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Unscientific Study of Child Protection

October 4, 2005 permalink

A new study has been released called Canadian Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect 2002. The foregoing link is to a summary from which you can download the full pdf report. The study methodology is to gather reports on sampled child protection cases across Canada (excluding Quebec) and tabulate the results. In their words:

the study is based on assessments provided by the investigating child welfare workers, which could not be independently verified.

A true scientific report contains enough information to allow others to duplicate the test, so that its accuracy can be confirmed or refuted, and often includes an offer for other researchers to share the original research data. Not this one. Here is the description of how the original data is handled:

The data collection instruments (that contain no directly identifying information) were scanned into an electronic database. These electronic data were stored on a locked, password-protected hard drive in a locked office and on a CD stored in a locked cabinet off-site. Only those University of Toronto research personnel with security clearance from the Government of Canada had access to this information through password-protected files. All paper data collection instruments were archived in the type of secure filing cabinets approved by the RCMP.

The principal results are summarized in table 9-3. In five years, substantiated cases of child abuse have risen from 9.6 to 21.71 per thousand children. Canadian behavior does not change that drastically in five years. Budgets for child protection doubled in the period, allowing social workers to produce more reports.