Research-based risk factors for child maltreatment: Do child protection workers use them in their case investigations?

B.I.F. Erens*, Corine de Ruiter, Henry Otgaar, Joke Humblet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Risk assessment is an essential aspect of child abuse investigations in order to estimate the risk of future abuse and to develop a risk management and intervention plan. According to the risk–need–responsivity model, intervention and risk monitoring needs to target dynamic risk factors to prevent future child maltreatment. In the current study, we examined whether child protection workers in the Netherlands focus on evidence-based risk factors for child maltreatment. We investigated 192 case files retrospectively for risk factors included in the Child Abuse Risk Evaluation-NL, a structured risk assessment instrument. We expected to find limited information concerning parental risk factors and risk factors related to parent–child interaction, but more information on family and child factors. These hypotheses were confirmed. Because parental and parent–child interaction factors are the most important and proximal risk factors for child abuse, our findings point to a large gap between science and child protection practice. We recommend the use of a structured risk assessment instrument and a risk-focused approach to intervention planning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3945–3963
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • child maltreatment
  • child protection work
  • risk-need-responsivity model
  • structured risk assessment


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