CIS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the objectives of the CIS-2008?

The primary objective of the CIS is to provide a reliable estimate of the incidence of reported child abuse and neglect, including rates of investigated and substantiated child maltreatment and the severity of maltreatment. A second objective of the CIS is to compare the rates of substantiated maltreatment, severity of maltreatment, and short-term investigation outcomes over time.

What does the CIS-2008 data collection instrument consist of?

The main data collection instrument used for the CIS-2008 study is a three-page standardized form, called the Maltreatment Assessment Form, which consists of an Intake Face Sheet, a Household Information Sheet, and a Child Information Sheet. These forms are completed by the primary investigating child welfare worker at the end of each child welfare investigation. The Intake Face Sheet collects basic information about the report or referral and near identifying information about the children involved. The Household Information Sheet is only completed if at least one child in the family has been investigated for suspected maltreatment, and the perpetrator of maltreatment is not a community caregiver (e.g., teacher, daycare provider). This Sheet collects descriptive information about the caregivers in the household. Lastly, the Child Information Sheet is completed for each child investigated for maltreatment and documents the various forms of abuse and/or neglect, alleged perpetrator(s), descriptive child information, and information regarding child welfare court, police involvement, and out-of-home placement of the child.

What is involved in study participation?

Data was collected during a three-month period of the study year (October 1 - December 31, 2008). A half-day training was provided to the workers in the fall of 2008, prior to the data collection, so that they understood how to fill out the forms. The CIS research team was available to respond to questions as they arose and an onsite research assistant was present periodically throughout the study to assist workers and agencies with the data collection process. The average worker took approximately 15 minutes to complete one form.

How will the study protect the anonymity of agencies, workers, and investigated families?

The study did not involve any direct contact with children or families. It asked agency workers to fill out data collection sheets based on information that was already in families’ case files. Agency workers were trained NOT to include identifying information on this sheet and any identifying information that was inadvertently included was blacked-out on-site by a research assistant before the forms were sent to the University of Toronto for data entry. No identifying information about the clients left the agency. Reports and articles based on the collected data will only present data aggregated to a level which precludes identification of agencies, workers or families/children. The data set which will be made publicly available will exclude key identifying variables, making it impossible for users to identify the province, agency, worker, or family for which data is reported. The data set will also exclude information that would enable researchers to distinguish First Nations child welfare agencies from mainstream agencies. Research that distinguishes between First Nations and mainstream agencies will only be allowed for proposals that have been reviewed and approved by the First Nations advisory committee.

What was the CIS-2008 sampling process?

The CIS-2008 utilized four-stage sampling process. Firstly, a minimum of one agency or office was selected in each province and territory, with the larger provinces stratified by region. The primary sampling unit for study was a study designed Child Welfare Service Area (CWSA). For the CIS-2008 sample, 114 CWSAs were selected. Next, cases were selected that had been opened in each site over the three-month data collection period of the study year (October to December 2008). From these select open cases, the cases were identified that met the CIS-2008 definitions of investigated maltreatment. Lastly, the final sampling stage involved identifying the specific children who were investigated within these cases.

How does the CIS-2008 calculate national incidence estimates?

Two sets of weights are applied to the CIS-2008 data. Firstly, the results are annualized to estimate the annual volume of cases investigated by each study site. In addition, regional weights are applied to reflect the relative sizes of the selected sites. Regionalization and annualization weights are combined so that each case is multiplied first by an annualization weight and then by a regionalization weight. National incidence estimates are collected by dividing the weighted estimates by the child population (for children age 15 and under). The child population figures for the CIS-2008 sites are based on the 2006 Census data.

Can I make regional comparisons?

Regional comparisons are not possible using the CIS-2008 Public dataset. The study methodology is designed to provide national estimates only.

What is the unit of analysis for the CIS-2008?

The unit of analysis for the CIS-2008 is the child maltreatment investigation. The unit of analysis is not the child because the annualization weight may contain children who have been reported more than once to a Child Welfare Service Area, our primary sampling unit, during the calendar year.

Is Quebec included in the CIS-2008 data set and why was it not included in the CIS-2003 data?

In the CIS-2003 data set, Quebec data were gathered from a recently adopted administrative database that provided limited information. Quebec child welfare offices were included on the basis of availability of data from a common information system that was implemented in the province just prior to data collection for the CIS-2003. The fields contained in this system were mapped onto the CIS-2003 questions. While this approach provided a basis for deriving selected national estimates that include Quebec, there was not sufficient correspondence between the fields and the CIS-2003 questions to include Quebec. For this reason, child maltreatment investigations from Quebec were not included in most of the CIS-2003 report. However, Quebec is included in the CIS-2008 data set and report.

What types of variables are included in the CIS-2008 data set?

With the exception of child age and select worker variables, the variables in the CIS-2008 Public dataset are primarily dichotomous or categorical variables. For example, a question about unsafe housing conditions is categorical, as there are a variety of possible answers including: yes (1), no (0), or unknown (8). However, other questions, such as whether the primary investigating worker has made a referral to alternative dispute resolution, are dichotomous with the possible answers being either yes (1) or no (0).

Are there children over the age of 15 years contained in the dataset?

No. Fifteen years of age is commonly the cut-off age for the delivery of child welfare service in Canada. In 2008, some provinces had higher cut-off ages for the delivery of child welfare service, specifically Alberta (under 18), British Columbia (under 19), Manitoba (under 18), Quebec (under 18), and Yukon Territory (under 18). Thus, children over the age of 15 are contained in those aforementioned provincial datasets, and in the provincial reports of British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.

How has the CIS data been used?

The CIS data has been used to support many ongoing policy, research and practice initiatives, including the following:

  • Informed the draft United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment on the Rights of Indigenous Children and a national funding formula for First Nations child welfare agencies.
  • Informed child welfare policy and legislative reforms in Alberta and Ontario, including the introduction of differential response models in both provinces based on the significant increases in domestic violence, neglect and emotional maltreatment rather than physical and sexual abuse, and the low rates of physical harm.
  • Influenced the changes to the Quebec Youth Protection Act in July 2007, including the introduction of psychological ill-treatment as a major risk factor to a child's security or development.
  • Supported analysis of the (in)adequacy of the supreme court’s criteria for the use of corporal punishment to protect children.
  • Assisted researchers to dispel the myth that CASs were frequently responding to cases of domestic violence by apprehending children.
  • Supported analysis of false allegations of abuse in cases involving custody disputes.
  • Identified and supported investigation into the decline of investigated sexual abuse in Canada.
  • Has been used for international comparisons on multiple issues in child maltreatment.


How are Indigenous children sampled?

Indigenous agencies were sampled from a separate Indigenous pan-Canadian stratum.

How does the CIS-2008 explore specific issues surrounding the incidence of and response to maltreatment of Indigenous children?

The First Nations component of the CIS is designed to explore specific issues surrounding the incidence of and response to maltreatment of Indigenous children. It is guided by a National Advisory Committee comprised of provincial First Nations representatives from across Canada. A full report on the findings from the First Nations CIS-2003 can be found on this website and is titled “Mesnimik Wasatek: Catching a Drop of Light.” The CIS-2008 tripled the number of First Nations agencies from previous CIS cycles, allowing for closer examination of the forms of neglect that contribute to Indigenous overrepresentation in the child welfare system. This increase in First Nations agencies for data collection also allows for preliminary comparisons between First Nations run child welfare agencies and mainstream agencies.

What are the potential benefits of Indigenous child welfare agencies participating in the study?

Being the first national study on child maltreatment to collect disaggregated data on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, the CIS has made a significant impact at the international, national, and local levels. The results of past CIS cycles informed the draft United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment on the Rights of Indigenous Children, and a national funding formula for First Nations child welfare agencies. The CIS findings have also been used by First Nations child and family service agencies and provinces to retool services for First Nations children. Indeed, the impact of past CIS cycles was such that the Wen:De report, a review of First Nations child and family services produced by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS) and ratified by the Assembly of First Nations and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, placed a high priority on expanding the First Nations component of the CIS. FNCIS-2008 more than tripled the number of Indigenous child welfare agencies included in the 2003 sample. The increased sample size will allow for a more detailed and systematic examination of the nature of and response to maltreatment of Indigenous children. Accordingly, FNCIS-2008 has the potential to have an even greater impact on Indigenous child welfare programs and policies than previous cycles. In addition, the CIS research team is committed to increasing the capacity of child welfare agencies to collect and analyze child welfare data and will work with interested agencies to support their capacity development efforts.

In the CIS-2008 research pertaining to Indigenous children, how are the OCAP principles adhered to?

The First Nations CIS (FNCIS) 2008 was overseen by a First Nations Advisory Committee that has the principle responsibility for ensuring Indigenous ownership of and control over the research project. The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society played a key role in the organization of the 2008 FNCIS, as well as, the past two cycles of the study. The other advisory committee members are representatives of national and provincial level organizations involved in Indigenous child welfare. Committee members: oversaw the full research process, informed and approved the sampling framework, developed and helped ensure compliance with ethical guidelines, facilitated the recruitment of participating agencies, helped to prioritize secondary analyses, and will assist with dissemination to interested communities. FNCIS researchers also worked closely with individual communities included in the study. They obtained formal approval from the agency directors and band councils of all participating agencies and, where they existed, from agency board of directors and band ethics boards before initiating data collection. The research team members and/or advisory committee also keep all communities updated about project progress, directly answer community questions whenever requested, provide each participating agency with a report summarizing local data, and support research capacity building efforts of interested agencies.

Who does the First Nations CIS-2008 Advisory Committee Member Organizations consist of?

The First Nations CIS-2008 Advisory Committee Member Organizations consists of the following organizations: First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, Yellowhead Tribal Services Agency, Mi’kmaw Family & Child Services of Nova Scotia, First Nations of Quebec & Labrador Health & Social Services Commission, Assembly of First Nations, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, North Shore MicMac District Council, Public Health Agency of Canada, Caring for First Nations Children Society, Saskatchewan First Nations Family & Community Institute, and the Association of Native Child & Family Services Agencies of Ontario.