Date of Award

Fall 2020

Project Type


Program or Major

Justice Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

David Finkelhor

Second Advisor

Heather Turner

Third Advisor

Cesar J Rebellon


National estimates suggest that between 1,600 and 1,800 children are victims of CMFs each year (USDHHS, 2020), though it is believed that this number is an underestimation of the true figure (Douglas and Finkelhor, 2005; Yampolskaya, Greenbaum, and Berson, 2009). Two belief systems in protecting children have arisen over the past decades, influenced both by sensational cases of child abuse and research. One side argues that every effort must be made to keep the family intact: the family preservation approach. Alternatively, some argue that by attempting to preserve the family structure and failing to remove victims expeditiously, we leave children in dangerous and life-threatening situations and increase risk.

Family preservation is a common intervention strategy used in cases of child maltreatment. States are tasked with developing their own legislative approach to prevention and intervention of child maltreatment; and the statutes vary between states in terms of prioritization of family preservation. An indicator of family preservation priority was constructed by coding statutes from each U.S. state based on policy language. This value served as the predictor variable in the hierarchical regression analyses of rates of CMF.

The sample consisted of all CMFs reported to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System between the years of 2008 and 2018. A series of multiple hierarchical regressions were run to determine if a relationship existed between family preservation statute score and rate of CMFs by state in an attempt to determine if a relationship existed between family preservation statute score and CMF rate. Analyses revealed no significant correlations, although it was found that the direction of the relationship was that the more states emphasized family preservation in their statutes, the lower the rate of CMFs. In a second hierarchical analysis examining trends of CMFs, no association was found between preservation statute score and increased rates in CMFs.