Methods: Findings from our study pertain to child- and community-level analyses. For the child-level analysis, we used administrative data to describe 29,539 children who were the subjects of child protection services (CPS) Hotline reports during part of 2018 and did not have an open child welfare case at the time of the report. We used group comparison tests to compare subgroups of children by their child, family, and case characteristics along the trajectory of formal CPS involvement (e.g., screened out, in-home services, placement). For the community-level analysis, we compared the social and structural characteristics of census tracts with relatively lower and higher rates of reporting and conducted hypothesis testing to determine if these differences we observed in community characteristics were statistically significant.
Results: Black children were over-represented among reports to the Hotline, and on average, communities with more black residents had higher rates of Hotline reports. Four in five reports to the Hotline were for neglect-related concerns, and neighborhoods with the highest rates of Hotline reports had five times the proportion of children living in poverty, half the median household income, and three times the unemployment rate of neighborhoods with the lowest reporting. Finally, roughly one-quarter of children reported to the Hotline had a mother with inter-generational child welfare involvement, and communities with the highest rates of Hotline reports were the same communities that were redlined decades ago.
Conclusion/Implications: Drawing from study findings and support from a major federal Children’s Bureau grant, the City is implementing a multi-pronged approach to address the harmful and ineffective use of the CPS Hotline to respond to poverty. First, we will expand the existing Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s SupportLine that currently serves families with children aged 0 – 3 to serve all children aged 17 and younger residing in the City. This SupportLine provides resource connections and voluntary home visiting services to address well-being needs across the social determinants of health. Second, in partnership with other child- and family-serving City Departments, we will prioritize and streamline service slots for families in neighborhoods with the highest rates of poverty and CPS Hotline reporting. Finally, we will also invest in traditionally underserved communities to connect families to all public benefits for which they are eligible.