The Impact of Welfare Reform on Public Child Welfare:
Summary of Existing Research

TIME SERIES ANALYSES OF CHILD WELFARE CASELOADS

Study

Focus

Research Design

Main Findings

Geen, R., Fender, L., Leos-Urbel, J. & Markowitz, T. (2001)

Influence of welfare reform on child welfare caseloads & child welfare experts' expectations regarding the potential impact of welfare reform on child welfare caseloads in 12 states: Alabama , California , Colorado , Florida , Massachusetts , Michigan , Minnesota , New Jersey , New York , Texas , Washington , & Wisconsin .

Quantitative & Qualitative:

(A)    Comparison between pre-welfare reform

(1993-1996) and post-welfare reform (1996-1998) average annual change in child welfare caseload data nationally and by state;

(B) Semi-structured interviews and focus groups with child welfare administrators, researchers, supervisors, legislative representatives and advocates; phone interviews with a random stratified sample of 125 county child welfare officials from the 12 states plus Mississippi.

(A) Child maltreatment allegations and substantiated maltreatment rates have remained steady or decreased since welfare reform was implemented (continuing to follow a pattern already in evidence before PRWORA). (B) Vast majority of interviewed experts expected welfare reform to have a significant negative impact on child welfare, but thought it was 'too early to tell' in 1998.

WELFARE ‘LEAVER’ STUDIES

Study

Focus

Research Design

Main Findings

Anh, J., Kraley, S., Fogarty, D. , Lai, F., & Deppman, L. (2000)

Differences between rate of child welfare involvement for Washington families exiting AFDC/TANF vs. families remaining on AFDC/TANF.

Quantitative:

Comparison of CPS referral & out of home placement rates for 3 cohorts, each divided into families exiting welfare vs. families remaining on welfare. Cohorts consisted of all families with open cash assistance cases between the months of September & December: Cohort I - 1996, pre-welfare reform, (n=105,166), 14.6% exiting AFDC;

Cohort II - 1997, early implementation of welfare reform, (n=91,247), 17% exiting welfare; Cohort III - 1998, full implementation of welfare reform, (n=70,626), 22.7% exiting welfare.

The rate of CPS referrals was greater for each successive cohort, i.e TANF recipients were more likely to experience a CPS referral post-welfare reform than AFDC recipients prior to welfare reform.  A similar pattern is observed for out of home placements. The rate of CPS referrals for families exiting welfare was less than for those remaining on welfare within each cohort in every instance except one.

                                     ONGOING      EXITING

            Cohort I               1.96%               1.24%  

CAN   Cohort II              2.43                   1.73

            Cohort III            2.90                   2.10

           ----------------------------------------------------

           Cohort I              0.57%                0.59%

OHP   Cohort II            0.67                    0.59

           Cohort III           0.90                   0.71

Julnes, G., & Hatter, A. (2000)

Differences in Illinois families' rates of child welfare involvement before and after exiting TANF.

Quantitative:

Comparison of rates of substantiated child maltreatment and out of home placements for families who exited TANF between July 1997 and December 1998 (N=137,330). Rates calculated in the A) second quarter before exit, B) first quarter before exit, C) quarter of exit, D) first quarter after exit, & E) second quarter after exit.

Rates of substantiated child maltreatment and out of home placement peak in the quarter just prior to exiting TANF and the quarter families exit TANF.

         QUARTER             CAN                 OHP

                 A                      0.9                     0.1

                 B                      1.2                     0.4

                 C                      1.3                     0.8

                 D                      0.8                     0.3

                 E                      0.7                     0.2

Kauff, J., Fowler, L., Fraker, T., & Milliner-Waddell, J. (2001)

Differences in Iowa families' rates of child welfare involvement before and after exiting TANF.

Quantitative:

Comparison of rate CPS involvement (receipt of any CPS service & foster care placement) during the year prior to exiting TANF and during the year after exiting TANF for families that exited TANF between July and August 1999 (N=958).

Families exiting welfare were no more likely to receive CPS services (13%) or have a child placed in foster care (7%) than they were prior to exiting TANF, at which time 14% were receiving CPS services and 7% had a child placed in foster care.

Maryland Department of Human Resources & University of Maryland School of Social Work (1998)

Differences in rates of foster care for Maryland families' before and after exiting TANF.

Quantitative:

Rates of foster care placement for children whose families exited TANF between October 1996 and September 1997 (N=3,467) at 3, 6 and 12 months after exit.

Few children entered foster care after their families exited TANF (15 children from 11 families; 0.4%), but 92 children (2.7%) were in foster care prior to their families exiting TANF.

Taylor, L. (2002)

Differences in child welfare involvement for Kentucky families exiting TANF and families remaining on TANF.  Predictors of CPS involvement for families on TANF.

Quantitative:

(A)    Comparison of rates of CPS referrals and

substantiated CPS referrals for families who exited TANF January - September 1999 (n=19,176) and families who remained on welfare during the same time period (n=22,925). Rates were calculated during a 24 month period.

(B)     Comparison of rates of CPS referrals and

Substantiated CPS referrals for families exiting TANF 12 months prior to exit and 12 months following exit.

(C)     Predictors of child welfare involvement.

There was very little difference between rates of CPS referrals for families exiting TANF (22%) and families remaining on TANF (21%). Likewise, there was very little difference between rates of substantiated CPS referrals for families exiting TANF (10%) and families remaining on TANF (9%).  Families exiting welfare had a lower rate of CPS referrals 12 months after exit  (11.25%; 5.0% substantiated) than 12 months prior to exiting TANF (13.57%; 5.9% substantiated). Families served by CPS tended to be White, have less education, come from larger families, and have more experience with cash assistance than families not served by CPS.

Tweedie, J., Reichert, D., & O'Connor, M. (1999)

Rate of foster care for Kansas families exiting TANF.

Quantitative:

Rates of foster care placement for children from an unspecified sample of Kansas families who exited TANF since December 1997 (N=291). Rates calculated at three months following exit.

Less than two percent of children from sample of families exiting TANF were placed in foster care at three month follow up.

USDHHS/ASPE (2000)

Rate of foster care for North Carolina families exiting TANF

Quantitative:

241 TANF families who reached their 24 month time limit in August 1998 were surveyed 5 months after exiting welfare (76% response rate).

None of these families had a child in foster care during 24 month period receiving TANF and none of these families had a child placed in foster care in the 5 months following their exit from welfare.

USDHHS/ASPE (2000)

Rate of substantiated child abuse and neglect for South Carolina families exiting TANF.

Quantitative:

Comparison of sample of families who exited TANF and a sample of families who remained on TANF. Size and characteristics of samples unknown.

Substantiated child maltreatment reports were not significantly higher among TANF ‘leavers.’

Westra, K.L., & Routley, J. (2000)

Differences in rates of child welfare involvement for Arizona families' before and after exiting TANF.

Quantitative:

Comparison of rates of substantiated child maltreatment and out of home placements for families exiting TANF between January and March 1998 (N=10,647). Rates calculated in the A) quarter prior to exit, B) quarter of exit, C) first quarter after exit, D) second quarter after exit, and E) third quarter after exit.

There was no increase in the rate of substantiated child maltreatment or out of home placement for families exiting TANF.  In fact, these rates declined over time, with the passing of each successive quarter.  Sanctioned cases were slightly more likely to experience substantiated child maltreatment and out of home placement, but the differences are very small.

QUARTER                     CAN                     OHP

A                                       1.8%                    0.6%

B                                       0.9                        0.5

C                                       0.8                        0.7

D                                       0.5                        0.5

E                                       N/A                      0.3  

PRE-WELFARE REFORM FEDERAL WAIVER STUDIES

Study

Focus

Research Design

Main Findings

Fein, D., & Lee, W. (2000)

Impact of Delaware 's reformed welfare program, A Better Chance for Families (ABC), on types of child maltreatment & foster care rates during first 3 years of program. Delaware implemented ABC in 1995 (prior to PRWORA) under a federal waiver. ABC is characterized by relatively strict work requirements & sanction use.

Quantitative:

(A)    Times series analysis of 25,187 Delaware

children in single-parent cash assistance cases during first 3 years of ABC;

(B) Time series analysis of  8,867 voluntary welfare leavers and 2,090 involuntary (fully sanctioned) leavers who exited Delaware welfare between Jan '97 & Dec. '98;

(C) Experimental analysis of 3,959 single parent family cases randomly assigned to ABC or a traditional AFDC control group Oct. '95 to Sept. '96.

(A) Rates of child abuse and neglect rose among families receiving cash assistance from 1995 to 1997 (2.7%  to 5%) and then declined to earlier levels from 1997 to 1999 (2.4%); (B) Incidents of neglect increased for both voluntary & involuntary leavers in months preceding welfare exits, peaking for voluntary leavers in the month of case closure & peaking 3-5 months earlier and higher for involuntary leavers. (C)1.5%  more ABC families with  substantiated  neglect cases than traditional AFDC controls (57.7% impact) during first year of reforms.  1.4% more ABC families with substantiated maltreatment of any type than traditional AFDC controls (45.2% impact) in third year of reforms.  Subgroups of ABC families with  ong term welfare use, parent(s) with less than a high school education, previous child maltreatment reports, and non-Whites were at heightened risk of neglect. No consistent impact on rates of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or foster care placements.

 

 

Kortenkamp, K., Geen, R., & Stagner, M. (in press)

Effects of  welfare and work activities on  likelihood of foster care reunification for families in 4 California counties participating in the CA Work Pays Demonstration Project.

Quantitative:

Cox proportional hazards modeling of family reunification for 133 foster children from welfare dependent families (i.e. families received AFDC or SSI for a minimum of 3 years prior to child’s placement).  The sample consisted of children placed between December 1992 & December1999 & reunification was tracked during this same 7 year period.

 

 

Cases that were on welfare when the child was placed but subsequently lost welfare had lower rates of reunification. The total time the case had spent on welfare,  was not a significant predictor of reunification.  Cases with someone working when the child was placed were almost 3X more likely to reunify, whereas, whether anyone was working post-placement did not have a significant effect on the model.

OTHER QUANTITATIVE STUDIES

Study

Focus

Research Design

Main Findings

Courtney, M., Piliavin, I. , Dworsky, A. & Pzinn, A. (2002)

Impact of Milwaukee County 's welfare reform program, Wisconsin Works, on child protective services (CPS) investigations & foster care placements.  Predictors of CPS involvement for families receiving TANF.

Quantitative:

(A) Comparison of rate of CPS investigations for families on TANF in 1999 (n=1083) & sample of families who began receiving AFDC prior to welfare reform in 1996 (n=2955);

(B) multivariate hazard analysis of predictors of CPS investigation following TANF application.

TANF families were more likely to have a CPS investigation within one year of application for welfare than pre-welfare reform AFDC families (13.8% vs. 10.2%). TANF families were more likely to have a CPS investigation within two years of application for welfare than pre-welfare reform AFDC families (21.3% vs. 15.6%).  Parental substance abuse, stress, previous CPS involvement, number of economic hardships in the past year, age, and number of resident children positively associated with risk of CPS investigation. Parental employment negatively associated with CPS investigation.

Derr, M.K., & Cooley, V. (In press)

Impact of welfare sanctioning on families receiving TANF in Utah .

Quantitative:

Comparison of rates of open CPS cases (due to substantiated child maltreatment or because family voluntarily sought CPS services) for TANF families in Utah sanctioned in 1996 (n=187) & a nonsanctioned sample 'systematically' selected from Utah families on TANF in January 1996.

 

Sanctioned families were no more likely to have an open CPS case within three years of exiting TANF than the comparison group of nonsanctioned families, however, sanctioned families had more long-term involvement with the child welfare system. Sanctioned families were more likely to be White, headed by a single parent, receiving in home services, have their CPS case open for 3 months or longer, and to be judged by their caseworkers as having 'inadequate resources.'

Paxson C. & Waldfogel, J.

(2001)

Effects of various features of welfare reform, such as strict lifetime welfare limits, tougher sanctions for noncompliance, work requirements and family caps on child maltreatment at the state level. Also the impact of welfare benefit levels, poverty, employment and family structure on child maltreatment at the state level.

Quantitative:

Regression analyses with aggregated state level data from 1990-1998 for the District of Columbia and all states except Maryland .

Lowering of benefit levels strongly linked with higher rates of neglect and foster care entries. Some evidence that strict lifetime limits and tougher sanctions for noncompliance are related to higher levels of maltreatment. Family caps appear to lower the rates of maltreatment but increase the number of children entering foster care.

Shook, K. (1998, 1999)

What is the rate of child welfare involvement for Illinois families receiving AFDC prior to welfare reform. Predictors of CPS involvement for families on AFDC.

Quantitative:

Logistic regression to predict child welfare involvement for a random sample of 706 single-parent families living in the Chicago metropolitan area & receiving AFDC in October, November or December 1995. The sample was stratified according to whether the family received a welfare grant sanction in October, November or December 1995 and whether they became involved with CPS within one year of this time period. The response rate was 25% (n=173).

Prior CPS involvement, having more than 3 minor children, a child in poor health, or a newborn, having moved recently, experienced economic hardship, and/or experienced a welfare grant sanction with no subsequent employment for 3 months predicted child welfare involvement.

USDHHS/ASPE (2000)

Comparison of child welfare involvement and foster care rates for welfare families in South Carolina pre- and post-welfare reform.

Quantitative:

Measured rates of foster care placement and child welfare referrals for AFDC families receiving welfare between July 1995 and September 1996 and TANF families receiving welfare between October 1996 and December 1997 12 months after sample selection.

Child welfare involvement and foster care rates not significantly different between pre-welfare reform group and post-welfare reform group.

Wells, K.  & Guo, S.  (in press)

Impact of welfare reform on reunification of foster children (within the first 18 months of placement) with their biological families in Cuyahoga County , Ohio .

Quantitative:

Comparison of rates of family reunification and the extent to which family income has an impact on family reunification of foster children from single-mother households (N=903) who entered care for the first time before welfare reform (Oct. '95-Mar. '96) vs. after welfare reform (Oct. 98 - Mar. '99).  Also, event history analysis of percentage of average monthly total income due to wages and the partial loss of welfare benefits on reunification.

Children who entered foster care prior to welfare reform returned home at a speed that was 65.1% faster than  children who entered foster care after welfare reform. Mother's income has a much greater effect on the speed with which children in the post-welfare reform group were reunified. Children of mother's with higher percentages of income from work were slower to be reunified. Children of mother's who experienced a significant loss of part of the welfare benefits after placement were slower to be reunified.

QUALITATIVE STUDIES

Study

Focus

Research Design

Main Findings

 Frame, L. & Berrick, J. D. (2001)

Experiences of California families 'dually involved' with the TANF and public child welfare systems, particularly the families' experiences of parenting in urban poverty & the role of welfare reforms in these families' child welfare outcomes.

Qualitative:

Longitudinal (1999-2001), ethnographic study of 10 families from Alameda County , California relying on TANF as a primary source of income at the time of recruitment. Narrative description of experiences of the 6 of these families 'dually involved' in the TANF and public child welfare system based on monthly field visits &interviews during the first year of the study and an effort to follow-up with families at the end of the second year.

Welfare reforms seemed to have mixed effects on the child welfare outcomes of these families. For 2 families it had mostly positive outcomes, for 2 families it had mostly negative outcomes, and the impact on the remaining 2 families was unclear. Positive child welfare outcomes appear more likely if parents have a base set of marketable skills and additional economic and social supports. Reforms that reduced the cash income of families (e.g family caps) that do not have these resources seem to place children at-risk.