Paper 1 presents the theoretical and methodological rationale that underpins the Strong Start Index. Existing data for children and families are leveraged to summarize, in a standardized way, the conditions into which children are born. The index comprises of 12 dichotomous variables that fall into four domains. A birth asset score is calculated by counting the number of assets present (0-12). Information regarding infant health and circumstances surrounding the birth, family socioeconomic status, maternal health behaviors and access to services, and the age, education, and nativity of both parents, all provide insight into the conditions into which individual children are born and the risk of CPS involvement. Paper 2 details ways to address newborn and further child care needs, once identified. The current risk screening process for mothers at the time of delivery to target home visiting referrals for families at heightened risk of CPS involvement was examined. A quasi experimental design was used to test the efficacy of screening versus no screening for 285,327 births. Mothers identified as high risk were 31% more likely to have CPS contact, with a 34% increase likelihood of substantiations and no increase in foster care placements. Counterfactual testing race/ethnicity differences between birth locations found no significant effects of screening hospitals targeting maternal race/ethnicity. The implications of surveillance bias, targeted home visiting for at risk families, and how these findings inform future studies will be discussed.
The second example of an intervention for families at risk of CPS involvement is highlighted in Paper 3. This study is an evaluation of the Neighborhood Resource Network (NRN) randomized controlled trial, which tested the efficacy of an enhanced engagement and service-linkage model. The program was designed to decrease subsequent child welfare involvement among families following a first referral to CPS for children under age five in Orange County, California. A total of 5,460 eligible referrals were submitted for random assignment between 2016 and 2018, and 2,413 referred families were assigned to the treatment. At the 6-month follow up, 81.2% of families assigned to the NRN treatment group had no subsequent referral to CPS. Among the 438 intervention families re-reported, 33.8% resulted in a substantiated allegation compared with 39.3% of re-reported families from the control. Findings on service engagement, receipt, and re-reporting to the CPS are presented. The strengths and challenges of implementing randomized controlled trials within the CPS will be discussed.