Concrete services are financial assistance to families receiving child welfare services intended to promote permanency and placement stability. The availability of concrete service funds was expanded as a part of Indiana’s 2012 Title IV-E Wavier to prevent home instability and improve family success. However, few studies have examined the relationship between the effects of concrete service spending on permanency and stability. Previous work by our team demonstrated that concrete service spending varied by service type and caseworker justification for concrete service use was in support of positive child outcomes (Pierce et al, 2017). The present study examines the relationship between concrete service spending type and outcomes of permanency and stability.
The present study analyzes data collected from case reviews reporting on 2,611 families receiving services over 5 years at public child welfare agencies in Indiana. The predictor variable of concrete service spending was measured by the administrative cost report of the amount spent overall and in each concrete service category of general services, material assistance, general products, and personal allowance. Outcome variables of stability and permanency were rated by reviewers on a 1 (adverse) – 6 (optimal) Likert scale. Control variables that are known to affect placement included number of traumatic stress events for both child and caregiver, number of placements for the youth, and placement plan at the time of data collection. Multiple regression models were fitted to examine the relationship between concrete service spending and outcomes of permanency and stability. All variables were centered and standardized prior to analysis for interpretability. Because preliminary analysis indicated youth receiving concrete services are at a significantly higher need level relative to those not receiving concrete services (e.g. more placements, lower stability, higher exposure to stress), youth who received concrete services were examined independently (n=425).
Significant regression models, both statistically and practically, were fit for stability (F(6, 425) 14.38, p< .001, R2= .1688) that used overall concrete spending as the predictor (β =.124, p<.05); and for permanency (F(6, 425) 9.229, p< .001, R2= .1554) that used general services spending as the predictor (β =.121, p<.05).
These results suggest the use of concrete service spending associates with improved outcomes of stability and permanency. Stability depends on the total concrete service spending while permanency depends on general service (i.e. beds and clothes) spending. It is plausible that caseworkers spend more on beds and clothing when a permanent placement is found and the placement may not be sustained without concrete service spending. Stability appears to depend on spend types from all categories rather than a specific one suggesting the complex concrete needs for stability to be maintained. The theoretical interpretation of this cross-sectional analysis is that concrete service spending affects outcomes of permanency and stability. Although this analysis does not account for all causes of variance and longitudinal data is needed to infer causality, the present study suggests spending on concrete services can improve youth stability and permanency.