Distinguishing neglect from abuse and accident: analysis of the case files of a hospital child protection team in Israel


Bilha Davidson-Arad
The Bob Shapell School of Social Work
Tel-Aviv University
Tel-Aviv 69978
Tel.: 972-3-6409128
Fax: 972-3-6409182
E-mail: bilhah@post.tau.ac.il


The study compares the characteristics of children assessed as neglected, physically abused, or accident victims by a hospital child protection team (CPT) and identifies the information on which the CPT based its assessments. The comparison is based on content analysis of records of 414 children examined by the CPT in a major hospital in Israel between 1991 and 2006, of whom 130 (31.4%) were neglected, 54 (13.0%) were physically abused, and 230 (55.6%) were accident victims. Findings of three hierarchical logistic regressions show that the children classified as neglected had the most early development problems, but were the least likely to have received psychological treatment, and that that their families were the most likely to be receiving state financial support and to have had prior contact with the social services. They also show that the CPT had received the least information indicative of maltreatment about these children from the community and that their medical and physical examinations aroused the least suspicion. Finally, they show that the impressions the hospital staff and CPT had of the parents during the hospital visit had greater power to distinguish between the groups than the children’s characteristics or the parents’ socio-demographic background. The findings attest to the ability of the CPT to differentiate between neglect victims and physical abuse or accident victims. With this, they also point to ambiguities in the classification process that should be addressed by further research and training and to the need for detailed and thorough documentation of the information and observations on which the CPT’s assessments are based.