment—especially neglect—increased sharply in recent years. The number of OCS investigations also increased, but not by nearly as much. And virtually all the new investigations were of alleged neglect—the number of investigations of alleged mental injury, physical abuse, and sexual abuse was the same in 2012 as in 2006. 

• Explaining those trends is complicated by a policy change OCS made in 2008. Before 2008, OCS workers did not record allegations that didn't meet the criteria for potential child abuse or neglect, which are defined by state law. Starting in 2008, they were required to record every allegation they received, regardless of whether it met the criteria for abuse or neglect. That change makes it difficult to identify reasons for the growth in the number of allegations, especially the spike in allegations of neglect. 

Read the paper (PDF, 1.0MB).

For questions, get in touch with Diwakar Vadapalli at 907-786-5422 or diwakarvk@gmail.com

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