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ARCHIVED - Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect - Major Findings - 2003

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Nico Trocmé
Barbara Fallon
Bruce MacLaurin
Joanne Daciuk
Caroline Felstiner
Tara Black
Lil Tonmyr
Cindy Blackstock
Ken Barter
Daniel Turcotte
Richard Cloutier

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Funded by

Public Health Agency of Canada With support from the provincial and territorial governments of Canada

Additional funding provided by

the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society and the Bell Canada Child Welfare Research Unit, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto


The 2003 Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS-2003) reflects a truly national effort by a group of over 1,500 child welfare service providers, researchers and policy makers committed to improving services for abused and neglected children through research.

The Public Health Agency of Canada provided core funding for the study, with additional funds provided by the provinces of Ontario and Alberta, the Northwest Territories, the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and the Bell Canada Child Welfare Research Unit. In addition to its financial contribution, the Public Health Agency of Canada, through the Injury and Child Maltreatment Section (ICMS) of the Health Surveillance and Epidemiology Division, provided a critical organizational infrastructure for the study, with the active support of Margaret Herbert, Anne-Marie Ugnat and the Director of the Division, Catherine McCourt.

The National Steering Committee to the CIS-2003 (see Appendix B) provided key input into the design of the study and in supporting implementation. I would particularly like to acknowledge the contributions of Peter Dudding (Committee Co-Chair) and Margaret Herbert (former Committee Co-Chair), who have championed this project for many years, and of Harriet MacMillan, who provided constructive feedback and support throughout the project.

The CIS-2003 was conducted by a large team of researchers who demonstrated an exceptional ability to keep focused on the objectives of this collective effort while bringing to bear their own expertise. In addition to the report authors, special acknowledgement should go to site-based researchers who played a critical role in presenting the study and generating support while maintaining high standards for case selection. These site researchers are Connie Bird, Corbin Shangreaux, Daniel Moore, Ellen Perrault, Heidi Kiang, Jennifer Banks, Katharine Dill,Marlyn Bennett, Denis Lacerte, Janet Douglas,Megan McCormack, Nathalie Forest, Shirley Cole, Theresa Knott,Valérie Gaston,Victor Montgomery, Richard De Marco, Kathy Bent and Maria Mulloy (see Appendix A for institutional affiliations).

All of the provinces and territories supported the research, and through their child welfare systems contributed to the data collection. The child welfare workers and managers who participated in the study deserve special recognition for finding the time and the interest to participate in the study while juggling their ever-increasing child welfare responsibilities. Although for reasons of confidentiality we cannot list their names, on behalf of the CIS-2003 Research Team I thank the child welfare professionals who participated in the CIS-2003.

Nico Trocmé, CIS-2003 Principal Investigator Philip Fisher Chair in Social Work, Centre for Research on Children and Families McGill University


This report is dedicated to the children and families who are served by Canadian child welfare workers. It is our sincere hope that the study contributes to improving their well-being.

In memory of Dan Offord, who was committed to reducing the burden of suffering for children and their families.


This report presents the major findings of the second cycle of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS-2003). In this initiative, data are collected every five years on child maltreatment reported to, and investigated by, child welfare agencies in Canada.

The CIS is a collaborative effort of many partners: the federal, provincial and territorial governments; university-based researchers; the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society; child advocacy groups; and most important, child welfare service providers across the country.

The CIS is a national child health surveillance initiative of the Public Health Agency of Canada. The CIS complements national surveillance programs in unintentional injury, perinatal health and infectious diseases, among others. Surveillance, which is a core function of public health, is a systematic process of data collection, expert analysis and interpretation, and communication of information for action on key health issues. Surveillance information supports effective priority-setting and policy and program development. It is also an important foundation for more in-depth research.

The CIS contributes to a better understanding of the occurrence of child maltreatment in Canada, the circumstances of the children and their families, and the services provided by child welfare agencies in response to reported maltreatment. Child welfare agencies across the country provide the data for the CIS - they are the "window" through which the study views this very important issue of child health and well-being.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is fortunate and proud to be part of the CIS.We acknowledge the valuable contribution of all those who made this cycle of the CIS possible. Special thanks go to the research team, the national steering committee, the provincial and territorial Directors of Child Welfare and the child welfare service providers who took part in the study. The CIS embodies the important principles of strong interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration, collegiality and a commitment to scientific excellence, on behalf of Canada's children.

Catherine McCourt,MD, MHA, FRCPC Director, Health Surveillance and Epidemiology Division Public Health Agency of Canada

Executive Summary

The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect - 2003 (CIS-2003) is the second nation-wide study to examine the incidence of reported child maltreatment and the characteristics of the children and families investigated by Canadian child welfare services. The CIS-2003 tracked 14,200 child maltreatment investigations conducted in a representative sample of 63 Child Welfare Service Areas across Canada in the fall of 2003. In all jurisdictions excluding Quebec, child welfare workers completed a three-page standardized data collection form; in Quebec, information was extracted directly from an administrative information system.Weighted national annual estimates were derived based on these investigations. The following considerations should be noted in interpreting CIS statistics:

  • the study is limited to reports investigated by child welfare services and does not include reports that were screened out, cases that were investigated only by the police, or cases that were never reported;
  • the study is based on the assessments provided by the investigating child welfare workers, which were not independently verified;
  • because the study is not designed to conduct regional comparisons, variations in rates of investigated cases of maltreatment across Canada cannot be examined;
  • most of the tables in the CIS-2003 Major Findings Report do not include Quebec;
  • all estimates are weighted annual estimates for 2003, presented either as a count of child maltreatment investigations (e.g., 14,200 child maltreatment investigations) or as the annual incidence rate (e.g., 38.33 per 1,000 children); and
  • there are many reasons to explain the overall increase in rates of investigated and substantiated maltreatment between 1998 and 2003, including changes in reporting

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