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Student & Alumni Achievements

UNC: Alumna’s Study Links Racial Disparities, Maternal Substance Use With CPS Reporting Rates In Alaska

In 2016, child protective services (CPS) agencies in the United States received an estimated 4.1 million allegations of abuse or neglect. Childhood maltreatment has long been linked with poor outcomes across the entire life span, from poor emotional and social functioning to mental health and substance use disorders to chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

Previous research suggests that a report made to CPS for suspected maltreatment is a marker of child risk and vulnerability — regardless of what the outcome is. A new study delves deeper into this connection from a public health perspective, analyzing the individual- and family-level factors associated with different patterns of CPS contact among families in Alaska.

Dr. Anna Austin, a recent doctoral graduate of the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, works as a research scientist at UNC’s Injury Prevention Research Center. She is first author of the paper “Trajectories of child protective services contact among Alaska Native/American Indian and non-Native children,” published in the September issue of Child Abuse & Neglect.

Her primary research goal was to investigate the specific timing of CPS contacts made between birth and five years of age, as this stage is critical in establishing a healthy physical and emotional foundation for the rest of a child’s life.

”Alaska is an important context for examining CPS contact, as the rate of maltreatment allegations received by CPS agencies in Alaska is considerably higher than the national average,” Dr. Austin explained. “In addition, there are demonstrated differences in CPS contact between Alaska Native/American Indian children and non-Native children in Alaska that we wanted to further explore.”

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