A range of concrete and economic supports could sufficiently stabilize families and children to the point that they could avoid traumatic involvement with the child welfare system, according to a newly updated policy brief by researchers from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
The study synthesized existing and new research on the role of economic hardship in the maltreatment of children and how economic supports, when properly implemented, have been shown to help families function more effectively.
From that, researchers drew up a set of recommendations that they say could transform the child welfare system’s dominant mode of intervention from one of child removal for maltreatment to one that focuses up front on enabling family well-being.
The brief concluded that the current routes to economic assistance are usually overly intrusive, punitive, complex and burdensome for families.
The answer is to develop a collaborative, multisystem pathway that eases economic hardship through economic and concrete supports that families can use to meet basic needs and “create safer environments for children to thrive,” according to a summary of the brief.
Building a family-friendly system would require human services agencies to work more collaboratively, the brief found. In addition, policymakers and program administrators need more robust data to track families’ economic risk as distinct from child maltreatment, to measure family well-being and to provide the right level of economic support. The input of people who have experience inside the system would help build a system that works best, the researchers found.