Toward an Integrated Understanding of Child Sexual Abuse Cases: Using Case Flow Analysis in the Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

Paul D. Steele, University of New Mexico

While having different goals, both criminal and civil agencies have legally-mandated authority to investigate and intervene in cases of suspected child sexual abuse. Traditionally, the result was system conflict, miscommunication, professional mistrust and, consequently, limited justice outcomes. Since the mid-1990s, however, innovations such as Multi-Disciplinary Teams and coordinated forensic child interviewing at Children's Advocacy Centers have become widespread and have helped to integrate criminal and civil responses. System integration has also diminished strictly linear case processing within each justice system.

As a result, it has become important to adopt a larger system approach to accurately describe the effect of various case, child victim, offender, family and episode descriptors on interim case decisions and final outcomes. Case Flow Analysis (CFA) is an effective method for developing a holistic understanding of child sexual abuse cases and their outcomes, by linking case descriptors with the progression of cases through and across the criminal and civil justice systems. It also provides the basis for effective strategic planning and system improvement. This presentation describes research experiences and findings from child sexual abuse CFAs completed in different jurisdictions.

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Updated 05/20/2006