Economic Impact of Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect

  • Alex R. DoppEmail author
  • Cindy M. Schaeffer
  • Cynthia Cupit Swenson
  • Jennifer S. Powell
Original Article


This study evaluated the economics of Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) by applying the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) cost-benefit model to data from a randomized effectiveness trial with 86 families (Swenson et al. in JFP 24:497–507, 2010b). The net benefit of MST-CAN, versus enhanced outpatient treatment, was $26,655 per family at 16 months post-baseline. Stated differently, every dollar spent on MST-CAN recovered $3.31 in savings to participants, taxpayers, and society at large. Policymakers and public service agencies should consider these findings when making investments into interventions for high-need families involved with child protective services.


Cost-benefit analysis Multisystemic Therapy (MST) Child maltreatment Trauma Evidence-based treatment 



We sincerely thank Dr. David Ward, the health economist who worked on the randomized trial on which the present study is based, for his numerous contributions to examining costs during this study, as well as Dr. Scott Henggeler for scientific guidance. We thank all the families who helped us learn how to provide treatment in respectful ways that keep their children with them safely. We thank Cathy Joyner, the Charleston-Dorchester Mental Health Center therapists, Eugene Caldwell, all Charleston County Child Protective Services supervisors and caseworkers, Amy Mayhew, Anthony Joyner, Dawn Allen, Mary Grady, Dr. Elena Tuerk, Wiktor Wisniewski, and Hannah Ward.


This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (Grant No. R01MH60663), awarded to Swenson (PI).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Cindy M. Schaeffer and Cynthia Cupit Swenson are consultants in the development of Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect and related programs through MST Services, Inc., which has the exclusive licensing agreement through the Medical University of South Carolina for the dissemination of Multisystemic Therapy technologies. Alex R. Dopp and Jennifer S. Powell declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex R. Dopp
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cindy M. Schaeffer
    • 2
  • Cynthia Cupit Swenson
    • 3
  • Jennifer S. Powell
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychological ScienceUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA
  2. 2.Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Maryland BaltimoreBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Division of Global and Community Health, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA

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