This presentation describes the implementation of additional procedures to increase child safety for newborns instituted in a number of jurisdictions across the United States but focusing on the ongoing work in Maryland. These jurisdictions are endeavoring to protect newborn children who have been born to a parent who has experienced the removal of a child from their home, the prior termination of parental rights coupled with a Child Protective Services (CPS) finding, or another form of identification of the parent as a significant safety risk for the newborn (e.g., if the child is living with a sex offender). These procedures are referred to as birth match and are designed to harness the power of existing data systems to identify at risk children and offer protective and preventative services to the family, that are squarely based on current legal premises and child welfare traditions.
Using interviews with decision-makers, a comprehensive review of policies and procedures and an examination of child welfare outcomes, the formative processes, mechanics, benefits, and barriers to each of the birth match methodologies is described in detail along with initial outcomes. In Maryland approximately 30% of cases identified by the birth match process are already known to the child welfare system due to a pre-existing case, the other 70% of cases receive some form of child protective services contact. Currently, the state is in the process of examining the long term impact of these visits in stabilizing families – the results of which will be presented along with the overview of Birth Match.
These methods of protecting vulnerable newborns should be seriously considered by policy makers and practitioners in every state. All three processes share common elements—the use of prior knowledge to inform current decision-making regarding newborns—but each has a unique way to capture, process, and act on this information.