A public health approach to child maltreatment surveillance: Evidence from a data linkage project in the United Statesedit
Historically, data concerning children reported for abuse or neglect in the US have been compiled by child protective service agencies and, analysed independently from other sources of information. Yet these data suffer from the notable limitations of being both narrow in scope (i.e. containing a limited set of variables) and narrow in coverage (i.e., capturing data for only those children who are reported). In order to, extend an understanding of children reported for maltreatment, the, California Department of Social Services, in partnership with the, University of California at Berkeley, is pursuing a ‘public health’ oriented approach to the surveillance of child maltreatment through linkages between child protective service records and population‐based sources of data. As an example of the information that can be generated through linked records, this article reports results from child‐level matches completed between the state’s child protective service records and vital birth records. The cumulative percentage of children reported for abuse or neglect before the age of five is examined based on maternal and child characteristics at birth. This is followed by a discussion of record linkages as a means of furthering a public health approach to child maltreatment.