Date of Award

Summer 8-9-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor

John R. Lutzker, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Katherine E. Masyn, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Daniel J. Whitaker, Ph.D.


Despite considerable declines in physical and sexual abuse over recent decades, child maltreatment remains a public health priority. In 2014, 702,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment, 75% of whom experienced neglect (DHHS, 2016). An area in need of further scrutiny is the complex relationship of multiple risk factors and the association of those risk factors with subsequent child welfare involvement. The purpose of this three-manuscript dissertation was to examine evidence-based child maltreatment prevention through an empiric examination of risk and novel prevention efforts.

The first paper, Getting the Most Juice for the Squeeze: Where SafeCare® and Other Evidence-based Programs Need to Evolve to Better Protect Children, discusses the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based prevention programs using SafeCare as an applied example. The paper concludes with recommendations for evidence-based practices to improve the outcomes of children and families. Among several recommendations, this paper suggests considering innovative implementation settings, collaboration between systems, and response to the underlying risk factors for maltreatment.

The second paper, Drug Court as a Potential Point of Intervention to Impact the Well-being of Children and Families of Substance-Using Parents, responds to the recommendation of collaboration and innovation from the first paper. This descriptive study sought to describe the needs of families of adult drug court populations related to parenting and mental health services. Baseline data indicated a low potential for abuse and the need for mental health services among drug court participants and their children under 18-years old. The findings from this paper indicate a potential intervention and collaboration opportunity between the child welfare and criminal justice systems.

The third paper, An Examination of Risk Profiles among Mothers Involved with Child Protective Services, responds to the need to better understand underlying risk factors among child welfare involved families as discussed in the first paper. A latent class analysis was conducted to explore the heterogeneity among women reported to child protective services. In what is typically a homogenously treated and characterized sample, this analysis indicated three classes of risk and examined the classes’ association with subsequent referral to child protective services. The findings of this research support the recommendation of the importance of better understanding underlying risk factors to better align services with needs of children and families.