Research on child maltreatment can provide empirical evidence to improve the quality of many legal and organizational decisions that have broad-based social implications.
Government officials, judges, legislators, social service personnel, child welfare advocates, and others make hundreds of crucial decisions each day about the lives and futures of child victims and their offenders.
Reports of child maltreatment alone also reveal little about the interactions among individuals, families, communities, and society that lead to such incidents.
American society has not yet recognized the complex origins or the profound consequences of child victimization.
Equally disturbing, research suggests that child maltreatment cases are highly related to social problems such as juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and violence, which require additional services and severely affect the quality of life for many American families.
The challenges of conducting research in the field of child maltreatment are enormous.
Such guidance can evolve from research on the outcomes of alternative responses to reports of child abuse and neglect, results of therapeutic and social service interventions, and cost-effectiveness studies.
For example, research that describes the conditions under which family counseling and family preservation efforts are effective has tremendous implications for the importance of attachment relationships for children and the disruption of these relationships brought on by foster care.
The services required for children who have been abused or neglected, including medical care, family counseling, foster care, and specialized education, are expensive and are often subsidized by governmental funds.
The General Accounting Office (1991) has estimated that these services cost more than 0 million annually.