Economic and Concrete Supports are Key Ingredients in Programs Designed to Prevent Child Welfare Involvement

Ample evidence supports the value of addressing the economic and material hardship faced by most child welfare-involved families. This brief discusses the current evidence for the value of economic and concrete supports as a child welfare prevention mechanism and identifies key program and policy implications, particularly as it pertains to the Family First Prevention Services Act. Importantly, given the disparities in economic resources and child welfare involvement for families of color, elevating strategies and programs that increase families’ economic resources will work to reduce some of these disparities and create a more equitable family-serving system. Prioritizing families’ economic and concrete support needs, connecting them to a well-resourced, community-driven prevention system, and preventing child welfare involvement and out-of-home placement with evidence-based services can meaningfully address the root causes of adverse experiences, including child abuse and neglect and trauma, ultimately allowing families to thrive.   

What We Did

An extensive literature review was completed to summarize and synthesize the extant of the literature supporting economic and concrete supports as a prevention mechanism for child welfare. Other products created as a result of this literature review, including a slide deck and reference list, can be found here. The results of this literature review informed the discussion and policy and practice implications found in this brief.  

What We Found

  • Numerous studies show the detrimental effects of economic hardship and insecurity on family well-being and child welfare involvement. Conversely, and not surprisingly, multiple studies also demonstrate the value of programs that provide economic and concrete supports, be it through direct cash transfers, housing supports, and/or tax credits.  
  • The Family First Prevention Services Act Title IV-E Evidence-based Clearinghouse has already approved programs that include economic and concrete supports as a component or key ingredient. This pattern of intervention development suggests that economic and concrete supports may be a powerful active ingredient or evidence-based kernel in the effectiveness of these programs.  
  • The clear relationship between economic factors and child welfare involvement suggests increased collaboration across child- and family-serving systems (e.g., public health, early childhood, food and housing assistance programs) is needed to make a large impact on preventing child maltreatment and family child welfare involvement.  

What it Means

  • Prioritize prevention services that provide families with economic and concrete supports when designing and implementing Family First prevention plans. 
  • Include economic and concrete supports as an independent and portable evidence-based service on the Title IV-E Clearinghouse.  
  • Continue building the research base that isolates the effects of economic and concrete supports within prevention programs on mental health, substance use, parenting, and child welfare involvement. 
  • Create programs that center family voice, are highly relational, and involve building community capacity and resources through increased communication and integration across family-serving systems.  

View the brief

Recommended Citation
Monahan, E. K., Grewal-Kok, Y., Cusick, G., & Anderson, C. (2023). Economic and concrete supports: An evidence-based service for child welfare prevention. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.