Child protection cases, one size fits all? Cluster analyses of risk and protective factors

Brigit Rijbroek, Mathilde M. H. Strating, Helena W. Konijn, Robbert Huijsman - Child Abuse & Neglect



To provide effective tailor made case management in Child Protection Services (CPS) a insight is needed into the specific characteristics of the target group. Using the ecological perspective of maltreatment, this study explored poorly known characteristics of the CPS population.


To distinguish CPS subgroups based on risk and protective factors enables tailor made case management that fits the specific needs of these subgroups.

Participants and setting

We studied 250 Dutch CPS cases of family supervision by court order that had completed the LIRIK and Action Plan checklists in August 2014–March 2015.


This quantitative study analyzed risk and protective factors for children and parents reported in client files. Subgroups were identified by two-step cluster analyses. Chi-square analyses identified relations between parental risk subgroups and other groups.


Building on the interplay between risk and protective factors on the levels of child, parent and environment, we found five distinct subgroups in the CPS population. The most vulnerable is parents with multiple problems (31%) or socio-economic problems (13%). Parts of both subgroup have limited protective factors. Parents with major life events (16%) or poor parenting (13%) are characterized by single-level problems. One subgroup (28%), the unaccepted, has no parental risk factors registered.


Studying client files can lead to a better understanding of the healthcare needs of the CPS population. To develop and implement more effective case management requires constant dialogue between science, policy, and the experiences of both clients and professional.