NYMC Faculty Publications

Patterns for Child Protective Service Referrals in a Pediatric Burn Cohort

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Student, Resident/Fellow, Faculty

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Second Department



BACKGROUND: Pediatric non-accidental trauma often necessitates the involvement of protective services. However, the subjectivity and lack of standardization of referral infrastructure may result in some discrepancies between referral patterns and instances of child abuse. METHODS: An institutional retrospective chart review was conducted between 2015 and 2021, in which all cases of patients under the age of 14 who suffered a burn injury and received a child protective service (CPS) consult were reviewed. Baseline demographics and characteristics were defined. Multivariate analysis was utilized to identify predictors of CPS involvement, while the regression analysis was employed to parse associations between burn injuries and CPS involvement. RESULTS: Between July 2015 and December 2021, 340 patients (median age two years, IQR: 1-6 years) under the age of 14 who experienced a burn injury were evaluated. Forty-four (12.9%) of the patients' cases received a CPS referral, of which three (0.9%) resulted in a CPS intervention. The most common mechanism of burn within the cohort was scald (241 patients, 70.9%). The median total body surface area (TBSA) was 3.0% (IQR: 1.0%-6.0%), and 76 (22.4%) suffered a high TBSA (>75 percentile). Caucasian race (p < 0.001) and scald mechanisms (p = 0.014) were associated with higher TBSA. When considering how such injuries translated to CPS referrals, increasing age was found to be associated with a decreased likelihood of CPS involvement. Meanwhile, the Black race (p = 0.027) and increasing area deprivation index (ADI) (p = 0.038) were associated with CPS involvement. Those with CPS involvement experienced a greater length of hospital stay (p = 0.001). Black race and intensive care unit level of care were found to be positive predictors of CPS involvement. In total, three (6.82%) of the 44 cases with CPS involvement were found to be substantiated. The three children who required CPS intervention were discharged to foster care settings. CONCLUSION: Hospitalized pediatric burn injuries must be investigated due to concern of child abuse, yet external factors such as race and socioeconomic status may play a role in the involvement of CPS. Such referrals may not always be substantiated and could lead to further injurious sequelae for children and their families.