Chapin Hall Builds National Understanding of Pandemic’s Impact on Families

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives, including work, education, childcare, health, finances and contact with family and friends. It has also affected child welfare system and the families they serveWhat has that impact been and what does that mean for our nation’s families? Chapin Hall is providing rigorous research and analysis to answer that question, and we have developed evidence-based policy and practice recommendations for supporting families during the pandemic. 

Building on our commitment to use evidence to inform actionable solutions in real time, we have produced a range of tools that can make a difference now. 

In COVID-19 and Child Welfare: Using Data to Understand Trends in Maltreatment and Response , Chapin Hall examines what the reduction in child maltreatment reports means for child welfare systems, and how agencies can respond adaptively to the families they serve in light of shifts in reporting. In this brief, Chapin Hall introduces a new dynamic forecasting tool: the Latent Event Simulator. This tool was developed from analysis of multiple data sources, including seven years of child abuse hotline reports, unemployment and child poverty rates, and census and birth records. The tool allows agencies to estimate changing rates of abuse and neglect reports based on community-level stressors, to project unseen events, and to plan appropriate responses. 

Chapin Hall provided Recommendations to Address the Inequitable Impacts of COVID-19 in Child Welfare, Housing, and Community Capacity in this report that reviews the literature on the effects of the pandemic. The authors provide policy and practice recommendations across our three main impact areas: child welfare, youth and family homelessness, and community capacity 

Senior Policy Fellow Dr. Dana Weiner authored an article for Policy & Practice, a publication of the American Public Human Services Association, that calls upon our child welfare systems to move beyond surveillance and toward support through the delivery of preventive services. Achieving Improved Child and Family Well-Being Through Prevention, A Call for System Adaptation applies an understanding of systemic racism to child welfare. The role of mandated reporters is questioned, and the child welfare system’s focus on investigation over effective intervention is challenged. 

Responding to health care providers who are increasingly serving families whose economic and social needs are escalating due to COVID-19, Chapin Hall produced two Practice Bulletins with evidence-based tips on how these providers can sensitively and effectively engage families about their needs. This work builds on recent research conducted by Chapin Hall that has shown the potential of addressing toxic stress and social determinants of health in pediatric primary care settings. 

In his compelling essay in The Imprint, Chapin Hall Executive Director Bryan Samuels challenges racism within the child welfare system. Samuels argues that the disparate impact of the pandemic should spark long overdue efforts to address well-documented bias within our child welfare systems.  

Dr. Matt Morton explored the impact of COVID-19 on youth experiencing housing instability in Tackling Youth Homelessness with Cash During Coronavirus. Morton also coauthored a report on previously untold stories of the pandemic among young people, which revealed alarming levels of food and housing instability during the pandemic.

Chapin Hall also has several research projects in progress related to the pandemic. 

Flattening the next curve: Elevating family assets in the wake of COVID-19 is a study that examines how the pandemic is affecting families with young children who experienced adversity and toxic stress prior to COVID-19In this study we are working with 240 families, mostly Latino, in three communities in California and Floridaalong with early childhood, public health, and health care systems stakeholders. The study will examine differences in economic scarcity, isolation, social service use, and caregiving experiences during COVID-19. By examining how pre-existing disparities persist, worsen, or improve, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of what leads to a strong system response to family needs. This can inform ways to promote success and resilience during the pandemic and beyondFor more information about this study, please contact Dr. Julie McCrae. 

In Illinois, Chapin Hall is researching the impact of the pandemic and resulting economic crisis on families and public systems. This analysis of unemployment insurance claims builds on work by researcher David McQuown, with guidance from Senior Research Fellow Robert Goergewho contributed to a study of fiscal policy options published in an August 2020 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working PaperThe effect of fiscal stimulus: Evidence from COVID-19. The study found that higher rates of fiscal stimulus corresponded with more consumer spending, even during periods of high unemployment, consistent with the goals of a fiscal stimulus policy.  

Throughout the pandemic, Chapin Hall has been more committed than ever to working with partners and stakeholders to find actionable solutions that create positive change for children and families.