Research Shows the Need for New Ways to Protect Children and Support Families

Research shows how harmful the child welfare system can be to families and children and documents bias in the system. Studies find that raising the minimum wage or providing families with cash assistance reduces the number of children that come into foster care, and that children considered “on the margin of placement” into foster care tend to have better outcomes when they remain with their families. Parent advocates and activists can conduct research, work with researchers and use research as a tool to try to change public understanding of what truly leads to child safety and well-being.

System Harm and Bias

To Have and To Hold: A Descriptive Study of Custody Status Following Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine. K. Wobie, F. Eyler, M. Behnke, C. Garvan. Pediatric Research (1998)

TED Talk: To transform child welfare, take race out of the equation. Jessica Pryce. (2018)
In one county on Long Island, New York, child protective services moved to a system of child removals that was race-blind. In the ensuing years, the proportion of children in foster care that were black dropped dramatically. Watch a TedTalk with the researcher who studied Long Island’s experiment in race-blind removals.

Child Protection and Child Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Foster Care. Joseph Doyle Jr. American Economic Review (2007) Overview article about this research: Kids gain more from family than from foster care. Joseph Doyle Jr. MIT News (2007)

Reporting, Investigations and Surveillance

“The Tool We Have”: Why Child Protective Services Investigates So Many Families and How Even Good Intentions Backfire. A briefing paper prepared by Kelley Fong (Georgia Institute of Technology) for the Council on Contemporary Families (2020).

Getting Eyes in the Home: Child Protective Services Investigations and State Surveillance of Family Life. Kelley Fong. American Sociological Review (2020).

Concealment and Constraint: Child Protective Services Fears and Poor Mothers’ Institutional Engagement. Kelley Fong. Social Forces (2019). Read New Research: How Fear of CPS Harms Families, a Rise interview with Kelley Fong about this research, reported by Keyna Franklin and Careena Farmer.

Supporting Families without System Involvement

Increasing the Minimum Wage is Good for Child Well-Being. Cara Baldari, Rricha Mathur. First Focus on Children (2017).

KU Study Indicates Link Between Kansas Welfare Restrictions, Foster Care Case Increase. KCUR 89.3 (2017).

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