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NIS-4 Description

The NIS design assumes that the maltreated children who are investigated by child protective services (CPS) represent only the “tip of the iceberg,” so although the NIS estimates include children investigated at CPS they also include maltreated children who are identified by professionals in a wide range of agencies in representative communities. These professionals, called “sentinels,” are asked to remain on the lookout for children they believe are maltreated during the study period. Children identified by sentinels and those whose alleged maltreatment is investigated by CPS during the same period are evaluated against standardized definitions of abuse and neglect. The data are unduplicated so a given child is counted only once in the study estimates.

The NIS-4 gathered data in a nationally representative sample of 122 counties selected to ensure the necessary mix of geographic regions and of urban and rural areas. The CPS agencies serving these counties were asked to provide data about all children in cases they accepted for investigation during one of two reference periods (September 4 through December 3, 2005 or February 4 through May 3, 2006). In addition, professionals working in the same counties in the following types of agencies were asked to serve as NIS-4 sentinels: elementary and secondary public schools; public health departments; public housing authorities; short-stay general and children’s hospitals; state, county and municipal police/sheriff departments; licensed day care centers; juvenile probation departments; voluntary social services and mental health agencies; and shelters for runaway and homeless youth shelters or victims of domestic violence.

For more information about the study, please review the following documents:
  For CPS involvement, see the Project Summary.
  For sentinel agency involvement, see the Agency Guide.
  For participation by individual sentinels (teachers, police, caseworkers, social workers, nurses, etc.), see the Sentinel Guide.
  For a short video introducing the study to sentinels and explaining how to complete the data form, see the video webpage.
  For a comprehensive summary of the NIS-4 methodology, see the Design and Methods Summary.

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