A Key Connection: Economic Stability and Family Well-being

Building evidence and developing policy to address economic hardship as a factor in child welfare involvement    

Economic stability contributes to family well-being. A growing body of evidence shows that families do better when they have access to concrete services and have economic stability. Providing economic and concrete supports is an important component of preventing child abuse and neglect and reducing involvement with child welfare. Since families of color are disproportionately affected by poverty, these supports can serve as a strategy to reduce racial disproportionality in child welfare systems.  

Chapin Hall experts have brought together evidence about the connections between economic and concrete supports and involvement with child welfare. The most comprehensive collection of this research is in the presentation developed by Clare Anderson, Yasmin Grewal-Kök, Dr. Gretchen Cusick, Dr. Dana Weiner and Dr. Krista Thomas. Download it here:  

View slide deck on “Family and Child Well-Being System: Economic & Concrete Supports as a Core Component”
Some compelling findings include:   

  • Each additional $1,000 that states spend on public benefit programs annually per person living in poverty is associated with: a 4.3% reduction in child maltreatment reports; a 4% reduction in substantiated child maltreatment; a 2.1% reduction in foster care placements; and a 7.7% reduction in child fatalities due to maltreatment. 
  • States with state-level refundable EITC, compared to those without, had 11% fewer entries into foster care (even after controlling for poverty, race, education, and unemployment). 
  • Between 2013 and 2016, the rate of screened-in neglect referrals decreased in states that expanded Medicaid, but increased in states that did not expand Medicaid. If nonexpansion states had expanded Medicaid, there would have been an estimated 124,981 fewer screened-in neglect referrals in the U.S. from 2014 through 2016. 
  • Waitlists to access subsidized child care are significantly associated with an increase in child abuse & neglect investigations. 
  • Mothers who receive TANF and are eligible to receive full child support paid on behalf of their children (without a decrease in benefits) are 10% less likely to have a screened-in maltreatment report than mothers who are eligible to receive only partial child support payments. Even a modest increase in child support payments—averaging $100 per year—results in a decrease in screened-in maltreatment reports. 
  • Every $1 increase in the minimum wage is associated with a 9.6% reduction in neglect reports. 

These findings indicate that we can promote child and family well-being through state and federal policies that strengthen families, promote family economic security, and reduce child protective services involvement in the lives of families. Examples of state policy changes doing just this can be found in the presentation linked above. 

“We are using poverty as a lens for developing a set of policies and practices that assist child welfare to decrease the disproportionate impact the child welfare system has on Black and Brown families,” said Chapin Hall Executive Director Bryan Samuels. “How many of these families, but for their economic circumstances, would not have come into the child welfare system? We want to eliminate the need for long-term foster care, and to address disproportionate outcomes based on race. The evidence is clear that addressing economic and concrete supports is key to achieving that.” 

This short video provides a high-level overview of Chapin Hall’s approach to this work. The role of economic and concrete supports in transforming child welfare systems was also addressed in this report by Senior Policy Fellows Dana Weiner, Clare Anderson, and Krista Thomas. 

Senior Policy Analyst Yasmin Grewal-Kök is leading a Chapin Hall team to support an American Public Human Service Association (APHSA) Learning Community focused on preventing family involvement in child welfare systems through economic and concrete supports. The goal of this learning community is to develop short- and long-term strategies to promote family well-being and economic stability through increased access to economic and concrete supports.  

To learn more about the range of Chapin Hall’s work on economic and concrete supports, please also see:  

Coming up, Chapin Hall will continue to develop tools to practically apply this evidence to prevention efforts across the country. To work with us on applying this evidence at your agency or in your jurisdiction, contact Clare Anderson 

Suggested citation for slide deck:  

Anderson, C., Grewal-Kök, Y., Cusick, G., Weiner, D., & Thomas, K. (2021). Family and child well-being system: Economic and concrete supports as a core component. [Power Point slides]. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. [Updated April 2022] 

Chapin Hall also presented to the California Child Welfare Council on economic and concrete supports and child welfare system involvement. Download that presentation below. 

View slide deck from presentation to California Child Welfare Council