The Standard of Proof at Adjudication of Abuse or Neglect: Its Influence on Case Outcomes at Key Junctures
Social Work & Social Sciences Review 17(2), 2014 Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2014
Date Written: September 25, 2014
We measure the extent to which the standard of proof a state child protection agency must meet at trial in a child abuse or neglect case influences the outcomes in the case. In the United States, the government of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia sets its own standard of proof. We measure the influence of the standards of proof using survey data. We find that a higher standard of proof — one requiring the government to present clear and convincing evidence of abuse or neglect rather than only requiring a preponderance of the evidence of abuse or neglect — decreases the probability that the judge rules in favor of CPS. A clear and convincing standard also affects decisions before trial: it increases the number of visits made by CPS during an investigation; it lowers the odds that CPS substantiates the case; and it lowers the odds that a case reaches trial. After trial, it increases the probability of an out-of-home placement.
Keywords: child protective services, child welfare, foster care, standard of proof, burden of proof
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