Abstract: Early Childhood Education and Child Welfare: Transitions and Pathways across Systems (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Early Childhood Education and Child Welfare: Transitions and Pathways across Systems

Friday, January 18, 2019: 4:30 PM
Golden Gate 7, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Jacquelyn Eastman, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
John Prindle, PhD, Research Faculty, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Eastman Foust, PhD, Research Scientist, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background & Purpose.  High-quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) and family-support programs can help prevent maltreatment and may also improve safety, permanency and well-being for children involved with Child Welfare (CW). Little is known, however, about families that interact with both systems, either sequentially or concurrently. The Children’s Data Network (CDN) and the Child Care Resource Center (CCRC), have linked birth records with administrative data to develop a population level view of these interactions. In a previous project, CDN and CCRC linked records of young children in subsidized voucher-based or Head Start programs between 2011-14 with CW records. More than I in 4 of the 20,049 children under age five enrolled in these programs (28.2%, n=5,652) were also involved with CW. 

Methods. This study uses cohort sequence analysis and visualization methods to track transitions across ECE programs and between ECE and CW. Using birth records of all children born between 2010 and 2012, CDN linked with CW records and ECE data on children 0 to 5, and served by CCRC between 2010 and 2017. Data included demographic information from birth records, CW and ECE data. This birth cohort approach allowed researchers to answer questions about the whole population of children, the subgroups enrolled in ECE or CW, those experiencing both ECE and CW, and the sequence of contact with both ECE and CW.

Results. Findings show that 11.3% of young children were enrolled in subsidized ECE programs and 11.7% had CW involvement during this same period.  About 3% had substantiated allegations, 4.3% had cases opened and 2.1% were placed in out-of-home care. A small percentage of the birth cohort (2.8%) were involved with both systems. Of the 8,577 children receiving subsidized ECE services, 25.1% (n=2873) were also referred to CW. Sequence analysis identified eight clusters of children experiences with ECE and CW, with some clusters showing long term enrollment with ECE programs and others indicating more intermittent enrollment. Transitions from CW to ECE were much less frequent than ECE enrollment prior to CW involvement.

Conclusion & Implications. Young children in CW are likely to receive significant social-emotional and cognitive benefits from high-quality ECE services, improving safety and well-being while in care and into the future. In 2017 California established the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program, providing timely access to subsidized ECE for relatives and foster parents willing to care for young children, assistance in navigating the ECE system and trauma-informed training for child care providers. This and other recent policy initiatives suggest that the time has come to improve collaboration and build other bridges across these systems. Findings from this study can inform policy and practice helping to build lasting bridges.