Methods: This study used probabilistically linked birth and CPS records from California between 2009 and 2012 and identified all those with a mother who was under age 21 at the time of birth. Linkages identified all mothers who were in foster care on or after conception, and offspring were followed prospectively to identify any CPS involvement occurring in the first three years of life. The two linkages were matched using the offspring’s birth identifier to create one dataset. The demographic and mother’s child welfare case characteristics were examined. Differences between offspring who were reported and those who were not reported were examined using χ2 tests. The Latent Class Analysis (LCA) was used to identify classes of offspring born to mothers in care who were at increased risk of CPS involvement during the first 3 years of life based on characteristics, birth indicators, and experiences is care. The Bayesian information criterion, entropy, and likelihood ratio tests were used to examine model fit. After identifying appropriate number of latent classes the relationship between the distal outcome, an offspring maltreatment report by age 3, was examined as it related to the constellation of characteristics.
Results: The study found 53% of offspring born to mothers in foster care were reported by age 3. The mother’s history of running away from care increased the risk of an offspring’s CPS report. Also, sexual abuse history is prevalent among mothers in care; specifically, 68% of mothers had a past allegation of sexual abuse. The proportion of offspring who were reported to CPS for maltreatment has declined over time, from 63.0% in 2009 to 45.5% in 2012.The LCA documented three distinct classes of mother-child dyads with varying risk of report. More than a third of offspring in Class 1 and nearly 70% of offspring in Class 3 were reported.
Conclusion and Implications: The study suggests offspring born to mothers in foster care are especially at-risk for CPS involvement and if effective prevention programs can be developed there is a great opportunity to reduce maltreatment among offspring. The present study demonstrates the need for continued efforts to develop a range of programs that fit the needs of mother-child dyads, given that the mothers’ experiences in care, mental health needs, and parenting skills vary widely.