Policy & Practice | Spring 2023

looked at whether the associated effects of the policy increased or decreased risk for child welfare involvement. There’s a preponderance of evidence that when families lack access to ECS, are unable to meet their basic needs, or experience economic shocks, their risk for involvement with the child welfare system goes up. But when policies designed to provide ECS are available and made more accessible, we see decreased risk. Yasmin Grewal-Kök: The brief also lays the groundwork for the his torical policy context. As a result of our policy choices, we have a child welfare system that’s been separated and siloed from our economic support system, and they really need to be working together to address the root several strategies we’ve undertaken to bring the evidence to life and make it actionable. Our translational research was designed to bring it together, put it in one place, and help people understand the implications. Too often, child welfare is centered as the solution for child abuse and neglect, and the evidence points to much broader responsibilities. There is a need to deploy ECS as an explicit primary prevention strategy, as well as to pair ECS with more intensive supports or evidence-based practices when risk is high or families are being served by child welfare. As depicted in our roadmap illus tration (see page 13), this research is clear that prevention occurs upstream of child welfare, and it occurs in large and small policy decisions made across the human services sector. From here, I think the direction is to move beyond understanding the evidence and have it inform policy action. causes of child maltreatment. Clare: The policy brief is one of Adrian: At the launch of our learning community, we focused on an article, “State Spending on Public Benefit Programs and Child Maltreatment.” 1 Why did that study stand out? Clare: This analysis looked at state spending across several public benefits and very elegantly showed that additional spending—about $1,000 annually per person in poverty—was associated with reductions in reports to child welfare, substantiated cases

of child maltreatment, foster care placements, and child fatalities due to maltreatment. It is a clear study, linking together an easily understood policy analysis and spending analysis with system outcomes. Among the biggest takeaways of this body of science is that across the human services sector and across the macroeconomic policy framework, the decisions made by a policymaker in, for example, TANF, Medicaid, or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) has an association with whether or not families come to the attention of child welfare. Yasmin: The study shows that if we want to have an impact on pre venting child maltreatment and child welfare involvement, we need to take a public health approach. For example, increased spending per person expe riencing conditions of poverty across different state policy options—health care, child care, tax credits, etc.—can have a broad impact at the population level as it relates to reducing involve ment with child welfare. Adrian: How can states trans late these research findings into actionable strategies led by human services leaders and practitioners, particularly within a systems- alignment framework? Yasmin: While many of these strategies will involve strengthening cross-system collaboration and larger systems alignment, there are studies showing that agencies can make changes that would improve the lives of children and families. For example, removing full-family sanctions for noncompliance with TANF work requirements or revising what is con sidered income when determining who is eligible for supportive services. Adrian: What are some effective ways to frame upstream prevention in a return on investment or cost savings context? Yasmin: Long-term cost savings are important and can resonate across the country. Placing a child in foster care has enormous financial implica tions when you look at the long-term costs programmatically, across the life course, and to society in general.

Adrian Saldaña , OE Consultant at APHSA, met with Clare Anderson , Senior Policy Fellow, and Yasmin Grewal-Kök , Senior Policy Analyst, at Chapin Hall to unpack the policy and practice implications of the body of research. This interview was edited for brevity and clarity. Adrian Saldaña: Chapin Hall released a policy brief (see https:// bit.ly/CHpolicybrief) , “System Transformation to Support Child and Family Well-Being: The Central Role of Economic and Concrete Supports” and a related slide deck (see https://bit.ly/ChapinDeck) . What were its core takeaways? Clare Anderson: The policy brief emerged as we were reviewing evidence from the last 30 years on ECS. Many of the studies from researchers across the country assessed a policy decision either at the state or federal level and then

Adrian Saldaña is an Organizational Effectiveness Consultant at the American Public Human Service Association (APHSA).

Clare Anderson is a Senior Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall.

Yasmin Grewal Kök is a Senior Policy Analyst at Chapin Hall.


Policy & Practice Spring 2023

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