Detection of child abuse in emergency departments: A multi-centre study
Objective: This study examines the detection rates of suspected child abuse in the emergency departments of seven Dutch hospitals complying and not complying with screening guidelines for child abuse. Design: Data on demographics, diagnosis and suspected child abuse were collected for all children aged ≤18 years who visited the emergency departments over a 6-month period. The completion of a checklist of warning signs of child abuse in at least 10% of the emergency department visits was considered to be compliance with screening guidelines. Results: A total of 24 472 visits were analysed, 54% of which took place in an emergency department complying with screening guidelines. Child abuse was suspected in 52 children (0.2%). In 40 (77%) of these 52 cases, a checklist of warning signs had been completed compared with a completion rate of 19% in the total sample. In hospitals complying with screening guidelines for child abuse, the detection rate was higher (0.3%) than in those not complying (0.1%, p<0.001). Conclusion: During a 6-month period, emergency department staff suspected child abuse in 0.2% of all children visiting the emergency department of seven Dutch hospitals. The numbers of suspected abuse cases detected were low, but an increase is likely if uniform screening guidelines are widely implemented.