Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16301 Child Care Burden and Child Protection System Involvement

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 11:15 AM
Cabin John (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Mi-Youn Yang, MSW, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Kristen S. Slack, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background and Purpose: The associations between child maltreatment risk and child care availability, use, quality, and type has not been widely studied. A handful of studies have found a relationship between rates of child maltreatment in a neighborhood and indicators of child care burden, child supervision resources, higher quality child care services, or child care supply at the neighborhood or community level. However, scant attention has been paid to the association between child maltreatment risk and child care characteristics at the family level. Furthermore, there is little information about which specific forms of child maltreatment are associated with child care characteristics. Using a prospective, longitudinal study design, this research explores two forms of child maltreatment, child neglect and child physical abuse, to determine whether family child care characteristics are predictive of these outcomes.

Methods: The study sample was obtained from the Illinois Families Study (IFS), a panel study of 1998 welfare recipients in Illinois. The final sample includes 826 families who participated in the first two interview waves between 1999/2000 and 2001), and had children younger than seven years of age. Child care burden was assessed using a dichotomized scale measure comprised of items related to child care distance, reliability, and cost burden. Other measures of child care characteristics include child care type (center, family day care, informal), perceived quality, stability, and child care subsidy use. Outcome variables are child physical abuse and child neglect, operationalized as investigated CPS reports. Logistic regression and fixed-effects models are estimated.

Results: Child care burden is significantly associated with child neglect in both logistic regression and fixed effect models, even after controlling for demographic, economic, parenting, and psychological variables. Compared to families with no child care burden in the previous year, the odds of being reported for child neglect are two times higher for families with child care burden. Child care burden is not associated with child physical abuse in both analyses. Other characteristics of child care were associated with CPS involvement in logistics regressions, but not in fixed effects models, suggesting selection issues may be at work. Sensitivity tests using different burden cut-offs yielded similar results.

Conclusions and Implications: In the wake of the 1996 federal welfare reforms, welfare recipients have faced heightened pressure to leave the welfare rolls for work, further incentivized by the increased availability of child care subsidies. This shift has had implications for child care use among recipients, but it is not well understood whether certain characteristics of child care are related to child maltreatment risk. This analysis attempts to address this gap in the literature. The finding that child care burden is predictive of investigated neglect reports suggests that child protection practices should consider child care circumstances in risk and safety assessments and treatment interventions.