Methods: The study sample was from the Illinois Family Study (IFS). This study used data from four waves of IFS survey data combined with administrative CPS involvement records. A transition model was utilized to examine the relationship between housing instability and CPS investigations. In order to examine whether psychological distress mediates the association between CPS investigation and housing instability, the approach from Tingley was followed. To examine whether material hardship moderates the relationship between housing instability and CPS investigation, the interaction term between housing instability and material hardship was added in the model.
Results: Our results from the transition model indicated that if families experience any housing instability, the risk of receiving CPS investigations increases (OR=1.49, p < .01). In addition, experiencing two or more types of housing instability (versus none) increases the odds of getting
CPS investigations (OR=1.53, p < .01). However, the relationship between housing instability and CPS investigations was not significantly mediated through psychological distress nor moderated by material hardship.
Conclusions/Implications: This study has made some unique contributions to the field of child welfare through employing a longitudinal design to explore the relationship between housing instability and CPS investigations. Based on the study results, increasing the accessibility of affordable housing is extremely important for housing unstable families and families who are at risk of experiencing housing instability. Receiving child welfare investigations could serve as an early warning sign that housing unstable families’ well-being is jeopardized. Thus, increased cross system collaboration is necessary to help these families access needed resources. Future policies and programs should focus on helping families to become financially stable and preventing adverse economic shocks.