Pitfalls of Scoring Abuse and Neglect

Automated tools used to quickly screen and score families for neglect and abuse have been embraced, promising more efficient use of data and resources, writes Virginia Eubanks in a published book excerpt.

Eubanks delves into Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Family Screening Tool, which mines over a billion records and scores on a 1-20 risk scale, and finds racial bias built into the system.

Legal definitions of child abuse and neglect leave “considerable room for subjectivity”—so where is the line drawn between poverty and neglect? she asks.

“No one wants children to suffer, but the appropriate role of government in keeping kids safe is complicated,” she writes.


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