Ontario’s premier research study on child abuse and neglect has released its findings

The Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS) has released its latest findings on child abuse in Ontario. The OIS-2018 is the sixth provincial study to examine the incidence of reported child maltreatment and the characteristics of the children and families investigated by child protection services. The previous studies were conducted in 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2013.

The findings of the OIS-2018 are based on 7,590 child maltreatment investigations conducted in a representative sample of 18 child welfare agencies across Ontario in the fall of 2018.

Some of the study’s key findings from 2018 are provided below. Note that in order to make OIS-2018 comparable with previous OIS reports, the data presented in the study are based on a sample of investigations involving children under 16 years old. Future analyses of investigations involving 16 and 17 year olds will be developed by the OIS research team. The OIS research team will also be working with OACAS and the One Vision One Voice team to produce a report looking at findings related to African Canadian children, youth, and families.

  • 64% of maltreatment investigations were focused on a concern of abuse or neglect; 36% of investigations were concerns about a risk of future maltreatment.
  • 34% of investigations were unfounded.
  • An estimated 148,536 investigations were conducted representing a rate of 62.89 investigations per 1,000 children. The number of investigations did not change significantly between 2013 and 2018.
  • There were no out-of-home placements in 97% of investigations.
  • 3% of investigations resulted in a change of residence for the child:
    • 2% to informal kinship care
    • 1% to foster care
    • Less than 1% to residential/secure treatment or group homes
  • At least one primary caregiver risk factor was identified in 78% of substantiated investigations. Frequently reported caregiver risk factors included being a victim of intimate partner violence (53%); having few social supports (30%), and mental health issues (30%).
  •  In 37% of substantiated investigations, At least one concern with a child’s ability to function was identified. Frequently reported child-functioning concerns included depression/anxiety/withdrawal (16%); academic/learning difficulties (15%), ADHD (10%), and aggression/conduct issues (10%).
  • 20% of investigations were identified as remaining open for ongoing services; 80% of investigations were closed.
  • The only statistically significant difference between 2013 and 2018 was in the rate of self-referrals (i.e. the rate of referrals made by a child who was the subject of the referral), which increased from a rate of 0.16 to a rate of 0.64 per 1,000 children.
  • Exposure to intimate partner violence continues to represent the largest proportion of substantiated maltreatment investigations. The incidence of substantiated maltreatment by primary category of maltreatment in 2018 was:
    • 45% – exposure to intimate partner violence
    • 21% – neglect
    • 19% – physical abuse
    • 12% – emotional maltreatment
    • 3% – sexual abuse
  • 10% of substantiated maltreatment investigations involved children of Indigenous heritage.

The Ontario Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS-2018) is available from the Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal (CWRP) and can be found here.