Introduction to the SCAN Policies Database

The State Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Policies Database compiles data on the definitions and policies that states use in their surveillance of child maltreatment, along with data on associated risk and protective factors. The SCAN Policies Database is funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in collaboration with the Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The project team is led by Mathematica in partnership with Child Trends.


The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) is an office within the Administration for Children & Families (ACF), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). ACF promotes the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. OPRE studies ACF programs and the populations they serve through rigorous research and evaluation projects. These include evaluations of existing programs, evaluations of innovative approaches to helping low-income children and families, research syntheses, and descriptive and exploratory studies.



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Although federal law is the foundation of the child welfare system, states drive much of the structure of their own systems. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended in 2010, identifies certain acts or behaviors as child maltreatment. States must comply with the broader CAPTA definitions, but within those parameters, states have their own legal definitions. State laws—and the policies states set to enforce these laws—have different definitions of child abuse and neglect and different policies for reporting and responding to child maltreatment.



The project’s purpose is to review and compile information from selected definitions and policies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, to create a database of those definitions and policies (the SCAN Policies Database) that can be used for analysis.

The database is a resource for researchers, analysts, and others who are interested in examining differences between states in their definitions and policies on child maltreatment and how they change overtime. A primary benefit of these data is to allow researchers to link the analytic files to other data sources, such as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), other federal and state administrative data, and survey data.  When data from the SCAN Policies Database are linked with other data sources, the linked data can be used to answer important questions about how variations in states’ definitions and policies are associated with the incidence of child maltreatment, the child welfare system response, and ultimately, the safety and well-being of children.


Project Leadership

Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation Administration for Children and Families

Christine Fortunato, Contracting Officer’s Representative

Mary Mueggenborg, Contracting Officer’s Representative



Elizabeth Weigensberg, Project Director

Nuzhat Islam, Deputy Project Director


Child Trends

Elizabeth Jordan, Subcontractor Technical Lead


Contact us: For general inquiries and data users who access the data from this website can submit a request to