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April 2017Vol. 18, No. 2Estimation of Maltreatment in Army Families

According to a recent study of the U.S. Army Family Advocacy Program (FAP), which is the agency responsible for providing services to soldiers' families and ensuring child safety, current reporting requirements may contribute to underestimating the actual number of maltreatment cases in U.S. Army families and need revision.

The U.S. Army-sponsored study analyzed medical claims of child maltreatment from both military and civilian doctors that were made between 2004 and 2007 and resulted in a substantiated report to FAP. The study assessed 5,945 medical claims for dependent children of soldiers—ages 0 through 17—who had received a diagnosis of maltreatment from either a military or civilian medical doctor. The study was designed to link the claims with corresponding substantiated reports to FAP and determine how the child, the specific maltreatment episode, and the soldier's characteristics influenced the extent of FAP involvement.

The study found that 20 percent of claims had substantiated FAP reports, and the authors suggest that this likely underestimates the true number of maltreatment victims as many maltreatment cases are either never reported to a child protection agency or are never investigated or substantiated. The authors also emphasize the complexity of reporting requirements for U.S. Army families due to multiple possible routes to communicate reports of suspected maltreatment to the U.S. Army FAP, the likelihood that medical providers are not uniformly reporting maltreatment diagnoses to FAP, and a failure by civilian child protection agencies to consistently share information with FAP on maltreatment reports they receive involving military children. The study authors conclude that this results in an undercounting of military child maltreatment cases and many vulnerable children and families going without needed FAP services.

The authors suggest further study to identify and understand the barriers to more comprehensive child maltreatment reporting and communication across agencies so that programs and policies can be developed to improve FAP reporting and support the children and families of U.S. Army soldiers.

Under-Ascertainment From Healthcare Settings of Child Abuse Events Among Children of Soldiers by the U.S. Army Family Advocacy Program is available at