Financial Resources of Vulnerable Children and Families

Friday, January 16, 2015: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Balconies I, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Symposium Organizer:
Jennifer L. Romich, PhD, University of Washington
Judy Havlicek, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This panel brings together new high-quality research on the economy, financial strain, and child and family well-being.  The link between family economic resources, parenting, and child outcomes is well-established. Parents under financial stress provide lower-quality care, and extreme financial stress increases the risk of child maltreatment and can lead to involvement with public child welfare systems.  This panel combines up-to-date evidence about how recent economic conditions – namely the Great Recession – influence family functioning alongside a trio of papers examining resources and policy interventions targeting the particularly vulnerable population of families and youth involved in the child welfare system. 

The first paper examines the links between consumer confidence during the Great Recession and 9-year old children’s externalizing behavior, internalizing behavior, vandalism, and drug and alcohol use. The study links longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth cohort study of families, with consumer confidence data.  Decreased consumer confidence during the Great Recession was associated with increased externalizing, internalizing, vandalism, and drug and alcohol use for boys.  These behavior problems are more severe among children living with single mothers although positive parenting techniques provide some buffer. 

The second paper examines economic resources of a vulnerable sub-set of families, those who have had a child or children removed from the home by the child welfare system.  Drawing on a unique merged administrative dataset from Washington State the authors track household employment and participation in cash and food assistance for 18 months prior to and following a focal child’s first out-of-home child welfare placement.  Although some parents maintain employment or public assistance over this period, many lose one or both.  However, a minority become connected to assistance around or after placement.  This suggests that contact with the child welfare system – while destabilizing for many – can help stabilize some families. 

The third paper presents evidence on a new intervention that aims to increase the economic stability of families at risk of child welfare involvement.    Project GAIN (Getting Access to Income Now), assists families at risk for child maltreatment in accessing economic resources, reducing financial stressors, and increasing stability for the children and adults in the home.  By instituting a random assignment design with 1200 families who have been reported to and investigated by child protective services in Milwaukee, WI, but for whom no ongoing services are provided (i.e., cases closed following an initial assessment), this project can examine whether financial-oriented services can help stabilize families and prevent maltreatment. The final paper addresses financial capability among a related population, youth aging out of foster care. Drawing on an experimental evaluation of an independent living services intervention, this study examines the effects of financial capability services.  Results strongly suggest that such services can improve financial stability and decrease risk of economic and material hardship.

* noted as presenting author
The Great Recession and Child Behavior Problems: Differential Effects By Child Gender
William J. Schneider, BA, Columbia University; Jane Waldfogel, PhD, Columbia University; Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, PhD, Teachers College, Columbia University
Doubly Disconnected: Family Income Trajectories Surrounding Child Welfare Removal
Ji Young Kang, MSW, University of Washington; Jennifer L. Romich, PhD, University of Washington; Jennifer L. Hook, PhD, University of Southern California; JoAnn S. Lee, PhD, Seattle Children's Research Institute; Maureen O. Marcenko, PhD, University of Washington
Economic Resources and Child Maltreatment: Early Results from the Getting Access to Income Now Evaluation
Lawrence M. Berger, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Kristen S. Slack, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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